Cotton made in Africa Top

Business sense Cotton made in Africa makes good business sense

Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ethical consumption have now become mainstream. Companies in all sectors are aware of the relevance of CSR, and are making an effort to meet the expectations of their customers for ethically responsible, sustainably produced products. In many cases social and ecological value added is associated with higher cost – higher cost of raw materials or surcharges at the various stages of processing can have an impact on the price of the end product. The Aid by Trade Foundation deliberately takes a different approach with Cotton made in Africa – it enables the partners of the Demand Alliance to buy sustainably produced African cotton at world market prices. They then pay a licence fee to the Foundation.

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To ensure smooth integration of cotton into the textile chain, the Foundation supports partner companies in the subsequent sourcing process. The Cotton made in Africa Initiative thus gives companies a pragmatic way of meeting their corporate responsibility and fulfilling consumer wishes for sustainable products. The goal of Cotton made in Africa is to offer a socially and ecologically sustainable raw material which is compatible with the requirements of a price-sensitive mass market.

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The Cotton made in Africa system differentiates between two possible forms of traceability in processing: Mass Balance (MB) and Hard Identity Preserve (HIP). Both alternatives are based on uninterrupted traceability from the farm to the ginning mill and then to the spinning mill, after which the two systems differ and the degree of transparency differs accordingly.

Mass balance control at the spinning mill level

As a rule the spinning mill represents the interface between the license holder and the licensor in connection with procurement. This is where mass balance control takes place, a process for assessing whether the amount of CmiA cotton purchased by the spinning mill and the amount of CmiA yarn produced is in agreement. The spinning mill reports its increases and decreases in stock to the Aid by Trade Foundation. The system functions according to the “green electricity” model and the balance (incoming CmiA cotton = outgoing CmiA yarn) is assessed at the spinning mill level.
Companies that partner with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and employ CmiA via the mass balance control system support the initiative’s work in the project areas with their volume-dependent licensing fees. This may communicate this fact.

Hard identity preserved

If a trade partner requests uninterrupted traceability from the cotton bale to the final product, the hard identity preserved tracking system can be applied. The Aid by Trade Foundation provides the requirements that are needed for the system; the trade partner is responsible for implementation. Exact information regarding the origins of the raw materials can then be communicated.  
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Consumers demand sustainability without price surcharge

Sustainability is a consideration in product purchase for 34% of shoppers over the age of 14 in Germany, according to a 2009 consumer analysis. However, 50% of shoppers were not willing to pay more for sustainable products, as shown by a representative survey conducted by the management consultants McKinsey. Cotton made in Africa gets sustainability and market economy into harmony – it gives textile companies cotton with social value added at market prices. The cotton produced in the project regions meets the needs of the mass market in terms of quality and price. The companies pay the initiative a licence fee of between 1.5 and 2.5% (based on their purchase prices). A large proportion of these licence fees is returned to the producers of the sustainable raw material, that is the African smallholder farmers.

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Independent local verification ensures fulfilment of promise

Cotton made in Africa has set up its own verification system together with the Netherlands University of Wageningen, the management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers and the cotton companies. Every two years, the initiative mandates Ecocert and Africert, two sustainable development certification organisations, to check compliance with its regulations. This impact monitoring also examines how far the conditions of life and working of the cotton growers are improved by participation in the programme. Verification and impact monitoring give transparency – they ensure that the partners of the Demand Alliance fulfil their promise to customers and really do use sustainably produced raw material.


Support for the textile chain worldwide

Efficient integration in the textile chain of buyers is very important for successful processing of Cotton made in Africa. That is why Cotton made in Africa provides support to the participating commercial companies in sourcing, too – that is for further processing of the cotton in downstream production stages such as spinning. The Aid by Trade Foundation has set up a Global Sourcing Unit to give the companies of the Demand Alliance fast, uncomplicated access to the raw material; this service is available both to the retail partners and to the production companies worldwide.

Craig Native

Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in AfricaThe exhibition and the project behind it

This exceptional collaboration with fashion and commercial photographer Albert Watson will provide insight into the cotton farmers' worlds and transport a better awareness of CmiA's work.

The photos will illustrate the initiative's goal to improve social conditions in the smallholder farmers’ lives without visual stereotypes. The aim is in contrast to show a new image of African living environments – through the eyes of Albert Watson. In addition to the cotton harvest, that was underway during the journey, Watson has also visited traditional markets and a regional king in Benin to get an impression of the diversity of life in Benin and its people.

African cottonIn demand worldwide

African cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, using sustainable growing methods with harmony between agriculture, the natural environment and human beings. About 8% of the cotton traded in the world market is harvested in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, and there are only very few large plantations. ...