In 2013, the Swedish furniture company, which uses around 0.6% of all cotton grown around the world, sourced 79,000 tonnes of cotton from more sustainable sources. In total, IKEA used 110,000 tonnes of cotton in 2013.

The increase comes from its work with WWF on the better cotton Initiative (bcI), an independent organisation that sets social and environmental criteria for more sustainable cotton production, of which IKEA is a founding member.

Not only is the cotton industry known for its intensive use of water and chemical pesticides and fertilisers, problems such as child labour, and health risks associated with the use of chemicals are common issues.

IKEA’s improvements stem from an increase in ‘better cotton’ (59.3% of the cotton from more sustainable sources), cotton grown to other sustainability standards in the US and cotton from farmers working towards the bcI standards.

Better cotton Initiative chair and IKEA co-worker guido verijke said: “Some people suggested IKEA should abandon cotton altogether and some said we should move our sourcing to ‘safe’ countries like the US.

“But IKEA is big enough to change things, so instead we decided to work with WWF and do something about the problem,” added verijke.

The company is also looking for ways to use cotton more efficiently. One example of this is the launch of a project to standardise the way it constructs fabric, which could reduce the amount of cotton IKEA needs for a piece of fabric by up to 15%.

Last week, IKEA announced that its use of FSC timber increased from 22.6% in 2012 to 32.4% in 2013.

Leigh Stringer

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