International brands join pilot initiative for sustainable cotton

Solidaridad launched a new pilot initiative in cotton with H&M, Kanoria Textiles and the Ethiopian Cotton Association this year to promote sustainable cotton production in Ethiopia. The pilot was based on a sustainable cotton study conducted by Solidaridad in 2016, commissioned by H&M and the Dutch government.

Demand for cotton

Rising demand for local cotton is expected due to increasing investments and priority given to the textiles industry. International brands and retailers like H&M are actively sourcing in Ethiopia, which creates a market pull for sustainable cotton.

In light of these developments, Solidaridad presented a study to H&M, the government of Ethiopia and local cotton stakeholders. The study summarized the main challenges, opportunities and possible solutions that can promote a healthy, profitable and sustainable cotton industry. The outcomes were presented during a stakeholders meeting in Addis Ababa.

From paper to practice

As a result of the study, Solidaridad was granted a seed fund from Enterprise Partners (funded by DFID) and H&M to pilot sustainable cotton. The piloted lowland areas are in South Afar and North West Tigray. The goal of this initiative is to collaborate with both commercial farms and small-scale producers to prove the business case for sustainable cotton.

To ensure the initiative is market-driven, all relevant supply chain actors are involved, including H&M, Kanoria Textiles and several ginneries. Solidaridad is also working with the CMIA initiative for the smallholders and with BCI for commercial farms to verify the cotton. Once the model is proven, Solidaridad intends to engage with additional farms, manufacturers and brands to bring best practices to a larger scale in the country.

Learn more about Solidaridad programmes in East & Central Africa.