The German retailer Ernsting’s family intends to use exclusively sustainable cotton by 2026. CmiA plays a key role in the company’s plans to reach this goal, as Anna Rensing, the head of its quality development department and the person in charge of product sustainability at Ernsting’s family, explains in this interview.
What does sustainability mean for Ernsting’s family?
As an active part of society, it is our responsibility to engage ourselves with the fullest possible commitment as well as with appropriate humility—keeping in mind that we cannot save the world on our own. Together with around 12,000 employees in Germany and Austria as well as our trading partners throughout the world, we are certain that we can make a worthwhile contribution. We see sustainable management as central to the brand, making it both a corporate duty and a matter of concern for every individual in the company, from corporate management to sales staff working at our stores.
Ernsting’s family has set itself the goal of procuring 100 percent of its cotton from sustainable sources by 2026. What role does your partnership with CmiA play in this?
Since 2010, CmiA has been at our side as a strong and reliable partner. It will continue to play a key role in reaching our ambitious goal of complete product certification for all our natural-fibre products. Our cotton sourcing reflects this, with CmiA’s share rising by 487 percent between 2020 and 2021.
What are the benefits you see from procuring cotton through Cotton made in Africa and advertising this on your product labels?
The distinctive thing with CmiA is that it means we provide help for self-help and contribute to securing the livelihoods of cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by trading in sustainably cultivated cotton. In addition, the continuous-training approach improves people’s opportunities in the long term, unlike a onetime donation.
In 2021, you significantly increased the volume of Cotton made in Africa cotton you purchased yet again. What is behind this upwards trend?
We are determined to transition all of our cotton procurement from conventional to sustainable cotton. We have made great progress towards this over the last year by converting more of our product range. In addition to its status as a long-time partner, we greatly appreciate that CmiA has shown itself to be highly reliable and accessible in these volatile and challenging times.
What market feedback are you getting on Cotton made in Africa, both from consumers and from within your company?
We try to make our communication about sustainability as relevant and direct as possible. When talking about CmiA, we briefly introduce individual farmers and point out what a difference it can make in each of their cases. This has proven much easier for people to empathise with than information about quantities or total amounts donated.
What challenges will textile companies face in making their processes and product ranges more sustainable in the future?
Raw materials are growing increasingly scarce, contributing to the current shortages in the supply of many types of fibres. I see it as crucial that we deal more responsibly with raw materials, focus on recycling and recovery, and prioritise the search for sustainable options for all natural fibres. In our view, it is essential, both now and in the future, to design products to be durable, save resources, and protect the environment.