The Bathrobe Challenge by Cotton made in Africa reached millions of people through social networks
Over a million smallholder farmers in Africa, 500,000 tons of sustainable cotton, 90 million labelled textiles and an initiative that works together with partners along the textile value chain from field to fashion – that’s Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), one of the largest standards for sustainable cotton. By means of the now completed #BathrobeChallenge CmiA reached millions of people through social networks and set a sign for cotton farmers in Africa.
Wear a bathrobe for a good cause – that’s the motto of the #BathrobeChallenge which was initiated by CmiA and started on 30 August with a party in Berlin. The idea of posting selfies in bathrobes and challenging others to do the same spread through the social media networks until now, reaching almost 5 million people. Among the supporters were prominent people such as the CmiA ambassadors Motsi Mabuse and Laura Chaplin, the band Revolverheld with its front man Johannes Strate, the model Elena Carrière and influencers such as Riccardo Simonetti and Aminata Belli. “With every picture, every hashtag and every link, the challenge reached people all over the world. It is very important for us to draw more attention to our work and the label Cotton made in Africa. With the #BathrobeChallenge we have taken a big step towards it. We are delighted that we have been able to activate so many participants that supported our cause”, said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Cotton made in Africa Initiative about the #BathrobeChallenge.
Partners of the initiative also actively supported the challenge – for example NGOs such as Welthungerhilfe, WWF, Care and NABU as well as retailers and brands such as OTTO, Hiitu or Tchibo. The bathrobe was not just taken as a prop for funny selfies. It was chosen because it is seen just as little in public as the cotton farmers. “OTTO has been committed to Cotton made in Africa since its creation, and banks on sustainably produced cotton from Africa with the CmiA certificate. With the Bathrobe Challenge, we have been able to draw attention in a positive way to the people who grow the raw material for our clothes”, enthuses Anja Dillenburg, Head of Corporate Responsibility at OTTO. Iris Schöninger, Deputy Head of the Policy Department at Welthungerhilfe adds: “Cotton farmers have to be able to make a living out of their work in the fields and have to have the opportunity to send their children to school instead of on the field. As a long-term partner of Cotton made in Africa, we are happy to take part in the BathrobeChallenge, to make more people aware of our common goals and the possible solutions that Cotton made in Africa offers. "
Further information can be found via www.bathrobechallenge.com
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set up by the United Nations in 2015 to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all - on an economic, social and environmental level. They address the global challenges we face and define goals to fight poverty, inequality, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation by 2030, and to bring peace, justice and more prosperity to all. The work of Cotton made in Africa also has a direct influence on the Sustainable Development Goals. To get to more about about the impact Cotton made in Africa, in close cooperation with partners, has on achieving the goals, please scroll down.
SDG 1 No Poverty: Reducing poverty is a central concern of CmiA. Through trainings, smallholder cotton farmers can improve their farming practices. This aims at enabling them to generate higher yields and thus higher income. Following its core principle 'aid by trade', Cotton made in Africa establishes sustainable trade relations with smallholder farmers in Africa on the one hand and with brands and textile companies worldwide on the other. As a social business, all partners benefit - especially the currently more than one million smallholders and their families who profit from trainings in efficient and sustainable cotton business techniques as well as from further projects.
SDG 2 Zero Hunger: An alliance of textile companies and brands built up by CmiA specifically demands for CmiA cotton and pays a nominal license fee back to CmiA. With income from licensing fees, CmiA trains smallholder farmers in the sustainable and efficient management of their fields. According to the World Economic Forum, economic growth in the agricultural sector has an eleven times more positive impact on poverty reduction than growth in other areas. Investing in sustainable farming methods consequentlly offers great potential for creating rural prospects, especially for young people, and fighting hunger. The rotation between food crops with cash crops such as cotton is another element to fight hunger. To foster improvement in this area, CmiA will be one of five pilots to test the Food Security Standard developed by Welthungerhilfe, WWF and ZEF.
SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing: The CmiA standard aims to protect the health and wellbeing of smallholder farmers as well as factory workers in the cotton ginneries, the first step of processing cotton. This includes the prohibition of particularly dangerous pesticides for farmers and regular working hours for factory workers.
Additionally, CmiA initiates projects that give access to clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation. These so-called WASH projects help to prevent diseases and are essential when it comes to increasing health and well-being in the rural areas of cotton farming in Africa with limited access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Girls in particular usually have to walk long distances to get to the next borehole. These projects are part of the CmiA Community Cooperation Program.
SDG 4 Quality Education: Training for small-scale farmers in simple business management skills as well as modern and efficient agricultural knowledge help farmers help themselves and their families. In order to especially protect children in the cotton-growing areas and to defend their rights, CmiA initiates projects that improve the school infrastructure in rural areas and draws attention to the importance of education through special awareness-raising activities.
SDG 5 Gender Equality: Especially women are true multitalents when it comes to cultivating the cotton fields whilst taking care of their whole family's well-being. Against this background, CmiA is committed to supporting women in their role in society and sensitize for their rights. In addition to the principles set out in the standard criteria, CmiA initiates various activities to implement gender equality: The training in the sustainable cultivation of cotton are adjusted to the needs of female participants and CmiA helps women to become so-called Lead Farmers for their training groups, which further strengthens their position as role model for others. Special projects under the CmiA Community Cooperation Program further support women and generate additional sources of income. The cotton companies' employees receive trainings on gender equality and establish female representatives as permanent contact persons within the company.
SDG 6 Clean Water: Water is a precious good. In many parts of the world, access to clean drinking water is an absolute exception. Droughts, especially in Southern Africa, highlight the importance of water for people and nature. Cotton is artificially irrigated in many parts of the world. Not however with Cotton made in Africa. CmiA cotton is rain-fed only and 'saves' over 500 liters of water per shirt compared to the global average. The CmiA standard also requires the protection of water sources from contamination by pesticides and fertilizers. Under the CmiA Community Cooperation Program, Cotton made in Africa supports various projects that improve access to clean drinking water in cotton-growing regions and rebuild sanitary facilities, for example in schools. This has a positive effect on the general health situation, because diarrheal diseases are significantly reduced. Women and girls who provide water to their families benefit in particular, as they are traditionally responsible for supplying their homes with water.
SDG 8 Decent Work: According to the CmiA standard, the ILO core labor standards must be met to ensure decent work for smallholder farmers as well as for workers in the cotton ginning factories.
SDG 12 Responsible Consumption: More and more people are wondering where their clothes come from, who produced them and under which conditions. Consumers' interest in getting to know the people and the stories behind our products is rising. Through its product label and communication, CmiA gives consumers the possibility to get to more about the work and people and the origin of our clothes.
SDG 13 Climate Action: The impact of climate change in the face of extreme weather and environmental disasters is becoming increasingly clear and perceptible. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased significantly in recent years. Cotton made in Africa works against climat change. CmiA cotton causes up to 40% less greenhouse gas emissions for one kilogram of cotton than conventional cotton. This equals the amount of cotton needed for 4 shirts. Active climate protection measures taken were i.a. tree planting actions (for organic pesticides - one measure, multiple effects). Training that teaches adapted agricultural techniques to smallholder farmers gives them the knowledge they need to adapt their cultivation methods and make their crops more resilient.
SDG 15 Life on Land: CmiA is actively involved in the protection of soil and biodiversity through various agri-technical measures. By default, it prohibits the intervention in primary forests and protected areas.
SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals: Cooperation is an important key to sustainable textile production. This is why Cotton made in Africa is part of a large network of non-governmental and governmental organizations, textile companies and small fashion brands. Supporting partners include the WWF, Welthungerhilfe, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), OTTO, Tchibo, the Rewe Group, and many more. By establishing a demand alliance for CmiA cotton, CmiA creates partnerships for a sustainable future in the textile industry.
Read more about the criteria and requirements of the CmiA standard for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals here.
International Expansion with New Partners
As the world’s largest standard for sustainable cotton from Africa, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) now certifies around 40% of the cotton produced by smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Demand from the textile industry for CmiA cotton is up on the previous year by around 79%. And the trend is set to continue in 2018. Additional companies now on board with Cotton made in Africa include Tendam Global Fashion Retail from Spain, Vlisco from Holland and Gudrun Sjöden from Sweden. Around 1,033,500 smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are currently working with CmiA and growing cotton in accordance with the CmiA sustainability criteria.
New international partners have joined the Demand Alliance for CmiA cotton, adding further strength to the backbone. Tendam Global Fashion Retail, formerly Grupo Cortefiel and one of the leading fashion retailers in Europe, is the first CmiA partner in Spain to sell shirts for men and women with the CmiA seal under the Springfield brand. Beyond using the sustainably grown cotton, the company goes one step further - all CmiA labelled products are manufactured in Ethiopia according to the HIP system. The Hard Identity Preserved (HIP) system ensures complete transparency at every step in the textile value chain. The cotton can be traced all the way from the cotton field to the finished product.
In addition, Vlisco Group, the Dutch creator of original, high-quality textiles for the Central and West African markets, is now an official partner of the initiative. Vlisco Group's factories in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire already use significant quantities of CmiA cotton in the production of the Uniwax, GTP and Woodin brands; the Dutch-produced Vlisco brand will follow suit as of 2019. “Working with CmiA fits perfectly with our strategy of doing more in Africa, for Africa, not to mention giving us a unique opportunity to make real a difference with regard to corporate social responsibility”, said Fiona Coyne, Director Sourcing and CSR at Vlisco Group, clearly delighted by the partnership.
Gudrun Sjöden from Sweden, a fashion brand which combines natural materials, diversity, sustainability and creativity for women of all ages in its colorful clothing, has also signed up. As an international brand Gudrun Sjöden has branches all the way from the USA to England passing through Scandinavia.
Demand for CmiA cotton is greater than ever – according to figures for the financial year of 2017. More than 30 retailers and brands from the textile industry purchase and process the sustainable raw material. Almost all of them have exceeded their targets for 2017. Around 90 million products with the CmiA seal of approval were launched on the market in 2017 in total, representing an increase of 79 percent in comparison to the previous year. Income from license fees paid by partnering retailers and brands to use the CmiA brand was also up by 14 percent on the previous year at EUR 1,696,000. The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) was therefore financially self-sufficient, managing entirely without public subsidies for the first time. This means that the foundation is putting its mission – helping people to help themselves through trade – into action.
Among the top buyers in 2017 were the Otto Group with market leader bonprix, the REWE Group, ALDI Süd and Tchibo. Other major customers purchasing CmiA cotton include Engelbert Strauss, Ernsting’s family, ASOS, BESTSELLER, Armani, s.Oliver and HAKRO. Smaller fashion labels like HIITU from Germany, Cooee from Great Britain, Weaverbirds from Denmark and Abaana from Uganda are also making an important contribution by selling an exclusive selection of products made from Cotton made in Africa cotton, ranging from children's clothing to high-end fashion textiles.
“Our partners are demonstrating that sustainable cotton can be used worldwide on a very broad basis in the textile industry. With Cotton made in Africa, textile companies can reconcile sustainability with profitability and contribute to the protection of the environment and to better working and living conditions for African smallholder farmers and their families,” said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of Cotton made in Africa, explaining the success of the initiative.
Hamburg/Istanbul, October 15, 2018. On the initiative of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), a 17-members delegation of African cotton producers traveled to Turkey to learn more about the processing of "their" raw materials in one of the largest textile production markets in the world. In the metropolitan area of Istanbul, they visited an import organization, a spinning mill and a clothing manufacturing plant. The aim of the trip was to better understand the needs of each supply chain member and meet the quality requirements within the cotton and textile production market.
At the beginning of the trip, a visit to a spinning mill and embroidery in Çorlu near Istanbul was on the agenda. From the modern and efficient machinery through the laboratory to the many elaborate cleaning stages and quality controls, it offered new and interesting insights for the African visitors. In addition, they learned more about the manufacturing process (CMT) and the import organization on site. All these process steps follow when the cotton producers lose sight of their raw material after selling their harvest to the nominated cotton traders. The three different stations in the textile value chain made it impressively clear how many work and elaborated processing steps follow until a high-quality T-shirt is made from the raw material cotton. "I am fascinated by the precision and care with which the cotton is processed. It motivates us to apply the same quality standard when growing cotton ", Emmanuel Mbewe sums up his impressions. Mbewe is CmiA coordinator of the cotton company Continental Ginnery Limited in Zambia. He is constantly working with the smallholders to produce high quality cotton that can achieve a better price on the world market.
Organizer of the trip was Cotton made in Africa (CmiA). The initiative works with over one million smallholders in Africa who produce sustainable cotton according to the CmiA standard. The aim of the trip was to promote the exchange between the different stages of textile value creation, which usually have very little or no contact with each other. The visit contributed to a better understanding of the needs of the textile industry on the one hand and the challenges of cotton producers on the other. Christian Barthel, Director Business Development of CmiA, summarizes: "We are pleased about the great interest in this cross-channel exchange. If the partners in the textile value chain understand each other's needs better, everyone benefits."
Cotton is the most commonly used natural fiber for global textile production. Cotton produced sustainably in accordance with the CmiA standard is in demand in all important textile production markets - as well as in Turkey. According to the WTO, Turkey was ranked sixth in the world’s largest textile suppliers in 2017. The country has been a producer of CmiA-labeled textiles since the sustainability initiative was launched in 2005.
Wear a bathrobe and take a stand for cotton farmers in Africa
Wear a bathrobe for a good cause – that’s the motto of the Bathrobe Challenge from Cotton made in Africa (CmiA). On August, 30th CmiA partners, friends and more celebrated the kick off of the Bathrobe Challenge with an exclusive event in Berlin. Namika performed as a Live Act and stars like Merlin Leonhardt or Samuel Bartz, textiles companies such as OTTO, HUGO BOSS, bonprix and REWE Group or NGOs such as WWF and CARE got together to take a stand in a bathrobe.
For the second time, the initiative founded by Dr. Michael Otto uses the bathrobe as a catchy symbol for sustainable fashion. With a great deal of fun and little effort, everyone can get involved. By simply wearing a bathrobe and posting the selfie on Social Media tagged with #bathrobechallenge and #cottonmadeinafrica during the Bathrobe Challenge in September 2018, everyone can take a stand for Cotton made in Africa – and thereby support over a million cotton farmers in Africa, their families and the protection of nature.
The bathrobe exemplifies how much cotton is used in our clothes. The African smallholder farmers who sustainably grow the raw material for millions of textiles are usually just as rarely present in the public eye as bathrobes are - outside of a wellness holiday. That’s something that the Hamburg-based initiative CmiA, which campaigns for sustainably produced cotton in Africa, aims to change with the support of prominent ambassadors, influencers, textile companies and non-governmental organizations.
Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Initiative Cotton made in Africa, explains: “By taking part in the Bathrobe Challenge, everyone can have fun and raise public awareness for the African cotton farmers who are not usually in the spotlight, but who stand at the very beginning of the fashion industry.” Since the foundation of Cotton made in Africa by Dr. Michael Otto in 2005, CmiA campaigns for the cotton farmers and their families, so they can produce this valuable raw material under better working and living conditions. „With the Bathrobe Challenge, we and numerous supporters who join CmiA, set a positive sign for the one million cotton farmers in Africa we are working with“, continues Stridde.
Celebrities - including CmiA ambassador and TV juror Motsi Mabuse, Revolverheld frontman Johannes Strate, singers Maite Kelly and Namika and actresses Marie Nasemann, Valentina Pahde and Minh-Khai Phan-Thi – already sported a bathrobe in 2017 for the first Bathrobe Day.
Further information can be found on www.bathrobechallenge.com
Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) was founded in 2005 by Dr. Michael Otto as a social business to protect the environmental and to support smallholder farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2017, a record sum of some 90 million textiles bore the CmiA quality label. More than one million African cotton farmers benefit from every single textile by cooperating with the sustainability initiative.
For the first time, Cotton made in Africa cooperates with more than one million cotton farmers, 17 percent of whom are women. Dr. Michael Otto, founder of CmiA, says delighted: “Africa is close to my heart - both personally and as a businessman, I feel very connected to our neighbouring continent. When I founded the Cotton made in Africa initiative back in 2005, I was very aware about the fact that our future also depends on overcoming the big challenges in Africa. Here, CmiA offers solutions and a chance to positively touch the lives of millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
On average, a CmiA smallholder farmer has a crop area of just under 1.5 hectares. In addition to farmers, more than 11,000 factory workers in the African cotton processing industry are part of the initiative. On an area of 1,620,000 hecatres, around 496,000 metric tons of ginned cotton from Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda have been produced according to the CmiA sustainability criteria in 2017. This accounts for around 49% of smallholder cotton production in sub-Saharan Africa. The label for sustainable cotton stands for environmental protection and training in sustainable and modern cotton cultivation. The training enables smallholder farmers to improve their working and living conditions through their own efforts. In addition, CmiA certifies the work in the so-termed ginneries, the first step in the further processing of cotton.
In total, CmiA achieved a record amount of around 90 million textiles which bore the CmiA label in 2017. This is a 79 percent increase compared to the previous year. “We achieved a record of about 90 million CmiA labelled textiles. Sustainability is not a niche product anymore”, stresses Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “Every textile that bears the CmiA label is a step in the right direction. Because every CmiA labelled product protects the environment and supports millions of people in Africa in creating a new perspective for themselves in their home country”, Stridde continues. For each textile wearing the CmiA certificate, a license fee flows back into the project areas. Instead of transferring donations, the initiative has thus chosen a market approach. A total of 36 companies and brands currently order CmiA cotton - among them the Otto Group with Bonprix and OTTO, the Rewe Group, Tchibo, Aldi Süd, Jack & Jones and Asos. Smaller fair fashion brands such as Hiitu and Cooee from England also use CmiA certified cotton to set an example in the industry. Due to the increasing demand for CmiA cotton by the textile industry CmiA is largely backed by income from licensing fees paid by partnering retailers and brands who demand and process CmiA certified cotton. The initiative thereby puts its mission - aid by trade - into practice.
Read more about CmiA's work and impact in the Annual Report 2017 you could access here.