Dressmann to become world leading retailer of Fairtrade cotton

Cotton India - credit Thought Leader Global Media

Dressmann, one of the leading fashion chains for menswear in Northern Europe, is set to become the world’s biggest fashion retailer of Fairtrade certified cotton when it launches a new range of t-shirts, boxer shorts and socks.

Dressmann has also committed to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2025 in an effort to improve social and environmental conditions across its entire supply chain. Fairtrade cotton farmers in India will benefit from increased Fairtrade sales and plan to invest in education projects and increasing environmentally friendly production.

"We are proud to be able to launch a range of clothing made from Fairtrade certified cotton, making us the biggest player in the sector! The Fairtrade label will initially launch on basic garments that are always in store, but this is just the beginning of our journey with Fairtrade, and we plan to introduce more clothing lines in Fairtrade certified cotton by 2018”, said Chessa Nilsen, Sustainability Lead at Dressmann.

The move will see the Norwegian apparel chain launch its new range of t-shirts, boxers and socks made from Fairtrade certified cotton in up to 500 stores across Europe in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Austria and Germany, making them the  largest global buyer of Fairtrade certified cotton in the apparel sector. The commitment means that the farmers who grew their cotton have met Fairtrade’s rigorous social, economic and environmental standards.

"It’s exactly when big volumes such as these are traded on Fairtrade terms that Fairtrade can have a truly transformative impact on cotton farming communities and their environment across Africa, Asia and Latin America. We hope that Dressmann’s Fairtrade commitment will inspire other major fashion brands and retailers to follow suit and scale up”, says Subindu Garkhel, Fairtrade’s Global Cotton Manager.

Great boost for farmers in India

In India, over 2,400 cotton farmers from Fairtrade certified cooperative Noble Ecotech have already benefitted from Fairtrade cotton sales. They have been able to purchase farm equipment, water tanks and school equipment for local children, and installed drainage in all fields, reducing their water consumption by approximately 40 percent.

"Before, we had to buy seeds and other farm inputs from local merchants each year and found ourselves in spiralling debt to them. Now, the Fairtrade-certified cooperative we are all members of buys cotton seed in large quantities which they sell to us farmers for a reasonable price. The cooperative buys all the cotton we grow and sells it for us. This means that individual farmers no longer have to chase buyers single-handedly”, farmer Chatr Singh explained recently when Dressmann's parent company Varner and Fairtrade Norway visited India in October.

Farmers from Noble Ecotech plan to invest money earned from Fairtrade sales in establishing  a centre for agricultural training where they can learn about efficient farming and cultivation of other crops, as well as how best to produce natural fertilizers and pesticides.

Traceability is important

All the Fairtrade certified cotton in Dressmann's garments can be physically traced all the way back to the farmers’ cooperative.
"Dressmann has committed to ensure that all the cotton we use by 2025 should come from sustainable sources, and Fairtrade is our preferred tool within this context. Fairtrade helps us increase our sustainability not only at the factory floor level, but also for the farmers who grow our cotton, "says Chessa Nilsen.

-Ends-

You can download images and farmer case studies here.

For more information, interviews or images, please contact Helle Mjøs at Fairtrade Norway Helle.Mjos@fairtrade.no; Martine Parry at the Fairtrade Foundation martine.parry@fairtrade.org.uk  +44 207440 7695 / +44 7886 301486; or Chessa Nilsen at Dressmann Chessa.nilsen@varner.com  +47 932 59 952. 

Notes for Editors 

About the challenges in cotton production

• Cultivation and further processing of cotton is associated with a number of human, social and environmental challenges.
• Labour rights violations and child labour take place right across the cotton supply chain from cotton field to catwalk, not just on the factory floor where clothes are sewn.
• Extensive use of chemicals and local water resources negatively affects local communities and their environment.
•Cotton cultivation can be water intensive, making it vulnerable to water shortages caused by higher temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. 
• The world price for cotton has decreased over the last 30 years. Cotton grown by small scale unsubsidized farmers in the South competes on the world market with crops grown by producers in countries with heavy subsidies, and leads to low income for cotton farmers from poor countries. This reduces opportunities for cotton farmers to support themselves and their families, and many remain poor.
"We acknowledge that the cotton industry, of which we are a part, can adversely affect people and the environment. Since 2003, Dressmann has worked to gradually improve the working and environmental conditions in our value chains, and the natural next step for us is to now focus on cotton cultivation and contribute to sustainability and better incomes for the cotton farmers", explains Chessa Nilsen, sustainability lead at Dressmann. 
About Fairtrade Certified Cotton Production
• The international Fairtrade system exists to end poverty through trade. The independent Fairtrade label signifies to consumers that farmers and workers across Africa, Asia and Latin America are getting a better deal from trade.
• Fairtrade is the world's most recognized ethical label.
• Cotton purchased on Fairtrade terms means that the farmers get a better, more predicable price as well as extra resources to invest in sustainable farming.
• Child labour and forced labour are prohibited under Fairtrade's standards, and the certified cooperatives are trained to monitor and respond to these risks. Fairtrade also supports cooperatives to set up their own governing systems to identify, remediate and prevent child and forced labour on a continuous basis.
• Fairtrade guides Fairtrade certified cotton cooperatives in how to cope with the impact of climate change, and has extensive requirements to limit the agricultural impact on climate and the environment.
About Dressmann’s clothing in Fairtrade certified cotton
• Dressmann will start to roll out t-shirts, boxers and socks in Fairtrade certified cotton from January 2018 onwards.
• The cotton is grown in India by small-scale farmers who are members of Fairtrade certified cooperatives.
• The garments will go on sale in all 500 Dressmann stores across Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Austria and Germany.
• Dressmann is now one of the leading retailers of Fairtrade certified cotton in the world.