IKEA Plans to Only Use Sustainable CottonThe retail giant IKEA is working harder to decrease its environmental footprint and to benefit the workers at the far reaches of its supply chain. The company recently announced that by the end of 2015, it will only purchase cotton that complies with standards set by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). This change came as a result of the UNDP’s support of the Business Call to Action (BCtA), a campaign that works to help businesses shift towards practices that benefit global development.

BCI, founded by a group of companies including IKEA, works to ensure that cotton grown around the world is grown in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Additionally, they prioritize fair trade practices so that the workers who grow the cotton itself are fairly compensated and enjoy a higher quality of life. By reducing the number of pesticides and decreasing the costs of external waste products, the income of cotton farmers can actually increase.

IKEA currently buys more cotton than any other commodity except wood. Today, only 34 percent of that cotton complies with BCI standards. Over the next three years, IKEA seeks to complete its transition to 100 percent BCI-approved cotton, with the goal of guaranteeing sustainable cotton at an affordable price—ideally the same price as any other cotton.

Jake Simon

Source: UNDP
Photo: Greenpeace

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm