Walmart Joins The Better Cotton Initiative Promoting Sustainable Agriculture

April 27, 2012
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Cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops because of the pesticides used in its cultivation. For years, many retailers used cotton without thought to where it came from or what growing it entailed. This is now changing thanks to many multi-national corporations who are supporting an industry-wide initiative to growing “better cotton.” Retailers who have signed on for the initiative include: Adidas, H&M, IKEA, and Levi’s. These companies are all members of the Better Cotton Initiative’s Fast Track program. The Better Cotton Initiative’s Fast Track program’s mandate is to try to accelerate the production of sustainable cotton through the retail sector.

(image credit: organicallygrowngroup.wordpress.com)

Recently, another giant in the retail world has signed on to be a member of the Better Cotton Initiative’s Fast Track program. The corporation in question is none other than big-box juggernaut and one of the top purchasers of organic cotton: Walmart. In joining the Better Cotton InitiativeWalmart will be awarding $650,000 in grant money to help farmers reduce their reliance on pesticides, promote efficient water use, and foster better working conditions.” This is a huge corporate social responsibility move for Walmart because in the past the company has been criticized for not using their significant influence to make a difference when it comes to their suppliers. By giving this grant money to the organization, they will be aiding in the production of organic cotton. If affordable sustainable cotton is a viable option more brands will be able to use it, as opposed to its traditional counterpart. When a company like Walmart uses their influence and money to put an initiative like this one into practice, others will follow suit because they don’t want to fall behind the industry leader.

Walmart’s commitment to producing and using organic and sustainable cotton goes far beyond a monetary grant. They want to work with Fast Track resources to help find new opportunities to ensure that cotton is farmed in an environmental and socially responsible manner. One way to help produce cotton that is socially responsible is to purchase cotton from sources who support and encourage women in the cotton industry. Though women make up the majority of the workforce in the industry, they are often marginalized.

“Cotton is a vital commodity for Walmart’s home textile business,” says Ashish Bharara, vice president of strategic sourcing in the division of home and hardlines. “Through our participation in the Better Cotton Fast Track program, Walmart will help reduce the environmental impact of cotton production and improve the lives of farmers in our key cotton-sourcing regions.”

By participating in the Better Cotton Fast Track program to help produce and use better cotton, Walmart is helping to change both the cotton and retail industry. They will have a lasting impact on the lives of farmers and cotton industry workers because of their commitment to socially responsible cotton and sustainable production. By raising the bar in this way they are challenging others in their sector to follow suit and change their practices.
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