We source part of our organic cotton - one of our most important raw materials - from Chetna, an Indian non-governmental organisation. Chetna works with 9,000 organic cotton farmers and is currently helping 7,000 more with the conversion to organic farming and certification. We also source cotton from Ugnada, through the engagement of the Fair for Life project. In addition, we get cotton from Tansania. All sources are fully transparent, in fair trade style and offer full traceability.
For us, partners like in Chetna are perfect, because we have common goals: we use organic cotton because it is produced without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. This makes it healthy for our customers, but the farmers also benefit because they do not have to deal with chemical poisons. They also get a slightly better price for organic cotton.
Our values include - wherever possible - making a contribution towards improving the working and living conditions of producers. Paying a fair trade premium is only one aspect. By working with Chetan, we support the cotton farmers and their families directly. Most of the farmers in India are poor and have just small amounts of land.
Many belong to particularly disadvantaged social groups. Chetna helps organic cotton farmers from seed procurement and cultivation (compost management, biological pest control, intermediate crops ...) to harvesting, processing and marketing. And Chetna supports the farming families (sometimes even the entire village community): Chetna employees advise women who want to grow organic vegetables as a sideline, assist seed initiatives in setting up seed banks and help parents get scholarships for their children. You can find out more about this in our stories.
"Living-Wage"" pilot project
We have set ourselves the goal of treating everyone involved in the production of one of our products fairly - from cotton farmers to the seamstresses who finish our products. A small part of our goods, for example our children's sleeping bags, are therefore manufactured by selected partners in India. Our motivation is not the low price, but to involve the people in the processing industry in the added value that is created, and not to see them purely as raw material suppliers.
“Normally” only the cotton farmers receive a fair trade premium, but not the other textile workers such as the seamstresses. The reason for this is that only a very small part of the cotton produced worldwide comes from controlled organic cultivation and only a fraction of it from fair trade. It is comparatively easy to pay the farmers a fair trade premium for raw cotton. But before this raw cotton is turned into a children's sleeping bag or pillowcase, it has to go through many processing stages: The cotton is cleaned, carded, spun and twisted into a thread. The yarn is processed into a woven or knitted fabric, printed or dyed as required, and finally cut and sewn. The value of cotton consequently increases as it is processed or 'refined'. And dozens of people in different companies, in different places, are involved in the creation of a product. And since fair trade still only has a small market share, only a few members of the workforce spend a small part of their working time in a spinning mill, weaving mill or in the assembly department, manufacturing fair trade products.
Nevertheless, we are determined, insofar as this is feasible and makes sense, to involve these people in the creation of value. We do this, for example, through a “Living Wage” project. At our Indian partner, the state minimum wages are of course paid for the further processing of the organic cotton fabrics (for example the sewing of our children's sleeping bags). Independent calculations have shown, however, that this minimum wage does not correspond to the definition of a “living wage” (in German: “subsistence minimum”). For this, the wage level would have to be increased by 20%. For this reason we are taking part in a pilot project: at its core is the calculation of the proportion of wage costs that are incurred, for example, in the manufacture of a children's sleeping bag. We pay 20% more to close the described gap. At the end of the month, this fair trade surcharge is distributed to all employees, since it is pure coincidence who is currently working on a Prolana order and who is not. The more fair trade products are bought and the more companies take part in the “Living-Wage project”, the faster the wage level can be raised for all employees. At the moment the workers get a 13th month's salary, so to speak. From our point of view, this is a good start.