IKEA purchased 50,000 tons of sustainable cotton this past season—nearly twice as much as the year before, according to its 2011 Sustainability Report. The Swedish furnishings giant, which pledges to adhere to Better Cotton Initiative guidelines by the end of 2015, estimates that sustainable cotton now accounts for 23.8 percent of its total cotton use, up from 13.4 percent the previous year. A founding member of the program, IKEA works with the World Wildlife Fund and other stakeholders to help cotton farmers in India, Pakistan, China, and Turkey implement greener cultivation techniques that “significantly reduce” the need for chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and water.

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“IKEA’s sense of urgency around sustainability has intensified and we are continuing to push ourselves to do even more,” says Steve Howard, IKEA’s chief sustainability officer. “We are working hard to secure more renewable energy, protect raw materials, and drive innovation to eliminate waste—choosing instead to create new, valuable resources. And we are making good progress.”

Farmers who wish to produce Better Cotton must incorporate strict environmental and work criteria to qualify.

Although the total harvest of “Better Cotton” reached 250,000 tons, with more than 100,000 farmers using better management practices, IKEA suppliers purchased only a fifth of the total production. This, per the retailer, was a calculated move to leave sufficient volumes available on the market to “speed up the process of making this cotton a tradable commodity available to all.” Still, IKEA considers itself on track to meet its 2015 goal. “This means that farmers wanting to produce Bet­ter Cotton must incorporate not only the environmental criteria originally developed by IKEA and WWF, but also the decent work criteria defined by the BCI,” it says in the report.

IKEA is also cooperating with UNICEF and Save the Children to address the children’s rights issues associated with cotton farming, particularly in rural Pakistan and India. “Workshops based on the International Labour Organization program “Decent Work” have been conducted in Lahore, Pakistan,” the retailer adds. “The aim was to find synergies between projects run in the same areas by several organizations, such as UNICEF, Save the Children, WWF, and the BCI. The organizations will continue to meet and develop collaborative plans.”

+ 2011 Sustainability Report