We use cotton in many of our products, from sofas and cushions to bed linen and mattresses. It is a soft, durable and renewable fibre that breathes and is good at absorbing moisture. All these great qualities make cotton one of our most important materials, but it isn’t without its challenges, much having to do with conventional farming methods that negatively impact the environment and poor working conditions for farmers. With our size and production volumes, we want to drive change in the cotton industry. By only using recycled cotton or cotton from more sustainable sources, working with partnerships and initiatives on the ground and prioritising compliance, we believe that we can make a positive impact in the world of cotton.
Sara has a background as a clothes designer, so she knows first hand how difficult it is to create something that fits most body types. She and the development team thought, why not ask the factory workers at our suppliers for help? It would be an opportunity to see how people use bathrobes, and how they fit all the different shapes and sizes we come in. “With slightly blushing cheeks and some giggles, they paraded on the factory floor and tried out different prototypes. Some of them were outspoken and voiced their opinions, others were a bit shy,” says Sara.
One of the first things Sara and the team had to solve, was which material they should use. They wanted something that dries quickly and comes with a nice price tag so the models helped them narrow down their choices. “A few of them whispered; ‘Hmm, we usually don’t have much clothes on under our bathrobes.’ It meant we had to have a soft terry and stay away from seams that can chafe. We also put the hanger loop on the outside of the bathrobe, because you should be comfortable even if you are naked underneath,” says Sara.
The team made an interesting discovery regarding how men and women tie their bathrobes. Most men seem to tie the belt under the stomach, while many women tie it higher up, under the bust. “We added an adjustable loop in a contrasting material that works no matter how you prefer it. It’s a small but important detail that adds functionality, and gives the robe a unique look.”
Another thing that gave the team an aha-moment were people’s hands. “We noticed that some didn’t know where to put them when the bathrobe was tied and the pockets ended up in front of the stomach. To solve this, we placed the pockets further back instead, and put the openings on the side,” says Sara. We also seem to sit a certain way when we unwind in a bathrobe. “A few of the models said ‘Oops, perhaps I should cross my legs, so I don’t show too much?’ But we think people should sit however they like, as long as they’re comfortable. Since ROCKÅN has a big overlap and is longer than your average bathrobe it’s easy to cover your legs, so you don’t have to worry about things like that,” says Sara.
Working on the factory floor together with the models not only triggered ideas, it also made the development faster. “We asked a lot of questions, but also got direct feedback by just observing how they moved around in their bathrobes. When we develop this way, together with individuals with different needs, we’re more likely to improve peoples’ everyday. And as in the case of ROCKÅN, create a bathrobe that the whole neighborhood can feel comfortable and look good in,” says Sara.
Since 2015, all cotton in IKEA products is either recycled or comes from more sustainable sources*. This means that we only source cotton grown using sustainable farming practices that reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides and water, improve working conditions and earnings for farmers, and benefit ecosystem health and biodiversity conservation. We have set up a system that enables use to trace all our cotton and ensure that the final product is from approved, certified sources. *Cotton from more sustainable sources commits to the following schemes: Better Cotton (as defined by BCI, including their equivalence in various geographies), cotton from farmers working towards the BCI standard (TBC).
Each year, IKEA uses around 0.5 percent of all cotton grown around the world. This may not seem like a lot, but the number is big enough to drive change in the industry. For many years, we have been working with partners and stakeholders globally to transform conventional large-scale cotton farming and set social and environmental standards for cotton production. As an example, we helped set up the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) who runs the world’s largest cotton sustainability programme. BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. Today, more than 110,000 farmers have adopted more sustainable farming practices within IKEA projects.
All IKEA products are produced in accordance with the IKEA IWAY Standard, our Supplier Code of Conduct. It sets out the minimum environmental and social standards expected from our suppliers, including compliance with local laws. We do not accept any form of forced labour, child labour or treatments in breach of our supply chain requirements. Our cotton teams across the globe ensure that all cotton used in IKEA products meets the demands of compliance in our supply chain. By having teams on the ground in areas where it has previously been challenging to work responsibly, we can challenge the traditional ways of working and improve the industry. If we discover that we are acting in places where we cannot ensure our requirements are being met, we follow-up on the ground and drive change.