Naturaline becoming the best organic cotton marketing in the world
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
Accounting for approximately 1000 t of organic cotton every year, the Coop is (according to its own figures) the biggest buyer in the world. So far, only 0.1 % of cotton is produced organically. This cotton is cropped without the use of child labour in India and Tanzania and purchased by the Coop under Fair Trade conditions. The Coop has been working for ten years with the Swiss textile company Remei AG, which originally proposed the implementation of this project in the Maikaal region of India. The dyeing process is chlorine-free and does not use toxic heavy metals and the producer guarantees that the product will not irritate the skin.
The Coop's leaflets that provide customers with information about its own brand Naturaline (www.coop.ch/naturaline) explain the reason why organic cotton is used: 25 % of all the pesticides applied in the world are sprayed on just the 2.4 % of the agricultural area which is cropped with cotton.
The Coop's turnover with organic cotton products amounted to 43 million Francs in 2004. Cosmetic products like cotton wool, cotton buds, etc., accounted for a surprising 12 million Francs. The pleasing rate of increase of 10 % in 2004 is evidence of the growing demand on the part of consumers, who are obviously very satisfied with the quality of the products. The turnover achieved with Naturaline products was 4 million Francs in 1995 and in the meantime has multiplied tenfold!
Whereas the organic textile lines that have been on sale in the bigger Coop supermarkets for a decade were not always successful, bigger volumes have been made available since 2004 in the approximately 30 department stores without a food department. Sheets and fluffy towels can be bought in a wide range of colours. Naturally, a variety of eco-quality textiles are on sale, ranging from underwear to socks, men's shirts and ladies' tops, pullovers and children's underwear - whatever the customer wants, everyday clothing or fashion items and even a bio-thong. As many as 370 different lines are available, with a total of 4000 articles (one type of sock in five different sizes constitutes one line and five articles). The Coop's objective is to convert the whole traditional cotton range to Naturaline. Currently half of the textiles in Coop supermarkets (not the department stores) are already supplied from organic production.
Under the brand name Coop Oecoplan (http://www.coop.ch/oecoplan), the Coop supplies more than 1000 articles in the drugstore and household goods sector that are produced in an environmentally friendly way. In 2004 the Coop's turnover with this line was 93 million Francs. In the sectors kitchen herbs in pots, seedlings and fridges and freezers, the proportion from environmentally friendly production was as high as 80 % to almost 100 %. In the case of building materials and DIY, soil, sand, etc., toilet paper and kitchen rolls, the proportions are between 20 % and 40 %. In 2004 the sale of Oecoplan products rose by 16 %.
Huge growth rates are currently being achieved with Fair Trade products under the quality mark Max Havelaar (www.coop.ch/maxhavelaar). Turnover grew by 54 % to 123 million Francs from 2003 to 2004. 52 products have the Fair Trade label, and these belong to the categories bananas, cut flowers, honey, orange juice and ground coffee. What is surprising is that only about 10 % is produced organically. Coop was an original partner of the Max Havelaar Foundation. The first certification of Max Havelaar products was in 1992.
The development of an ever expanding availability of organically produced goods at the Coop is attributable on the one hand to the leadership of the cooperative and on the other hand to the professional involvement of the organic products department that now has four members. At the beginning Felix Wehrle and Katrin Rapp Schurmann were the main members. Today Katrin Rapp Schurmann is manager of both of the high quality brands VIVA, with their distinctive social and ecological image (Coop Naturaplan, Naturaline, Oecoplan and Max Havelaar) and of the specialist department nutrition; Christian Waffenschmitt is in charge of Coop Naturaplan, Carine Boetsch is in charge of Coop Oecoplan and Coop Naturaline and Denise Stadler (picture below) is responsible for Max Havelaar and ProSpecieRara.
The Coop submits a sustainability report on a regular basis that presents progress in saving energy and water, minimising CO2 and the consumption of raw materials. For example, in 180 branches, integrated management of heating and cooling has been introduced.
Coop Switzerland demonstrates worldwide what a chain store operator who has recognised the signs of the times can achieve in terms of sustainability in production and marketing. And this has been done in the comparatively short period of just over ten years. This achievement is only possible if there is both a fairly long-term commitment and adequate margins in trade. The price wars conducted by the German concerns, instigated by the wave of discounters, largely preclude this kind of development. Although the margins in countries like France and England would be sufficient to create developments similar to those in Switzerland, it can be seen that only in Basle at the headquarters of Coop Switzerland have ecological objectives been pursued pragmatically and with outstanding results. So Coop Switzerland may well have provided worldwide the blueprint for reorientation in the direction of increased sustainability for big companies in the consumer goods sector. The question is simply when will the others climb aboard and change their course; in five or more likely in fifteen years?