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From the cotton field to the store: tales of a travelling baby bodysuit

The life of our baby bodysuit – Sustainability at ALDI North

Most pieces of clothing that our customers find in the stores have made a long journey to get there. The travels of our baby bodysuit start in the cotton fields of India, where our sustainability efforts begin – and they come with a number of challenges.

 

Before our finished baby bodysuit is put on display in our stores, the cotton has to be processed at different production facilities after it has been picked. The raw material is first spun into yarn, which is then woven into fabric. Afterwards, the fabric is dyed and/or printed, and the piece of clothing is completed in the sewing workshop. As part of our sustainability management efforts, we examine the entire life cycle of textiles, from the cultivation of the cotton plants to the day when the item of clothing is no longer needed. Ideally, it will be reintroduced into the textile loop through collection points for used garments.

Our aim is to be as gentle on the environment as possible with our production processes. We also advocate for fair working conditions, which is why the baby bodysuit has been certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).

Global Organic Textile Standard

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) defines uniform global criteria for textiles processing, which include the certified organic cultivation of cotton, environmentally friendly and socially responsible manufacturing practices and uniform product labelling. GOTS certification is performed by independent, specially accredited bodies. Learn how GOTS works in this brief informational video.

the-life-of-our-baby-bodysuit – Sustainability at ALDI North

1. Production of raw materials

Baumwollpflanze – Sustainability at ALDI North

Seven months are how long it usually takes for a little seed to become a big cotton plant. Cotton is cultivated primarily in India, China and the United States. Sustainability plays an important role as early as the cultivation stage, because cotton plants need a lot of water, which is often a very scarce resource in the countries where they are grown. In addition, fertilisers and pesticides may cause harm to the environment. This is why we are buying more and more products made of sustainable cotton. We rely on the GOTS*, the Organic Content Standard (OCS)**, Fairtrade, other organic standards and recycled cotton. In Germany, we published a National Cotton Purchasing Policy in 2017, which already covers the majority of all items also sold in other countries as part of the international buying practices.

The baby bodysuit is made of organic cotton. No chemical pesticides or fertilisers may be used in its cultivation. The organic cotton for our baby bodysuit comes from India, from where the raw material makes its way to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh.

Baumwolle Icon – Nachhaltigkeit bei ALDI Nord

Cotton is the main component in clothing and home textiles sold at ALDI North, accounting for around two-thirds.

2. Production of yarn and fabric

The second step involves the producers in Bangladesh spinning the organic cotton into yarn and creating fabric out of it. The fabric is then dyed and thoroughly washed. To dye or bleach textiles, factories use chemicals, which may pollute the water in the area around the production sites and cause harm to the workers’ health. With help from the Greenpeace Detox campaign, we set the goal for ourselves in 2015 of barring the use of certain chemicals in the production of textiles and footwear by 2020 [Download ALDI Detox-Commitment]. We are cooperating closely with our suppliers to make further progress with regard to chemical management. The GOTS, under which the baby bodysuit has been certified, also sets strict specifications regarding the use of chemical additives.

Production of yarn and fabric – Sustainability at ALDI North
At the spinning mill
Production of yarn and fabric – Sustainability at ALDI North
Communication and information

3. Assembly

The baby bodysuit is slowly starting to take shape. Now the fabric is trimmed and sewn. To do our part to promote human and employment rights on the ground, we only partner with suppliers whose commissioned factories are able to furnish a valid social audit. We also promote improvements in the local working conditions through our dialogue project. In 2013, ALDI launched the ALDI Factory Advancement Project, which takes an approach based on dialogue and cooperation. It is meant to serve as the framework in which workers and managers develop skills, enter into dialogue with one another and join forces to solve problems. The production facility in Bangladesh where our baby bodysuit is sewn also participates in this programme.

Production manager in the sewing workshop – Sustainability at ALDI North

Abu Sahid is 29 years old. More than 13 years ago, he left his village and headed to Dhaka in order to earn a better living. In 2006, he started out as a worker operating a sewing machine. Today, he is in charge of an entire floor with 16 production lines. He lives close to the factory with his small family and is working towards taking over the role of production director in a large factory one day.

Profile of a seamstress – Sustainability at ALDI North

Dulali Akter is 26 and has been working in the sewing workshop for almost two years. She would like to pursue further training in her job as a seamstress. She lives with her husband and their child close to the factory. They dream of taking a trip to Singapore one day.

4. Sale and use

Angekommen in ALDI aktuell: unsere Baby Bodies – Nachhaltigkeit bei ALDI Nord
Arrived in ALDI current: our baby bodies

The time has come. After 11,000 km, the  finished baby bodysuit  makes its way into our stores via our distribution centres in Europe. Beforehand, we perform an extensive quality check to ensure once more that it meets our high standards, for example by looking at whether the seams are in order and checking that fuzz and fluff do not form too quickly on the garment. If the bodysuit passes the test, it finally has the opportunity to prove itself amid hours of playtime and crawling. One day, when younger siblings and the children of friends no longer fit into the bodysuit, it reaches the point of disposal.

ATC Logo – Nachhltigkeit bei ALDI Nord

Knowing where it comes from: The ALDI Transparency Code (ATC) has been in effect since May 2018 for textiles in Germany for the first time.

A new lease of life

The baby bodysuit’s story does not have to end here. The answer? Recycling. Recycling clothing saves resources and is good for the environment. In this way, the baby bodysuit can also find a new lease of life at the supposed end of its useful life, whether as a piece of second-hand clothing, as raw material for new textiles or as a cleaning rag. People who drop the bodysuit into a charitable organisation’s collection container for used garments support social projects in the process.

*Global Organic Textile Standard
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) defines demanding, globally consistent criteria for the processing of textiles from certified, organically produced natural fibres throughout the entire textile supply chain. These criteria include the certified organic cultivation of fibres, environmentally friendly and socially responsible manufacturing practices and consistent product labelling. Only textile products made from at least 70 per cent certified organic natural fibres can receive GOTS certification from independent testing labs.

**Organic Content Standard
The Organic Content Standard (OCS), which is promulgated by the organisation Textile Exchange, guarantees that a set percentage of a product is made from organically grown cotton. OCS can be used to track organic cotton in the production chain as well as all other organic fibres, such as sheep’s wool and linen.

 

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