Mr Price Group – one of South Africa’s best known clothing and homeware retailers – was a founding partner of the Sustainable Cotton Cluster. There from the start, the Group is already enjoying the benefits of participation.
Retailers are the cornerstone of the Sustainable Cotton Cluster’s integrated supply chain programme (ISCP). Without their participation there are no orders on which to base production and manufacturing planning. Retail demand drives the ISCP and enables it to build virtual partnerships between supply chain stakeholders. Retail satisfaction ensures the ISCP’s growth and increasing success.
Establishing the ISCP was a challenge but Mr Price Group’s experience confirms that it was the right thing to do.
“For Mr Price Group, our partnership with the Cluster has already resulted in cotton price stability, improved margin opportunities through waste elimination, visibility and data of procurement sources, and product differentiation to our customers,” says Natasja Ambrosio, the Group’s Sustainability Manager and Director of the MRP Foundation.
Cotton makes up between 55% and 60% of raw material content in products sold at Mr Price Group, a number that is consistent with other retailers in the country. Overall, the local market consumes more cotton than what South Africa can potentially produce, which bodes well for the industry development goals that the Sustainable Cotton Cluster has set itself.
Natasja explains that Mr Price Group’s appreciation of the potential the cotton industry has to unlock economic development and job creation is what prompted it to get involved. “We felt it was our duty to do our bit and so, in 2013, in collaboration with Cotton SA, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and various other industry leaders and organisations, we contributed to the establishment of the Southern African Sustainable Cotton Cluster. This collective has the potential to be one of the most important industry initiatives since the demise of our cotton industry after the 1980s.”
There can be no denying that other sustainable cotton initiatives, such as BCI and Cotton Made in Africa, are improving the cotton industry globally. Natasja believes, however, that the value chain focus (from farm to store) of the Sustainable Cotton Cluster makes it uniquely inclusive and comprehensive.
“The value chain approach ensures that better quality is delivered at the same price to the customer,” she explains. The Cluster’s ISCP has already delivered around five million garments and towels, designed and manufactured with local cotton content. This was possible through the collaboration of value chain organisations reducing unnecessary waste and inefficiencies. This way, value is unlocked and everyone wins, from the farmer to the consumer.
“Since the start of our involvement in the Cluster three years ago, we have witnessed a significant increase in hope and collective commitment among cotton producers and industry players,” says Natasja. “This is resulting in bold targets being set to grow the industry. But to succeed, retailers, government and industry partners have to work together as a collective. We hope that our involvement will contribute to the development of a stronger economy and unlock real job opportunities in our country.”