Cotton from Land Grabs? Not on our watch. H&M held to task on Ethiopia sourcing

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Dear Friends,

When we do research we don't always anticipate where it will go. Recently, our reports on Ethiopia have been sourced for an investigative piece holding Swedish clothing giant H&M accountable for their cotton sources. Turns out a fair amount of their cotton has come from the lower Omo Valley where a huge land grab has occurred.

The investigation shows clearly that the cotton is sourced from lower Omo where cotton plantations have displaced hundreds of thousands of local people. Specifically it was stated in the program:

“Do you use this cotton for H&M?”

“We use it for H&M’s clothing, too, both original and organic cotton. And for all our other customers we use this cotton.”

"And this comes from Omo Valley?”

"Omo Valley and Middle Awash."

Anuradha Mittal had these choice words for H&M on camera: "It’s incredibly shameful that a company as large as H&M has not done its necessary work… to find out where this cotton comes from. For H&M to continue doing business and make profits because the people cannot speak, is a crime."

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Since the televised investigation, H&M has shifted from a blanket PR statement of nonresponsibility to an announcement that:

“H&M does not accept appropriation of land, so-called land-grabbing. Because of that we demand that our suppliers ensure that they do not use cotton from the Omo Valley region where there is a higher risk for land-grabbing.”

This is a victory we are excited to share because it shows a consumer pathway into land grabs that has a lot of legs. More corporations need to be held to task on their cotton sources. They will learn, like H&M is finding out, that most of us don't want clothes made out of cotton garnered cheaply at the cost of hundreds of thousands losing their land rights and livelihoods.

Our strategy with H&M is to ensure they do the right thing.

But if they don't and continue to source the cotton from Ethiopian land grabs — we will mobilize.

At our World Bank panel in October, Okok Ojulu, an Ethiopian activist now living in exile, stated eloquently that: “We as indigenous… it is better to die than to give away your respect, your honor and your property.”

This is what is at stake here.

At this year-end we hope you will give generously to our work. We are only able to do it with your support. Each donation is highly prized. Thank you so much.

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Happy Holidays,

Alice, Frederic, Erik, Melissa, Peiley, Granate, and Anuradha