Washable and environmentally friendly diapers are increasingly popular in Finland. A Fairtrade version is available, now that East 25 is starting to import from Peru.
The business idea of starting to produce and import washable diapers that meet the Fair Trade criteria originated in an informational event organized by Finnpartnership and the Association for the Promotion of Fair Trade in Finland, says Pirjo Kinnunen of East 25 Oy.
«The first job was to find the right partner. We contacted Peruvian producers through international Fair Trade networks»
With the help of the trade association support, provided by Finnpartnership, Pirjo Kinnunen traveled to Peru to assess the situation. She needed to find not only cotton producers, but also someone who could transform the raw material into a finished product. A well connected partner
A partner was found in Peru Naturtex, which specializes in the production of organic and fair trade cotton. The founder of the company is an American anthropologist and archaeologist, James M. Vreeland, who has lived in Peru for a long time.
«Without a partner like Peru Naturtex, I doubt we would have started. The company has the necessary experience and excellent connections, from cotton producers to sewing workshops.»
Peru Naturtex is responsible for the production of washable diapers in Peru and its delivery to Europe. Kinnunen points out that it was important to resolve the contractual issues from the beginning. One of the areas where legal assistance was needed was in the elaboration of an association agreement between the two companies.
Growing popularity of washable diapers.
It took about two years to convert the idea into a business. The first Fairtrade washable diapers will go on sale in Finland in May 2008.
East 25 Oy intends to use the Internet and Fair Trade channels for marketing. It also aims to take the product to the shelves of larger stores. «Once the product is ready and has gained acceptance, it will be time to approach retail companies,» says Kinnunen. She believes there will be enough demand. Many parents make their own washable diapers at home, but there are few industrial manufacturing products on the market.
«We are starting our marketing in Finland, but we are also targeting bigger markets and expanding our operations to other parts of Europe.» East 25 Oy has experience in exports to areas such as the Baltic States. The company has been importing and marketing Fairtrade wines to Finland and neighboring areas for several years.
Environmental awareness drives demand.
At present, the factor that drives the popularity of washable diapers is consumer awareness of the environment. A Finnish voluntary association to promote the use of washable diapers estimates that, before a child receives training to go to the bathroom at the age of about 30 months, about 5000 disposable diapers are used.
This generates about 1500 kilos of waste. Up to half of the waste produced by a family with children can consist of diapers. The association says that, in the Helsinki area alone, waste diapers total about 5200 tons per year.
There are also financial reasons for washable diapers. Even the most expensive are cheaper than disposable diapers, for families with only one child. The advantage increases if there are more children.
«Washable diapers are the ecological option and last until the child’s diaper age. Then they can be sold second-hand.»
The availability of cotton is the biggest challenge.
Fair Trade washable diapers are made with Pakucho registered organic cotton, which does not irritate a baby’s sensitive skin. This 25 intends to keep organic raw material, although supplies can be difficult to find as diaper production increases.
In Peru, organic cotton that meets the Fair Trade criteria is produced by a single cooperative, which collects its cotton from small family farms across the country.
«The annual fluctuations in the harvest in a country can be considerable, depending on the climatic conditions,» Kinnunen notes. «In the future, we will probably also try to make arrangements with producers from other places, for example, Africa.»
WASHABLE AND ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY DIAPERS ARE INCREASINGLY POPULAR IN FINLAND. A FAIRTRADE VERSION IS AVAILABLE, NOW THAT EAST 25 IS STARTING TO IMPORT FROM PERU.