Reliable Hosiery is the first Canadian company to join the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) network, in a move that expands the scheme internationally and should help lift demand for sustainably produced African cotton.

The Canadian hosiery manufacturer signed a contract last week with supporting organisation the Aid by Trade Foundation. It plans to offer a Cotton made in Africa collection, and will have exclusivity in Canada for the hosiery products.

Unusually for a North American garment firm, Reliable Hosiery's entire production line is still located in Montreal. "Taking responsibility is important to us," explains president and owner Hermann Gruenwald.

The initiative works with smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide a source of cotton that is both environmentally and socially friendly - and ultimately helps improve the living conditions of some 240,000 farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Malawi and Ivory Coast.

Cotton made in Africa provides participating smallholder farmers with cultivation methods that both conserve the environment and raise crop yields, while providing training and education for adults and children.

Leading European fashion retailer C&A last month said it plans to purchase 1,000 tonnes of sustainably produced African cotton next year.