prof Dr Michael Otto as Founder 

Prof Dr Michael Otto’s decision to consistently take environmental aspects into account in the management of the Group can be seen in his personal commitment. His two foundations also emphasise these aspects.

The Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection

In 1993, the Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection was first launched for protecting and conserving water as a vital natural resource. The objective of the Foundation is to conserve the environment and nature for subsequent generations, as well as to point the way and generate motivation towards further inspiring initiatives.


The work of the Foundation is based on the three pillars of Funding, Education and Dialogue. Projects are preferred where the resources invested are of direct benefit to nature conservation. Beyond that it is important that the anticipated success of the project sets an example and that the project is not limited to a particular region. The Foundation is also committed to education that encourages children, young people and adults to become aware of how to act sustainably with respect to the natural resources vital to life. To do this, it focuses on setting up Foundation Professorships, supporting selected research and training centres and the foundation’s own AQUA AGENT education programme for children in primary schools in Hamburg. The Foundation also develops solution strategies to address current environmental policy issues as part of its programme of dialogue events.

Hamburg Forum for Nature Conservation

Once a year since 2004, the Foundation has held a series of Hamburg Forum for Nature Conservation events with an interdisciplinary group of participants. These dialogues are intended to stimulate public debate on key environmental issues, to create awareness for the concerns of nature conservation and to develop well-coordinated solutions on both a national and international level.
In addition to the Hamburg Forum for Nature Conservation discussions, the Foundation is also engaged in various long-term dialogue projects for developing solutions to the most urgent challenges of the 21st century. Out of the three Berlin Climate Meetings organised by the Foundation in 2006, for example, the ‘2° - German CEOs for Climate Protection’ business leaders' initiative was launched in 2007. In this initiative, business decision-makers from a range of different German industries came together to pledge their personal commitment to taking responsibility for the environment as well as supporting the German government in its policy for protecting the global climate.

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„Aid by Trade Foundation“

The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) was founded in 2005 by Prof. Dr. Michael Otto. The Foundation’s name reflects its goal: instead of charity, it focuses on a market-orientated form of support that is long-term and sustainable. Together with partners from business, non-governmental organisations and the German Federal Government, the AbTF is making a decisive contribution to reducing poverty and protecting the environment by promoting the sustainable cultivation of crops and forestry raw materials.

Cotton cultivation

‘Cotton made in Africa’ was the Foundation’s first initiative and today represents one of the leading global standards for sustainable cotton. Cotton made in Africa connects smallholder farmers in Africa with textile companies and fashion brands throughout the global textile value chain. The goal of the initiative is to help people help themselves and thus improve the living conditions of around one million cotton farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa, while at the same time protecting the environment in the cotton-growing regions.

The smallholder farmers benefit from training in efficient and environmentally friendly methods that enable them to increase their crop yields, generate higher income and improve their living conditions through their own efforts. At the same time, the Aid by Trade Foundation is building a steadily growing Demand Alliance of international textile companies that purchase Cotton made in Africa for their product assortments and pay a licence fee to the Foundation. The Foundation uses this income to finance its agricultural training as well as community projects such as building schools, health clinics and wells, promoting women’s groups and providing literacy courses for adults.

Prof. Dr. Michael Otto in Benin

The Cotton made in Africa standard prohibits the use of genetically modified seeds and artificial irrigation, among other things. One focus area is the reduction of pesticides used in cotton cultivation by substituting these with organic crop-protection methods. Cotton made in Africa Organic is cultivated in Tanzania without any pesticides or artificial fertilisers at all. Rather, CmiA Organic supplements the recognised EU/NOP organic cotton cultivation criteria with the CmiA socioeconomic sustainability criteria.

Over a million smallholder farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Chad, and Uganda currently benefit from Cotton made in Africa.

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