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Better Cotton: A sustainable way of cotton production

BTJ Desk Report
Better Cotton: A sustainable way of cotton production

What is Better Cotton?

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), or just Better Cotton for short, is the largest cotton sustainability programs in the world. In just over a decade, stakeholders who span the industry have joined the organization – farmers, ginners, spinners, suppliers, manufacturers, brand owners, retailers, civil society organizations, donors and governments – to train farming communities to produce cotton in ways that improve things for everyone and everything connected with this fluffy white staple. Currently, BCI membership adds up to more than 2,500 members.

Why does better cotton exist?

Cotton is one of the world’s most important renewable natural resources. Safeguarding the growing and production of it is essential. With the support of different stakeholders of BCI, it can focus on who and what matters in a sustainable future: farmers, farmworkers, their communities, and their education, knowledge and well-being. Working with close to 70 different field-level partners, better cotton continues to reach more and more of the world’s cotton-farming communities – or shall it call ‘Farmers+’ – to support them in implementing more sustainable practices. Nearly all of them – farmers and farm workers – work on smallholdings less than 20 hectares in size. Helping them to enjoy better yields, improved working conditions and greater financial security has been transformative. Over 2.4 million farmers now have a license to sell their cotton as Better Cotton. In total, the programs have reached almost 4 million people whose working lives are connected to cotton production.

Who founded better cotton and when?

In 2005, as part of a ’round-table’ initiative convened by WWF, a group of visionary organizations came together to make sure it had a sustainable future. Initial support came from organizations such as adidas, Gap Inc., H&M, ICCO Cooperation, IKEA, International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), International Finance Corporation (IFC), Organic Exchange, Oxfam, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK and WWF.

Is better cotton and better cotton initiative are the same?

Better Cotton Initiative and Better cotton in fact are the same. The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), or just Better Cotton for short, is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. In just over a decade, Better cotton have convinced stakeholders who span the industry to be their partners.

What is better cotton process?

Better Cotton is produced by farmers who:

  1. Minimize the harmful impact of crop protection practices; use water efficiently and take care of water availability;
  2. Take care of soil health;
  3. Conserve natural habitats;
  4. Take care of and preserve fiber quality;
  5. Promote decent work.

What is the difference between better cotton and organic cotton?

Organic cotton uses 92% less water than conventional cotton, and uses no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. BCI, meanwhile, tolerates the use of pesticides and genetically modified seeds. Better cotton is not organic. Organic cotton and better cotton are completely different from each other.

What is the better cotton standard?

Cotton farming communities are the reason Better Cotton exists – supporting them is at the heart of the work. While cotton is a renewable resource, its production is vulnerable to damaging practices. As stewards of the Better Cotton Standard System, main focus is on providing training and development opportunities for farmers to adopt more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production practices. One of the six components of the standard system, the Principles and Criteria or the Better Cotton Standard, is a holistic approach to more sustainable cotton production implemented at field level. Better Cotton Licensed Farmers produce cotton in a way that cares for the environment, minimizing the negative effects of fertilizers and pesticides, and caring for water, soil health and natural habitats. Better Cotton Farmers also commit to decent work principles—conditions that support workers’ safety and wellbeing. The Better Cotton Standard is not applicable to the cotton supply chain. However, Better Cotton Members gain access to sourcing Better Cotton from diverse global regions.

How is the volume of better cotton and where are they coming from?

Today Better Cotton is grown in 26 countries around the world and accounts for 20% of global cotton production. One fifth of the world’s total cotton is now grown under the Better Cotton Standard. In the 2020-21 cotton season, through the network of field-level partners, the program reached 3.9 million people, and 2.9 million farmers in 26 countries received training on sustainable farming practices.

Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Multiple African Countries, Pakistan, South Africa, Tajikistan, Turkiye, United States are the place where better cotton is being grown.


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