Better Cotton – cotton produced in line with the initiative’s Better Cotton principles and criteria – now accounts for 19 per cent of global cotton production, says an annual report. By 2020, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) aims to support 5 mn cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices and improving their livelihoods.

“To do this, we focus on the diverse social, environmental and economic challenges faced by cotton farmers around the world, from drought in Australia to flooding in China and gender equality in Pakistan,” BCI revealed in its 2018 annual report.

In the 2017/18 cotton season, together with 69 on-the-ground partners and with support from 14,000 members, BCI provided training on sustainable agricultural practices to more than two mn cotton farmers in 21 countries (more than 99 per cent of BCI farmers are smallholders, farming on less than 20 hectares of land). This drove the volume of more sustainably produced cotton available on the global market to a new level.

“Our comprehensive programme of training, practical demonstrations and knowledge-sharing helps farmers to raise their yields, reduce their impacts on the environment and improve working conditions. We address multiple environmental issues – from soil health and pesticide use to water stewardship – and raise awareness of the importance of Decent Work, focusing in particular on promoting women’s empowerment and preventing child labour,” said Alan McClay, CEO at BCI.

At the opposite end of the supply chain, BCI’s retailer and brand members such as Hennes & Mauritz AB, IKEA Supply AG, Gap Inc., Adidas AG, and Nike Inc. surpassed an important milestone at the end of 2018, by sourcing more than one mn metric tonne of Better Cotton – a record for BCI. That’s 45 per cent increase from 2017, sending a clear signal to the market that Better Cotton is becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity. BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of Better Cotton directly translates into increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices.