Why is BCI working in China’s Northwest Region (an area of social unrest)?
Data consolidated by the International Cotton Advisory Committee confirms China as the world’s largest producer of cotton. Within China, the Xinjiang region produces 56% of the country’s cotton output and accounts for 7 million farmers and workers. As readers will know, Xinjiang has been an area of social unrest for a number of historical reasons. And, like other cotton producing areas around the globe, Xinjiang faces challenges with continuously improving performance against environmental criteria such as water and pesticide use, and Decent Work criteria such as use of migrant labour, Freedom of Association, hazardous work, etc. Rather than avoiding the potential controversy of engaging in this region, BCI sees the potential benefits to farmers, workers, business and local government of working together to introduce our comprehensive set of farming practices in this region.
The BCI approach is to focus on all key cotton growing areas of the world in order to make cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. As such, it is in incumbent on BCI to work in Xinjiang. We are confident that our due diligence, screening and close partnership with the local Implementing Partner, coupled with rigorous assurance (monitoring, verification and results reporting) processes are sufficiently robust to quickly identify any issues arising in such a manner that they can be dealt with in accordance with the spirit and objectives of the Better Cotton Initiative. BCI retains its independence from various partners in the region, receives no funding from them beyond their routine membership fee (similar to hundreds of others), and will withdraw its license should circumstances reveal that the principles of the Better Cotton Standard System are not being respected (just as it would elsewhere in the world).