Is BCI certain that Better Cotton is having a favourable impact on people and planet?

In the field of development and environmental science, it is important to use the word ‘impact’ with great care. For example, if a hypothetical farmer earns 20% more income due to better crop yields and reduced cost of inputs, can we say that the program has had a favourable ‘impact’ on his well-being?  Not necessarily. What if he uses his increased income to purchase alcohol?

To speak of ‘impact’ of a program, a rigorous scientific analysis must be completed by experts trained to measure and quantify the benefits and unintended consequences of interventions. It usually takes 3-5 years of data collection to provide the necessary degree of confidence in the statistical analysis.

Thus, BCI does not (yet) speak of ‘impact’, but rather of ‘results’. We can say with confidence (for example) that X farmers in Region A used 30% less pesticides than a control group of farmers in the same region who were not using our methodology.

We now have several years of data, gathered from hundreds of thousands of farmers grouped in producer groups that constitute our data base. Reputable independent bodies have studied our ‘results’ and concluded that they indeed reflect reality in the field, and that they are of sufficient depth and granularity to allow for reliable ‘impact assessments’ to be conducted in the relatively near future.

Although we are confident that people and planet are much better off due to the Better Cotton Initiative, we will say so in muted, factual terms until scientifically conducted impact assessments allow us to shout it from the rooftops.