BCI History

In 2019, the Better Cotton Initiative officially celebrated its 10th anniversary. To mark this special year, we launched a digital timeline which explores BCI’s first decade, celebrating the milestones that enabled BCI to evolve into the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. Click the image below to explore the timeline.


As part of a ‘round table’ initiative led by WWF (which convened world experts on different commodities) a number of initiatives are born, all with the goal of finding more sustainable solutions for farmers, for the environment, and for the future of each sector. The Better Cotton Initiative is one of them, initially supported by a collective of major organisations including adidas, Gap Inc., H&M, ICCO, IFAP, IFC, IKEA, Organic Exchange, Oxfam, PAN UK and WWF.

2006-2009: Preparation Phase

A small BCI team works to generate interest for supply and demand of Better Cotton – cotton produced in a way that is better for farmers and the environment – and secure the interest of organisations across sectors and continents.


BCI is established as an independent organisation and is officially launched. The first Better Cotton global standards known as the Better Cotton Production Principles and Criteria (later updated to the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria), the cornerstone of the Better Cotton Standard System, are published.

2010: Implementation Phase

During a key three-year implementation phase, BCI focuses on four regions: Brazil, India, Pakistan and West & Central Africa. These regions include a diversity of climatic conditions, farm sizes, agricultural practices and environmental and social impacts; which help BCI to test the concept of Better Cotton and improve and refine the concept for further expansion. We also explore the process of working with other organisations and countries in partnership to see how the Better Cotton Standard System can be implemented beyond the BCI focus regions in the future. The Better Cotton Fast Track Programme is launched as an independent investment vehicle managed by IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, to channel funds directly to farmer training and improvement programmes.


The first harvests of Better Cotton take place in Brazil, India, Mali and Pakistan.


The first harvest of Better Cotton takes place in China. The BCI Council lays down a formidable challenge to all BCI Members, Partners, stakeholders and staff with the publication of five ambitious targets for 2020. BCI is to demonstrate that multiple stakeholders, working together, can shift a global system so that sustainability becomes the mainstream.

2013: Expansion Phase

BCI enters its expansion phase and focuses efforts on growing Better Cotton supply and demand. BCI aims to bring more members onboard, while training more cotton farmers on sustainable growing practices. The first harvests of Better Cotton take place in Tajikistan, Turkey and Mozambique. The Better Cotton Tracer (later renamed as the Better Cotton Platform) is launched as an online tracking system for BCI Members to record all transactions of Better Cotton Claims Units, or ‘credits’, across the supply chain. This is the first such system anywhere in the world, tracking a commodity right through the value chain. Aid by Trade Foundation’s Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) standard (multiple African countries) is benchmarked with the Better Cotton Standard, aligning the two standards means that farmers producing cotton in line with the CmiA standard can also sell their cotton as Better Cotton, helping to increase the global supply of Better Cotton.


Cotton Australia’s myBMP standard (Australia), and ABRAPA’s ABR standard (Brazil) are benchmarked with the Better Cotton Standard, allowing farmers producing cotton in line with the myBMP and ABR standards to also sell their cotton as Better Cotton. The first harvests of Better Cotton take place in Australia and Senegal. A pilot project is completed in the USA to help increase global supply of Better Cotton. Updates to the Better Cotton Tracer mean that end-to-end traceability is now possible for Better Cotton Claims Units or ‘credits’ in a closed-loop online environment. BCI becomes an Associate Member of ISEAL Alliance, the global membership association for sustainability standards.


The BCI Council approves the proposal to launch a formal review of the Better Cotton Production Principles and Criteria. BCI partners with the Israel Cotton Production and Marketing Board and all Israeli farmers join the BCI programme.

2016: Mainstreaming Phase

BCI enters its mainstreaming phase and anticipates that by 2020 Better Cotton will be recognised as a mainstream sustainable commodity, with the Better Cotton Standard System part of day-to-day business in the cotton sector, and with supply and demand driven by the momentum of the market. BCI aims to have five million licensed BCI Farmers producing 8.2 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton by 2020. That’s around 30% of global cotton production. The Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund launches to identify, support and invest in field-level programmes while fostering the adoption of the Better Cotton Standard System by governments and trade associations.


The first harvests of Better Cotton take place in Kazakhstan and South Africa. After a two-year process the BCI Council approves the first comprehensive revision of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria.


BCI and its 69 on-the-ground partners (Implementing Partners) train more than two million cotton farmers on more sustainable practices. Two million farmers in 21 countries receive a BCI license and produce more than five million tonnes of Better Cotton – that equates to 19% of global cotton production! BCI Retailer and Brand Members source more than one million tonnes of Better Cotton and many set time-bound sustainable cotton sourcing targets.


BCI celebrates its 10-year anniversary!

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