Principles and Criteria: Revision Process

Here you will find detailed information about the Standard revision process. For additional information, please contact Gregory Jean, Standard and Learning Manager.

Learn more about the Better Cotton Standard System:

Principles and Criteria
Principles and Criteria (Downloadable version)
The Better Cotton Standard System
The Better Cotton Assurance Program (Downloadable version)
New Standard’s Key Changes

Public consultation and Standard Setting and Revision Committee documents:

BCI Standard Draft 1
BCI Standard Draft 2
Guidelines document
Consultation Report
Standard Setting and Revision Committee second meeting decision on Draft 1: Synopsis
New Standard’s Key Changes: Synopsis



We are committed to reviewing the Better Cotton Standard at least once every 5 years. This is a unique opportunity to integrate feedback from all of our various stakeholders into the Standard. Importantly, the process will maintain the Better Cotton Standard’s relevance to sustainability challenges in the cotton sector. The revision process gives opportunities to the general public and membership to contribute to the way in which the Better Cotton Standard evolves.

As an ISEAL Full Member, BCI also follows the ISEAL Code for Setting Social and Environmental Standards, ensuring that the Standard is reviewed regularly and following recognised good practices.

In keeping with these commitments, in January 2015 the BCI Council approved the proposal to launch a formal review of BCI’s Standard. This revision process provides an exciting opportunity to incorporate improvements to the Standard that will enhance BCI’s ability to reach its mission and strengthen the credibility of the overall Better Cotton Standard System.


The revision of the Standard is led by the BCI Standard and Assurance team, supported by a Standard Revision Committee.

The process affects various stakeholders who are part of the BCI system implementation and use the Principles and Criteria (P&C) and related documents to implement more sustainable farming practices.

  • Farmers: Smallholders, Medium Farms and Large Farms define their continuous improvement plan and undertake annual self-assessment on BCI minimum and improvement requirements. They are therefore directly concerned by any change brought to the P&C.
  • Implementing Partners: They enable cotton farmers to grow Better Cotton by supporting Producer Units in conducting their activities, carrying out Second Party Credibility Checks on Producers Units (including the preparation of corrective actions), and sharing best practices with BCI, also in line with the P&C.
  • Country Managers/Strategic Partners: They are the front-line implementers of BCI systems. They are not only in charge of carrying out Second Party Credibility Checks, but they also review Producer Unit self-assessment, support 3rd party verification process and prepare corrective action plans for Implementing Partners/Producer Units. Their work will be significantly impacted by any change in current version.
  • Independent Verifiers: It is part of their duty to independently assess a Producer Unit or Large Farm’s performance against BCI requirements. They will have to make adjustments to their verification processes according to the new version of the P&C.
  • BCI Members and other stakeholders: The P&C are the basis of the BCI sustainability production system, and due to this, their revision and the changes they will bring will have a significant impact on this group of advocates. Members will be sensitive to the way standards are revised, ensuring sustainability objectives are maintained.


Two rounds of public consultation will be conducted to ensure that all stakeholders who have an interest in the P&C revision have the opportunity to comment on revised drafts.

The Standard Setting and Revision Committee (SSRC) supports the revision of the Standard by discussing modalities and intensity of changes to be brought to P&C and prepare drafts for stakeholder consultations.

Ultimately, the BCI Council will assess the final draft drawn up by the Committee and approve the revised version of the P&C.


The Standard Setting and Revision Committee (SSRC) supports the revision of the Principles and Criteria (P&C). The BCI Council oversees the committee. It comprises of 10 members who bring relevant expertise. It consists of the following:

  • At least one representative from each BCI membership category: the opportunity to apply has been given to all BCI Members;
  • One Council member;
  • A designated project manager from BCI.

Members of the committee meet several times during the course of the process to offer technical advice and expertise towards the revision of the Standard. They have the opportunity to bring perspectives from their respective groups and stakeholders, evaluate impacts on affected stakeholders and decide on the degree of change to be incorporated in the new Standard.

The Committee is in charge of deciding when the final draft of the P&C is ready for review and approval by the BCI Council.

Stakeholder consultation

Input into the review of the P&C is pro-actively sought after by BCI. Up to two rounds of stakeholder consultations are organised in order to allow all interested and impacted parties to provide their comments and contribute to the process. Participants have the opportunity to provide their input through an online survey.

Council Approval

The BCI Council has the authority in approving the final draft of the revised P&C. The Council confirms that the process followed by the Standard Setting Revision Committee is in line with BCI’s Standard review process. The Council ultimately had the authority to approve the content submitted, following the two rounds of stakeholder consultation.

Pilot Projects

The Standard Setting and Revision Committee proposes entirely new environmental or social safeguards to be integrated into the P&C. Once approved by the council, some are experimented through pilot projects, which serve to assess interpretation, local relevancy and feasibility of implementation for further adjustment.

Transition Period

Once the revisions to the P&C are approved, a transition period is defined for those implementing the Standard.

Detailed Status

2015 marked the beginning of the formal standard revision process.

1st BCI Standard Setting and Revision Committee Meeting

30 September 2015

The committee reviewed a pre-draft of the Production Principles and Criteria, which included proposed edits and highlighted questions to address before releasing a 1st draft. After discussion and deliberation, the Committee finalised the 1st draft to be released for public consultation.

You will find an overview of what has been discussed during this first meeting here.

1st Stakeholder Consultation

December 2015 – February 2016

The stakeholder consultation on the BCI Standard revision started on 3 December 2015 and lasted for 60 days. The Standard Setting and Revision Committee reviewed proposals from the BCI project team during the first meeting on 30 September and discussed elements related to the content and structure of the standard.

This 1st Public Consultation allowed stakeholders, directly or indirectly affected by the BCI Standard implementation, to provide input. During this period, a large number of stakeholders were consulted and many provided input either through online consultation tools or national stakeholder outreach activities organized in BCI countries. BCI received 33 completed comment forms.

2nd BCI Standard Setting and Revision Committee Meeting

9 – 10 March 2016

Members representing each membership category had a fruitful exchange of ideas about the best ways to improve the Standard in light of input received from stakeholders during the last consultation. An agreement was reached on certain aspects related to the structure and content of the draft document including: inclusion of a 7th principle dedicated to management practices, ways to address climate change, a reinforced approach towards pesticides, the adoption of a more holistic approach towards environmental values management (water, soil, biodiversity), and a new land-use change approach, among other things.

You will find a synopsis summarising progress made in the draft thanks to stakeholder feedback and input received at the committee meeting here as well as a stakeholder consultation report listing and analysing all comments received here.

First BCI Implementing Partners Meeting, Hong Kong

10 – 11 June 2016

BCI held a consultation with Implementing Partners on 10 – 11 June in Hong-Kong where all had the opportunity to get updated and provide feedback on the latest version of the second draft. Participants were organised into four groups and discussed suggested changes related to the following:

  • Crop protection, notably Highly Hazardous Pesticides banning and minimum protective equipment;
  • Water stewardship and the new BCI water management plan components;
  • Biodiversity participatory mapping;
  • New Land-Use change approach with HCV assessment; and
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation measures feasibility.

All input received during the meeting was collected and has been considered in the preparation of the final draft of the revised Principles and Criteria.

Technical review of environmental principles

June – October 2016

During that period, some key partners and external experts were identified to further define and develop work streams on environmental principles, notably water stewardship, land use change approach and biodiversity management plan components based on input received from the first consultation and the Partners workshop in Hong-Kong. Active collaboration with experts like Water Footprint Network and the HCV Resource Network allowed to significantly progress on Principle 2 and 4 in particular.

Second draft critical review

November 2016

BCI has engaged into a critical review of the second draft intended to be submitted for the second round of consultation. External experts reviewed the draft with fresh eyes in order to ensure global coherence and identify remaining gaps in the draft. Based on the review, the draft has been further refined for the consultation and shortfalls identified. Of course this does not mean all of the shortfalls have been resolved, but the critical review provided a snapshot on overall structure and progress on content.

2nd Stakeholder Consultation

January – February 2017

The 2nd stakeholder consultation on the BCI Standard revision started in January 2017 and lasted for 30 days. Stakeholders already involved in the 1st consultation and new ones provided input. A special effort has been put on Brand and Retailers engagement which were largely underrepresented in the first edition.

BCI received 45 completed comment forms and many relevant remarks, comments and questions were raised and collected on Pesticide restriction, biodiversity management, High Conservation value assessment, soil testing, Fibre contamination, Gender equality, climate change, etc.

3rd BCI Standard Setting and Revision Committee Meeting

March – May 2017

The Standard Setting and Revision Committee met three times from March to May 2017. It made sure all fundamental credibility aspects of sustainable cotton production were covered by the standards and at the right level of prescription and agreed on a second draft.

Presentation of the draft to the BCI Council

May – November 2017

A first draft was presented to the BCI Council in May. The Council met four times in the course of the year, before approving the draft in November.

Standard rollout preparation phase

November 2017 – March 2018

During the rollout preparation phase, the BCI Secretariat finalises the draft’s last components; reaches out to its partners for briefing them on key changes; and prepares online training modules (namely on Water Stewardship, Integrated Pest Management and High Conservation Value lands) so that all partners and staff possess the necessary tools and knowledge to implement the new standard.

Second BCI Implementing Partners Meeting, Negombo, Sri Lanka

5 – 6 December 2017

BCI held a second Implementing Partners meeting in Sri Lanka during which the new standard as it had been approved by the Council was introduced to all partners. The transition phase was explained and participants had the opportunity to discuss during a world café session on how they would implement two new key elements in the standard:

  • The Water Stewardship Plan
  • The Biodiversity Management Plan

All inputs received during the meeting was collected and is been considered in the preparation of training materials. You can find the report on the Implementing Partners Meeting here.

Launching of the new Standard

1st March 2018

The new standard (version 2.0) will be launched on 1st March 2018. It will however not be applicable in its entirety, as only a majority of core indicators and all improvement indicators will be effective.

Transition period

1st March 2018 to 1st March 2019

Some core indicators will need a transition phase. The Council has considered that these indicators will represent competency challenges to be implemented, and partners will need time to develop adequate capacity. This will allow the necessary time to develop guidance material and deliver trainings. These transition indicators will be implemented on 1st March 2019, and in the meantime, only observations will be noted when producers do not confirm (meaning there will be no case of non-conformity for those transition indicators).

The new Standard is entirely applied

1st March 2019

The 1st March 2019 marks the end of the transition period. All producers will be assessed against all core and improvement indicators.