Better Cotton Releases Our First Study on GHG Emissions

A new report published on 15 October 2021 has revealed the first-ever quantification of global greenhouse gas emissions of Better Cotton and comparable production. The report, conducted by Anthesis Group and commissioned by Better Cotton in 2021, found significantly lower emissions from Better Cotton licensed farmers’ cotton production.

Anthesis analysed more than 200,000 farm assessments from three seasons (2015-16 to 2017-18) and used the Cool Farm Tool as the GHG emissions calculation engine. The primary data provided by Better Cotton covered input use and types, farm sizes, production and approximate geographical locations, while some information was filled via desk research where primary data was not available.

The aims of this study were two-fold. Firstly, we wanted to understand if Better Cotton farmers have produced lower emissions while growing cotton than comparable non-Better Cotton farmers. Secondly, we wanted to quantify emissions for producers contributing 80% of Better Cotton global production and use this baseline to set a global emissions reductions target for 2030.

Results from our comparative analysis

To understand if Better Cotton farmers have produced lower emissions while growing cotton than comparable non-Better Cotton farmers, comparison data was provided by Better Cotton. Each season its partners collect and report data from farmers cultivating cotton in the same geographic areas using same or similar technologies, but who are not yet participating in the Better Cotton programme. The study found that on average Better Cotton production had a 19% lower emissions intensity per tonne lint than comparison production across China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Over half of the difference in emissions performance between Better Cotton and comparison production was due to difference in emissions from fertiliser production. A further 28% of the difference was because of emissions from irrigation. 

On average Better Cotton production had a 19% lower emissions intensity per tonne lint than comparison production across China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

This will enable emissions reduction strategies across Better Cotton’s and its partners’ major production areas to implement meaningful and measurable climate change mitigation actions.

Analysis that informs Better Cotton’s 2030 Strategy

We aim to make, and demonstrate, positive real-world change for the climate. This means having a baseline and measuring change over time. To help inform our forthcoming 2030 strategy and associated global target on emissions reduction, we requested a separate piece of analysis to assess emissions from Better Cotton (or recognised equivalent) production constituting over 80% of licensed Better Cotton’s global production across Brazil, India, Pakistan, China and the US. The analysis breaks down emissions drivers for each state or province per country. This will enable emissions reduction strategies across Better Cotton’s and its partners’ major production areas to implement meaningful and measurable climate change mitigation actions.

The study found production had average annual GHG emissions of 8.74 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalents to produce 2.98 million tonnes lint – equating to 2.93 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalents per tonne lint produced. Unsurprisingly, the largest emissions hotspot was found to be fertiliser production, which accounted for 47% of total emissions from Better Cotton production. Irrigation and fertiliser application were also found to be significant drivers of emissions.

Better Cotton’s next steps on GHG Emissions

Set a 2030 Target

  • Better Cotton will set a 2030 target on GHG emissions reduction. This will be informed by climate science and the collective ambition of the apparel and textile sector, including notably the UNFCCC Fashion Charter of which Better Cotton is a member.
  • Better Cotton’s emissions target will sit within our comprehensive climate change strategy currently under development.
Photo Credit: BCI/Vibhor Yadav

Take Action Towards the Target

  • Given their sizable contribution to total emissions, reductions in the use of synthetic fertilisers and irrigation can unlock significant reductions in emissions. Efficiency improvements through better yields will also contribute to reducing emissions intensity, i.e. GHGs emitted per tonne of cotton grown.
  • The adoption of management practices such as cover cropping, mulching, no/reduced tillage and application of organic manures offer significant opportunities to reduce emissions through carbon sequestration. These practices can simultaneously have a positive impact on conserving soil moisture and enhancing soil health.
  • Galvanising collective action where it matters most will also support emissions reductions – this includes identifying hotspots, leveraging new resources and advocating for change outside Better Cotton’s direct scope (e.g. approximately 10% of Better Cotton emissions to produce cotton lint comes from ginning. If half the ginning operations were supported to transition away from fossil fuel-powered energy to renewables, Better Cotton emissions would reduce by 5%).

Photo Credit: BCI/Morgan Ferrar.

Monitor & Report Against the Target

  • Better Cotton is partnering on a project led by the Gold Standard, which will provide guidance and credibility to Better Cotton’s emissions quantification method. We are testing the Cool Farm Tool as a scientific, credible and scalable approach to help us monitor change in emissions over time.
  • The collection of additional data from Better Cotton farmers and projects will enable refinement of the emissions quantification process in subsequent years.

Download the report below and access our recent Better Cotton Update on Measuring and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Webinar and presentation slides to find more details from the report.

Learn more about Better Cotton’s work on Greenhouse Gas Emissions.


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World Cotton Day – A Message from Better Cotton’s CEO

Alan McClay Headshot
Alan McClay, Better Cotton CEO

Today, on World Cotton Day, we are happy to be celebrating the farming communities around the world that provide us with this essential natural fibre.

The social and environmental challenges we came together to address in 2005, when Better Cotton was founded, are even more urgent today, and two of those challenges — climate change and gender equality — stand to be the key issues of our time. But there are also clear actions we can take to solve them. 

When we look at climate change, we see the scale of the task ahead. At Better Cotton, we are drawing up our own climate change strategy to help farmers deal with these painful effects. Importantly, the strategy will also address the cotton sector’s contribution to climate change, which The Carbon Trust estimates at 220 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. The good news is that the technologies and practices to address these issues are already there — we only need to put them in place.


Cotton and climate change – an illustration from India

Photo Credit: BCI/Florian Lang Location: Surendranagar, Gujarat, India. 2018. Description: BCI Lead Farmer Vinodbhai Patel (48) in his field. While many farmers are burning the weed stubble, which is left on the field, Vinoodbhai is leaving the remaining stalks. The stalks will later get ploughed into the earth to increase the biomass in the soil.

At Better Cotton, we’ve witnessed the disruption that climate change brings first-hand. In Gujarat, India, Better Cotton Farmer Vinodbhai Patel struggled for years with low, irregular rainfall, poor soil quality and pest infestations on his cotton farm in the village of Haripar. But without access to knowledge, resources or capital, he, along with many other smallholder farmers in his region, relied partially on government subsidies for conventional fertilisers, as well as credit from local shopkeepers to buy traditional agro-chemical products. Over time, these products only degraded the soil further, making it harder to grow healthy plants.

Vinodbhai now uses exclusively biological fertilisers and pesticides to produce cotton on his six-hectare farm — and he is encouraging his peers to do the same. By managing insect-pests using ingredients sourced from nature — at no cost to him — and planting his cotton plants more densely, by 2018, he had reduced his pesticide costs by 80% compared to the 2015-2016 growing season, while increasing his overall production by over 100% and his profit by 200%.  

The potential for change becomes even greater when we factor women into the equation. There’s mounting evidence that shows the relationship between gender equality and climate change adaptation. In other words, we are seeing that when women’s voices are elevated, they make decisions that benefit everyone, including driving the adoption of more sustainable practices.

Gender Equality – an illustration from Pakistan

Photo Credit: BCI/Khaula Jamil. Location: Vehari District, Punjab, Pakistan, 2018. Description: Almas Parveen, BCI Farmer and Field Facilitator, delivering a BCI training session to BCI Farmers and Farm-workers in the same Learning Group (LG). Almas is discussing how to select the correct cotton seed.

Almas Parveen, a cotton farmer in the Vehari district of Punjab, Pakistan is familiar with these struggles. In her corner of rural Pakistan, entrenched gender roles mean women often have little opportunity to influence farming practices or business decisions, and female cotton workers are often restricted to low paid, manual tasks, with less job security than men.

Almas, however, was always determined to overcome these norms. Since 2009, she’s been running her family’s nine-hectare cotton farm herself. While that alone was remarkable, her motivation didn’t stop there. With support from our Implementing Partner in Pakistan, Almas became a Better Cotton Field Facilitator to enable other farmers — both men and women — to learn and benefit from sustainable farming techniques. At first, Almas’ faced opposition from members of her community, but in time, the farmers’ perceptions changed as her technical knowledge and sound advice resulted in tangible benefits on their farms. In 2018, Almas increased her yields by 18% and her profits by 23% compared to the previous year. She also achieved a 35% reduction in pesticide use. In the 2017-18 season, the average Better Cotton Farmer in Pakistan increased their yields by 15%, and reduced their pesticide use by 17%, in comparison to non-Better Cotton Farmers.


The issues of climate change and gender equality serve as powerful lenses with which to view the current state of the cotton sector. They show us that our vision of a sustainable world, where cotton farmers and workers know how to cope — with threats to the environment, low productivity and even limiting societal norms — is within reach. They also show us that a new generation of cotton farming communities will be able to make a decent living, have a strong voice in the supply chain and meet growing consumer demand for more sustainable cotton. 

The bottom line is that transforming the cotton sector is not the work of one organisation alone. So, on this World Cotton Day, as we all take this time to listen and learn from each other, reflecting on the importance and role of cotton around the world, I’d like to encourage us to band together and leverage our resources and networks.

Together, we can deepen our impact and catalyse systemic change. Together, we can make the transformation to a sustainable cotton sector — and world — a reality.

Alan McClay

CEO, Better Cotton

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Better Cotton Farmers Achieve Tangible Results Through More Sustainable Farming Practices

 
In the 2018-19 cotton season*, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and our on-the-ground partners provided training on more sustainable farming practices to more than 2.3 million cotton farmers in 23 countries.

With BCI training, supportand capacity building, BCI Farmers are better equippedtotackle pertinent issues in cotton production – such as water use,pest management and gender equality –and producecotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, the environment and farming communities.

Each cotton season, BCI andpartners collect data from BCI Farmers to monitor and assess a range of social, environmental and economic indicators. BCI provides an analysis of this data through our annual Farmer Results report, and we’re pleased to now release the 2018-19 edition.

Highlights

Here are some key highlights from six countries where the Better Cotton Standard System was implemented in the 2018-19 season –China, India, Mali, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Environmental

  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 15% less synthetic fertiliser.
  • BCI Farmers in Mali used 31% fewer pesticides.
  • BCI Farmers in Tajikistan applied biopesticides 8% more often.
  • BCI Farmers in China used 10% less water.

Economic

  • BCI Farmers in India achieved 11% higher yields.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan achieved 38% higher profits.

Social

  • In Turkey, 73% of BCI Farmers had advanced awareness of child labour issues.
  • In Mali, 39% of BCI Farmers and farm workers trained on more sustainable farming practices were women.

All BCI Farmer results are relative to the results achieved by Comparison Farmers (non-BCI farmers in the same geographic area who are not participating in the BCI programme). e.g. BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 15% less synthetic fertiliser than Comparison Farmers.

Access the 2018-19 Farmer Results Report to see how BCI Farmers are benefitting from implementing the Better Cotton Standard and driving measurable improvements in cotton production.

*Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles all over the world. For BCI, the 2018-19 cotton season harvest was completed towards the end of 2019. BCI Farmer results and indicator data must be submitted to BCI within 12 weeks of the cotton harvest. All data then goes through a rigorous data cleaning and validation process before it can be published.

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Sustainable Cotton Standards and Programmes Make Progress Towards Aligned Impact Measurement and Reporting

At the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) we know how important it is to measure the impacts of our own work on cotton producing communities and our shared environmental challenges. Looking at the sector more widely, it is clear that consistent, credible and comparable impact data across the wide range of sustainable cotton standards, programmes and codes is also important, and would encourage more brands and retailers to invest in a switch to more sustainable cotton.

During 2019 and 2020 we have been working collaboratively with fellow sustainable cotton standards, programmes and codes via the Cotton 2040 Impacts Alignment Working Group toalign sustainability impact indicators and metrics for cotton farming systems. The working group included: BCI, Cotton Connect, Cotton Made in Africa, Fairtrade, MyBMP, the Organic Cotton Accelerator and Textile Exchange, with advisory input from ICAC, the ISEAL Alliance and funding support from Laudes Foundation.

The two-year process was facilitated by international sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future as part of the Cotton 2040 Initiative, working in close collaboration with the Delta Project. All partners in this initiative have a shared ambition to harness the benefits from more aligned impact data measurement and reporting: more credible, consistent data, with reduced time, costs, and duplication of efforts for all partners across the cotton system.

Together we have contributed to the development of the Delta Framework – a core set of indicators addressing key social, economic, and environmental issues which are relevant to sustainable cotton. The Delta Framework is voluntary and intended to apply worldwide to any cotton and coffee farming system, with the potential to be expanded to other agricultural commodities over time. Ultimately this common indicator set will help brands and retailers to confidently track the impact of their sustainable cotton sourcing decisions; support upgrading of farmer services to encourage continuous improvement at farm level; and facilitate increasing transparency and communication with consumers.

We are pleased to announce that we have reached a significant milestone in our collaboration. BCI along with the other working group members, has jointly-signed a Memorandum of Understanding – ”The Sustainable Cotton Aligned Impacts Measurement and Reporting Joint Commitment”. This sets out our intention that the Delta Framework will become a credible and shared framework to guide impact measurement and reporting of core sustainability issues of relevance to the cotton sector. During 2020 and 2021 we will be continuing to work with the Delta Project team to help test and refine the indicators and data collection and reporting methodologies. This will include piloting them with farmers and local partners as soon as local circumstances allow to ensure the indicators and methodologies meet the needs of cotton farmers and our partner organisations, including retailers and brands, and also the wider cotton sector.

“The Delta Project was initiated by BCI to respond to the needs of our stakeholders to have access to harmonised information on the outcomes of the different sustainability programmes implemented at farm level. Beyond the development of a common sustainability framework, BCI will ensure that farmers will also benefit from the data they provide, both through learning opportunities and more informed decision making, as well as through better access to more targeted services.” – Eliane Augareils, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager, BCI.

We now encourage all organisations with interests in sustainable cotton to engage with the Delta Project as it moves forward. The draft indicators are publicly available for review and testing. Wider participation across the sector will help to accelerate progress towards alignment, supporting the transition to a sustainable cotton sector. The final indicator framework, including reporting guidance, will be available in 2021.

To receive future updates about this work please contact:

Delta Project: Eliane Augareils

Cotton 2040: Farinoz Daneshpay

Links:

Delta Framework – for further details on the indicator framework

Cotton 2040 Impacts Alignment workstream – for full details of the commitment statement

About Cotton 2040

Cotton 2040 is a platform which aims to accelerate progress and maximise the impact of existing sustainable cotton initiatives, bringing together leading international brands and retailers, sustainable cotton standards, and other stakeholders across the value chain. Facilitated by Forum for the Future, with support from Laudes Foundation, Acclimatise, Anthesis and the World Resources Institute (WRI), Cotton 2040 envisages a sustainable global cotton industry, which is resilient in a changing climate; which uses business models that support sustainable production and livelihoods; and where sustainably produced cotton is the norm.

About the Delta Project

The Delta Project is a joint effort of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), and it is supported by the ISEAL Innovation Fund. It is seeking to create a common language on sustainability performance across a range of agriculture commodities, starting with cotton and coffee, for measuring, monitoring and reporting progress.

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Evidensia: The New Evidence Website Informing Action for a Sustainable Future

 
ISEAL, WWF and Rainforest Alliance have developed a new website, Evidensia, which brings together credible research into the effects and impact of sustainability initiatives to enable more informed decisions.

Credible evidence underpins decision-making and supports businesses and governments in addressing pressing sustainability challenges at scale.Currently, much of the available information on the impacts of sustainability tools is not presented in an easy to understand format that is useful for decision-oriented analysis. This makes it difficult for decision-makers to easily identify and understand what information already exists about the impacts, effectiveness and business value of sustainability initiatives.

To address this challenge, ISEAL, WWF and Rainforest Alliance have developed a new website, Evidensia, which brings together credible research into the effects and impact of sustainability initiatives to enable more informed decisions.

Evidensia is designed to meet the needs of business leaders, policy makers and researchers. It hosts evidence and information on a range of sustainability supply chain tools and approaches, including standards, company sourcing codes and jurisdictional approaches.

The content on the site covers a whole range of sustainability issues, from climate change and deforestation to biodiversity and water conservation. The content is represented in a variety of formats including independent scientific studies, evaluation reports and case studies. It is also easily accessible and usable through a range of searching, filtering and mapping tools.

Having a site that collates this evidence and information makes it possible to clearly identify research gaps and priorities for researchers and funders. This minimises the duplication or misalignment of research efforts.

Through these efforts, Evidensia can help companies and others identify and implement effective mechanisms for sustainable production and sourcing, and will help improve the effectiveness of sustainability tools and approaches.

https://www.evidensia.eco.

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Better Cotton 2019 Annual Report

n 2019, we celebrated the Better Cotton Initiative’s (BCI’s) 10-year anniversary. BCI has come a long way since a visionary group of farmers, NGOs and apparel brands first came together to transform the way cotton is grown

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Better Cotton Drives Measurable Improvements in Cotton Production

 
In order to produce and sellBetter Cotton, licensed BCI Farmers adhere to the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria(P&C), addressing topics from water use to pest management to decent work. Implementing the Better Cotton P&C enables farmers to produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, the environment and farming communities.

Farmer results from the 2016-17 season demonstrate the benefits of implementing more sustainable practices around the world.Here are some key highlights from China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Social

  • In Turkey, 83% of BCI Farmers had advanced knowledge of child labour issues.
  • BCI is addressing women’s inclusion, and in China, 37% of farmers who received BCI training on pesticide preparation and use were women.

Environmental

  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 20% less water for irrigation than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in India used 17% less synthetic fertiliser than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Tajikistan used 63% less pesticide than Comparison Farmers.

Economic

  • BCI Farmers in China hada 14% higher yield than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan had a 37% higher profit than Comparison Farmers.

Access theBCI Farmer Results 2016-17to see how BCI is driving measurable improvements in cotton production.

Comparison Farmers
The BCI Farmer Results presented here compare the country averages of key social, environmental and economic indicators achieved by licensed BCI Farmers to non-BCI farmers in the same geographic area who are not participating in the BCI programme. We refer to the latter farmers as Comparison Farmers.

Talking About Farmer Results Accurately
Farm results must not be manipulated in any way. Averaging farm results across different geographies undermines the credibility of the data. Should you wish to use results pleasecontactthe Communications Team who will help you craft your Better Cotton story in a way that maintains the integrity of the data.

Gujarat, India. BCI Farmer Vinodbhai Patel (left) together with share croppers, working on his farm. © 2018 Florian Lang.

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