Better Cotton Production and Land Use Change in Brazil

Better Cotton is seeking a research consultant (or a small team of researchers) to conduct a concise case study that will examine the relations between land use change and cotton production in Brazil, with a specific focus on cotton farms that have opted in for Better Cotton licensing.

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Better Cotton Thanks Joost Oorthuizen for His Decade-Long Tenure on the Council

After a tenure spanning almost a decade, Joost Oorthuizen, founding CEO of Invest International and former CEO of IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, is stepping down from the BCI Council.

Joost Oorthuizen joined the BCI Council in 2012 and has been an extraordinary driving force from the beginning. He has witnessed Better Cotton develop into the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world, and his dedication and expertise have helped to achieve that success and scale.

Better Cotton would not have been able to grow its programme to reach millions of cotton farmers without IDH, and in particular, Joost’s friendly but critical eye, ability to hold the sector to account, and his unwavering support for Better Cotton and our vision and mission.

Whenever I am asked to speak about the remarkable growth and success of Better Cotton, I always cite the partnership with IDH and the launch of the Better Cotton Fast Track Programme in 2010, driven by IDH.  I would like to thank Joost for his tenure on the Council and his immense contributions to Better Cotton over the past decade.

On stepping down from the Council, Joost commented:

I would like to thank Better Cotton and its members wholeheartedly for the time I served on its council and the great programmatic partnership that we developed during the time I was leading IDH. We have helped millions of cotton farmers and farming communities in the process. I am proud of all that was achieved and wish the organisation lots of luck and wisdom going forward.

As Joost leaves to focus on his demanding new venture leading Invest International, we wish him success and thank both him and IDH for their unparalleled support over the past decade.

The next Council elections will take place in 2022. Vacancies will be announced later this month, and Better Cotton Members will be invited to apply. Members can get in touch if they would like to learn more about running for a position on the Council.

Find out more about the Council.

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Transformers Foundation Report Looks at Cotton Myths and Misinformation

A new report published by Transformers Foundation investigates the use – and misuse – of data on the sustainability of the cotton sector, and aims to equip brands, journalists, NGOs, consumers, suppliers and others with the skills and understanding to use data accurately and transparently.

The report, Cotton: A Case Study in Misinformation debunks some of the commonly-shared ‘facts’ about cotton and textile production, such as the idea that cotton is an inherently ‘thirsty crop’, or the amount of water required to create a t-shirt. It also addresses commonly-cited claims about the use of pesticides in cotton farming. In both cases – water and pesticides – the report aims to provide current and accurate claims along with advice on how to use them without misleading audiences.

Damien Sanfilippo, Better Cotton’s Senior Director, Programmes contributed to the report and is quoted throughout:

“Everybody has an interest in data. And that’s good, because it means that everybody has an interest in sustainable development. But using data correctly is a skill. Right? And it needs to be done in a scientific manner.”

The authors end with a set of calls-to-action, including to:

  • Send in information and new data to the foundation
  • Make data about environmental impacts open-source and publicly available
  • Co-invest in filling in data gaps
  • Establish a global fashion fact-checker

Read the report here.

Transformers Foundation ‘represents the denim supply chain: from farmers and chemical suppliers to denim mills and jeans factories’.

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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 Launches Revision of the Better Cotton Standard

Better Cotton has launched an ambitious revision of the Better Cotton Principles & Criteria – one of the key instruments of the Better Cotton Standard System, which work together to drive the cotton sector towards a more sustainable, more equitable and climate-friendly future.

The Better Cotton Principles & Criteria lay out the global definition of Better Cotton through seven guiding principles. Today, the principles are applied by more than 2.7 million cotton farmers around the world. By following these principles, farmers produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, their communities, and the environment.

Strengthening the Standard

The revision process aims to strengthen the Better Cotton Principles & Criteria to ensure they continue to meet best practice, are effective and locally relevant, and align with Better Cotton’s 2030 Strategy. Over the last five years, we have seen increasing focus on areas such as climate change, decent work, and soil health, and the Principles & Criteria revision is an opportunity to ensure the Better Cotton Standard System aligns with leading practice and supports our ambitions to drive field-level change. 

At Better Cotton, we believe in continuous improvement – not only for Better Cotton Farmers, but for ourselves as well. In line with codes of good practices for voluntary standards, we periodically review the Better Cotton Principles & Criteria. This helps to ensure we keep up with innovative agricultural and social practices, and the latest scientific and technological research.

The revision process will include extensive consultation and engagement from all Better Cotton stakeholders, from producers and worker representatives to technical experts, other cotton initiatives, and retailers and brands. The revision process is expected to run from October 2021 through to early 2023.

Get involved

Join a working group

The revision process will be supported by several technical working groups, who will work closely with Better Cotton to revise the current sustainability indicators within the Principles & Criteria. If you have expertise in one of the thematic areas below and are familiar with the Better Cotton programme and Principles & Criteria, we invite you to apply to be a part of a working group.

  • Decent Work & Gender
  • Crop Protection
  • Natural Resources Management

Learn more and apply for one of the working groups via the dedicated revision webpage.

Stay informed through public consultations

There will be a public consultation period in late 2022. More details will be communicated to interested stakeholders closer to the consultation period.

If you would like to be kept up to date with the revision process, or contribute to the public consultation process, please submit your email address through the revision webpage.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the revision process, please contact the Better Cotton Standards Team at: [email protected]

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