VF Sustainability Report and Better Cotton video released

Better Cotton Fast Track Program member VF recently released their comprehensive online Sustainability Report, citing their commitment to Better Cotton in Eric Wiseman’s (CEO) opening address. Click here to read about their commitment to more responsible cotton production, and view VF’s newly released video on our Vimeo channel featuring BCI China Country Manager, Sherry Wu:vimeo.com/bettercotton

VF annually purchases about 1 percent of the world’s cotton, which requires land roughly 32 times the size of Manhattan Island, New York, to fill their orders. Their commitment to BCI means that the cotton farmers who cultivate some of that land learn how to grow cotton in a way that cares for the environment, according to the BCI Production Principles.

Brad van Voorhees (VF Supply Chain Sustainability) says: “VF has aligned with the Better Cotton Initiative as we believe it is the best solution to address the environmental and social issues associated with the production of one of our most important raw materials.”

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Mozambique Becomes the First Government to Adopt the Better Cotton Production Standard

The Mozambican government institute of Cotton (IAM), the leading governmental body for the development of cotton sector in Mozambique, has signed a strategic partnership agreement with BCI which embeds the Better Cotton Production Standards into the national program for cotton production. IAM will be BCI’s strategic partner to ensure the implementation of the Better Cotton standard across the spectrum of actors in the Mozambique cotton industry.

BCI CEO Patrick Laine commented, ”With this agreement IAM becomes the first government organisation to adopt the Better Cotton Production Standard as its national cotton system. BCI is delighted by the leadership example the Mozambique government is setting in this field. We look forward to working with them to ensure the successful implementation of this program which will increase the incomes of farmers while improving other social and environmental impacts associated with the production of cotton.”

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adidas Exceeds Better Cotton Target in 2013 Sustainability Report

BCI Pioneer member, adidas, have released their 2013 sustainability report, entitled “Fair Play’. The report details their progress in sustainable materials use and in supplier audits and makes specific reference to their achievements using Better Cotton to date. Highlights include:

» adidas surpassed its goal of using 15% Better Cotton by 2013, sourcing more than 23 percent of all cotton as Better Cotton.

» By the end of 2013, adidas saved 50 million litres of water using the new technology “DryDye’ fabricin its production.

» Energy management trainings sessions delivered a reduction in consumption at supplier level.

As a BCI Pioneer member, adidas have committed to source 100 percent of cotton across all product categories in all its brands as “more sustainable cotton’ by 2018. Read the report in full by clicking here.

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H&M release 2013 Sustainability Report

Following the successful launch of the Conscious Collection, H&M released it’s 2013 Conscious Actions Sustainability Report today. Highlights of the report include:

– Doubling their procurement of more sustainable cotton in the last two years.

– 15.8% of the cotton they use being certified Organic, Better Cotton or Recycled.

– More sustainable fabrics now representing 11% of products’ total material use.

The report shows H&M’s dedication to more sustainable solutions both throughout the supply chain and in product innovation, detailing their progress to date on a journey towards “creating a more sustainable fashion future.’

”We take a long-term view on our business, and investing in our sustainability means investing in our future. This gives us the opportunity to contribute to the development of communities around the world, and better lives for millions of people”, says Karl-Johan Persson, CEO at H&M

As a BCI Pioneer member, H&M have committed to sourcing all of their cotton from “more sustainable sources’ (including Better Cotton, Organic and Recycled) by 2020. To read more about H&M’s sustainability commitments, go to their “About H&M’ website by clicking here.

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WWF Pakistan release Better Cotton Documentary

In October 2013, WWF commissioned a photographer and film crew to capture some stunning video and photos of the cotton workers and producers of Pakistan. Their voices tell the story of how BCI and WWF have together helped them to change the way they work with cotton, and ultimately how this has improved their lives. WWF have released this short documentary ‘Better Cotton: from farmers to retailers’, which is now available on their blog with accompanying article and insightful report by clicking here.

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Making Sustainability Affordable for All: IKEA Creates a Demand for Better Cotton, Lasting Change

05.08.13 Forum for the Future

As international efforts are proving, sustainable cotton production doesn’t just benefit the environment – it also improves the lives of the farmers and their families. Katherine Rowland reports.

Cotton has a battered reputation as a thirsty crop, and one demanding high levels of pesticide and insecticide. But innovations in recent years reveal that these traits belong to agricultural practices, and are not inherent to the crop itself. Indeed, international efforts from the likes of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) are steadily proving, not only that cotton production can be made more sustainable, but that decreasing the crop’s ecological toll can improve the lives and livelihoods of farmers.

Around 90% of the world’s 100 million cotton farmers live in developing countries, raising the crop on less than two hectares. These smallholders are especially vulnerable to market shifts and climate flux, and the performance of a single growing season can make or break a household. But global businesses are also tethered to the fate of these small plots. Smallholders comprise the basis of diversified and geographically dispersed supply chains that offer greater resilience than relying on the performance of a single crop. To ensure future supply, several leading companies are intervening on the ground to safeguard the resources on which cotton cultivation depends.

The John Lewis Foundation, a charitable trust set up by the UK retailer, has invested in a three-year programme to train 1,500 farmers in Gujarat, India, in sustainable production techniques. Through a combination of field and classroom based sessions, the trainings address issues such as soil health and water conservation, pest management, reduced chemical use and decent labour standards.

The retailer is working with CottonConnect, a social purpose enterprise set up in 2009 by the Textile Exchange, C&A, and the Shell Foundation, which helps companies map sustainable strategies throughout the supply chain, from ground to garment. The organisation does not set standards for sustainability, but rather works with retailers to meet sourcing objectives, such as Fair Trade and Better Cotton. With the goal of cultivating one million acres of sustainable cotton by 2015, CottonConnect works with up to 80,000 farmers annually, predominantly in India and China.

According to Anna Karlsson, Sustainable Development Manager at CottonConnect: ”Economic benefit will keep farmers interested in continuing the training and implementing the practices. Environmental gains are secondary for most farmers. In the short term, using fewer pesticides will save them money, and using them in the right way will have health benefits. In the long term, [better practice] improves the soil, reduces leaching of chemicals into water, and encourages biodiversity.”While the economic gains come chiefly from spending less on inputs, which in some countries can make up 60% of cotton production costs, better land management strategies also play a prominent role. Techniques such as soil assessments, which let farmers know how much and what type of fertiliser to apply, manure composting, intercropping and crop rotations help to preserve soil health; rainwater harvesting saves on irrigation, and pheromone traps to catch insects reduce dependence on chemicals.

These approaches – already used in the US, Australia and Brazil – comprise part of a larger toolkit developed by the BCI, a non-profit multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to elevate sustainable cotton production around the world, and established the Better Cotton standard in 2009 to do so. BCI seeks to counter the threats to the industry posed by soil erosion, water depletion, and unsafe working conditions, its principles are based on mainstreaming prudent agrochemical use, environmentally efficient production methods and improved labour conditions. Participating companies include H&M, Marks & Spencer, IKEA and adidas, alongside non-profit partners including WWF and Solidaridad. Collectively, they want 30% of the world’s cotton production to comply with BCI standards by 2020.

The 2010-11 growing seasons saw the first harvests of Better Cotton in India, Pakistan, Brazil and Mali, and Better Cotton is now grown in China, Turkey and Mozambique. Although the programme is in its infancy, it currently involves more than half a million farmers, and has had significant results.

In India, where BCI workedin nine states in 2011,the 35,000 Better Cottonfarmers used 40% lesscommercial pesticides

and 20% less water than conventional farmers, while at the same time having on average a 20% greater productivity and 50% higher profits. In Pakistan, 44,000 Better Cotton farmers similarly used 20% less water and 33% less commercial fertiliser than conventional cotton farmers while having on average a 8% greater productivity and 35% higher profits.

These efforts and advancements echo those of more developed cotton-growing countries. In the US, for example, national and local government organisations strictly regulate pesticide and irrigated water applications. Cotton growers and importers also contribute to a collective research and educational outreach program. Over the last three decades, this combination of oversight and outreach has enabled US cotton growers to reduce pesticide applications by 50% and irrigated water applications by 45%.

In addition to technical training, many of these international programmes also incorporate literacy training, women’s skill building, health and safety courses, and commitments to end child labour. Peter Salcedo, a trader for Plexus Cotton, the sixth largest cotton supplier in the world, says that retailers are responding to consumer interest in the welfare of producers, and are increasingly invested in issues like gender parity and community development. Consumers want to be able to trace where their goods are coming from, he says, and so brands need to be able to explain that their products have a ”respectable provenance”.

In East Africa, Plexus Cotton sources its stock from BCI, and works with social business development organisations, such as Cotton made in Africa and the Competitive African Cotton Initiative, to offer supply chain traceability starting with raw materials and labour conditions. Chimala Walusa, a farmer from the Balaka region of Malawi, is one of the 65,000 smallholders that Plexus is working with in the country. Walusa says, ”My life style has changed since I became a lead farmer [in the training programme]. Before, I used to harvest less, like seven bales, but now I am harvesting more. This season I have harvested 60 bales of 90kg each. I managed to harvest all this because I followed the basic production techniques I was taught by extension agents [university employees who develop and deliver educational programmes].”

Increased yields result in direct gains for his wife and four children, Walsusa explains.”From last year’s sales, I managed to build a good house, and I bought four cattle and oxen.From this year’s [which totaled MK1,575 million / US$4,800], I am planning to buy a plot in town and build a house for rent.”These gains resonate across the supply chain. For the US-based retailer Levi Strauss & Co., on-the-ground efforts to improve cotton production also serve to protect its business from some of the effects of climate change. Of the 100 countries in which cotton production takes place, many are already feeling the impact of weather shifts in the form of water scarcity and constraints to arable land. As a result, they also recognise the need to implement adaptation strategies, says Sarah Young, Levi’s Manager of Corporate Communications. For a company that depends on cotton for 95% of its products, addressing these challenges at the grower level is a necessary part of sustaining their business.

In the US, increasing weather variability, alongside growing demand, is similarly ”cause for concern for cotton farmers and is generating strategies to adapt”, says Ed Barnes, Senior Director of agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated, a not-for-profit organisation whose work helps US cotton farmers manage input efficiencies and reduce environmental impact. In the past, he says, ”if the field didn’t look like a clean construction site, you weren’t going to plant”. But now, 70% of US cotton farmers have adopted conservation tillage practices, a modern farming technique that allows the soil to hold more moisture and nutrients, thereby decreasing dependence on irrigation
and fertilisers.

The beauty of these conservation techniques, says Barnes, is that farmers still reap the same, if not higher, financial benefits. With the price of fertiliser and water rising globally, ”farmers are interested in using resources as efficiently as possible”, he says. ”They are adopting more sustainable practices because they see the economic return, and that what’s good for the land is good for growers.”


Katherine Rowland is a freelance journalist specialising in health and the environment.
This article was published by Forum for the Future in their Green Futures magazine special: “The Cotton Conundrum’, available to purchase or download for free byclicking here.

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Patrick Laine Interviewed by BBC Radio 4

As part of the BBC Radio 4’s Consumer Affairs programme “You and Yours,’ a series of programmes have been aired over the last few weeks exploring the many challenges faced in cotton production in India. In the concluding part of this series, our CEO Patrick Laine was interviewed by the BBC, and journalist Rahul Tandon followed a John Lewis bath mat from field to store, exploring the company’s social responsibility in the cotton supply chain. Also interviewed were Alison Ward CEO of Cotton Connect, Steven Cawley Head of Sustainability at John Lewis and Pramod Singh IKEA Cotton Project Manager in India. The interview focuses on the systemic use of child labour in cotton production, and the ways in which organisations such as BCI are working towards eradicating the issues associated with this in a responsible manner. Other key topics of discussion throughout the programme focus on both the financial benefits and savings to farmers when growing cotton sustainably, and increased yields.

Patrick also discussed the complexities of physical traceability in the cotton supply chain: ”We fight as hard as we can to avoid becoming a premium eco-niche product. In order to have the impact on the planet, you need to be mainstream.” said Patrick.

To listen to the programme in full, follow the link to the BBC podcast by clicking here.

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Sustainable Fabric Library Launched in Copenhagen

The first sustainable fabric platform for the textile industry has launched in Copenhagen in the form of a fabric library. The sourcing library contains more than 1000 sustainable fabric samples.
The new platform includes the CLASS (Creative Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy) library of organic textiles, natural fibres, and recycled fabrics. Its purpose is to support designers, retailers and brands in sourcing more environmentally and socially responsible fabrics for their ranges. In December last year, at the Design Challenge in Copenhagen, new designers selected sustainable fabrics from the CLASS library. These designers will showcase their sustainable designs at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit (CFS) in April. Tickets are still available to CFS – the world’s largest event on sustainability in fashion. Click here for details.

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New India Documentary Released

We’re very excited to announce the release of our latest country documentary for India. The short movie follows Kacharu Keshav Jagtap – a Better Cotton farmer in the Maharashtra State of India, and demonstrates the difference Better Cotton is making for farmers lives and the lives of their families. Our thanks go to BCI Implementing Partner, Ambuja Cement Foundation, for helping to make this happen.

To watch the movie, go to the India page on our website by clicking here. Should you wish to watch more short movies like this, you will find our documentaries for Brazil, Pakistan and Mali on the corresponding regional pages of our website.

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Cotton’s Water Footprint: How One T-Shirt Makes A Huge Impact On The Environment

27.01.13 Huffington Post

Do you know the environmental impact of the shirt on your back?This new video from World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic’s ”Make Each Choice Count” series reveals the environmental effects of textile production. Growing the cotton, manufacturing the material, transporting the product, of course, washing a shirt over and over again takes its toll on the planet.

Even if a t-shirt is made from an animal-free, all-natural material like cotton, there are still environmental consequences. According to Waterfootprint.org, cotton farming is the largest consumer of water in the apparel supply chain, and is used in 40 percent of all clothing worldwide, reports The Guardian. Since it takes about 2,700 liters of water to make just one t-shirt, as the video explains, thatmeans an inordinate amount of the world’s clean water is being concentrated in the textile industry.

With accessible, clean water amounting to less than 1 percent of the world’s water supply, this resource is both valuable and finite.

The good news is that great strides are being made to reduce cotton’s water footprint. Through theBetter Cotton Initiative, the World Wildlife Fund has helped 75,000 farmers reduce their water use by 39 percent while increasing profits by 11 percent. In addition, major textile brands are looking towards more eco-friendly cotton production.

Home furnishings giant Ikea has pledged to switch production to 100 percent Better Cotton by the year 2015. According to a press release, the WWF also recently announced a 3-year water-awareness partnership with the fashion company H&M. The collaboration will assess H&M’s water production impact, and teach all 94,000 employees about water issues in an effort to implementmore sustainable strategies.

Once the clothing leaves the shop, however, the buyer is responsible for reducing its environmental impact. To find out more about cutting the water footprint of your t-shirt, Watch the video on YouTube by clicking here.

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Better Cotton included in ‘State of Sustainability Initiative’ 2014 report

BCI has been working closely with the Sustainable Commodities Initiative on their’State of Sustainability Initiatives’ (SSI) 2014 Review, providing Better Cotton data for their report. The 2014 Review will include 16 leading initiatives operating in the forestry, soy, palm oil, sugar, biofuels, coffee, tea, cocoa, banana and cotton sectors: “The State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) project seeks to enhance global understanding and learning about the role and potential of market-based voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSS) such as eco-labels, sustainability standards and roundtables in the promotion of sustainable development. By providing objective, reliable and timely information on the characteristics, performance and market trends associated with voluntary sustainability initiatives, the SSI will facilitate more strategic decision-making and continual improvement across market-based voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSS).”

The three main project activities of the SSI are:
1) Documenting the market trends and developments of the VSS sector
2) Providing a regular reporting service on major VSS events
3) Facilitating thematic discussions on the relationship between VSS and key sustainable development issues.

Click here to learn more about the State of Sustainability Initiatives Review.

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Better Cotton Programme seeks China government collaboration

13.11.13 Ecotextile News

GENEVA – A new report from the Better Cotton Initiative’s Fast Track Program, which includes clothing retailers, Adidas, H&M and Walmart, has outlined the association’s aim to collaborate with Chinese government to develop new good agricultural practices and a greater understanding of China’s cotton policy.

Aiming to address the sustainability challenges faced in the production of cotton and work to mainstream sustainable cotton, retailers involved in the Better Cotton Initiative’s (BCI) Better Cotton Fast Track Program also include Marks and Spencer, Levi Strauss and VF Corporation.

The Better Cotton Fast Track Program End Year Report 2012, From field to fashion, report looks the impact of the fast track program worldwide, including the BCFTP funded ABRAPA (Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Algodão), project in Brazil covering over 210,000 acres and 100 farmers,20 projects in India reaching more than 90,000 workers and farmers, and an investment of EU 390 000 made in China.

The recent distortion of the market by China’s national cotton reserve program has been the biggest challenge for retail brands to procure Better Cotton from Chinese suppliers, the report claims, with thecountry cultivating around 25 per cent of the total global cotton production, according to BCI figures.

”BCI is actively seeking collaboration with central and local government (initially by engaging with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Research Centre for the Rural Economy to develop the China Good Agricultural Practices )… Developing an understanding of China’s cotton policy and exploring solutions is clearly indispensable to all stakeholders in the cotton supply chain,” the report states.

2012 was the first year Better Cotton was licensed and produced in China, with 32,000 megatonnes(MT) of lint licensed as Better Cotton, from which 29,000 MT was taken up by ginners.

Looking forward, the report states the BCI is aiming to set targets for brands to deliver on their public commitments in the coming years, whilst ”looking to evolve beyond sustainability departments of apparel companies get entrenched in their operations and commercial business.”

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