Better Cotton, the world’s largest cotton sustainability initiative, has a vision where all cotton farming is sustainable. Our Theory of Change (ToC) aims to provide a high-level picture of this vision, along with intended impacts, outcomes, outputs, and the types of activities and approaches we will use to bring about those intended effects.

In a world facing increasingly complex environmental and social challenges, Better Cotton brings a unique blend of farmer-centric sustainability programmes together with market-based mechanisms to provide a model for data-informed, evidence-based continuous improvement.

Better Cotton focuses on supporting cotton farming communities to become more sustainable. It engages with the market to drive demand for – and to fund – more sustainable cotton cultivation practices. In addition to our six-part Standard System, Better Cotton works through mechanisms to bring about change such as working in partnership with Programme Partners, recognised equivalent Benchmarked Partners, and funding projects via the Growth and Innovation Fund (GIF), as well as leveraging change through market engagement. Better Cotton invests in advocacy and public affairs, recognising the growing importance of legislation in the fashion-textile-apparel sector. 

The Theory of Change provides Better Cotton’s overall direction and ambition, complementing strategic documents and targets including the 2030 Strategy, Impact Targets, and strategies on gender equality, livelihoods, climate change, regenerative agriculture, and decent work.

Two Key Pathways

Better Cotton’s Theory of Change unfolds across two interconnected pathways: the Farm Impact Pathway and the Market Impact Pathway. Each pathway is designed to foster sustainable farming practices, enhance the well-being and economic development of cotton farming communities, and drive the demand for more sustainably produced cotton.

Farm Impact Pathway

At the heart of Better Cotton’s Theory of Change lies the centring of cotton farmers, farming communities, and the enhancement of the ecosystems that sustain them.

Better Cotton’s holistic and inclusive standard, our Principles & Criteria (P&C), lays out the global definition of Better Cotton through six guiding principles and sets forth a continuous improvement pathway characterised by the adoption of improved cotton production practices.

Together with a robust assurance mechanism, an array of locally-developed, context-specific activities, our P&C strengthens natural conservation and rights protection, and paves the way for farmers to gain better living and working conditions, enhanced resilience to shocks, increased social inclusion, and improved gender equality. 

Market Impact Pathway

Parallel to the transformation in cotton-producing communities, Better Cotton recognises the critical role of the market in driving change. By recruiting and engaging members and partners committed to investing in sustainable cotton production, Better Cotton aims to foster a supply chain marked by transparency, traceability, and trust.  

The envisioned market impact is a fashion, apparel, and textile sector that not only engages but also invests in enhancing its sustainability performance. This commitment extends beyond environmental stewardship to encompass the betterment of people’s lives within the industry.

Find Out More

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Better Cotton Theory of Change Narrative (2024)

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Better Cotton Theory of Change (2021)


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If you have any questions or feedback on our Theory of Change, use the MEL option on our Contact page.