Earlier this year, BCI was awarded a two-year grant from the ISEAL Innovations Fund* in order to explore how BCI’s current systems and the Better Cotton Standard could be adapted to a landscape or jurisdictional approach.
As part of BCI’s ATLA (Adaptation to Landscape Approach) project, BCI signed a two-year agreement with The Proforest Initiative, which will support BCI’s global strategy for landscape adaptation and oversee two pilot projects in Pakistan and Turkey. In this blog, we speak with Gregory Jean, Standard & Learning Manager at BCI, to dig into what a landscape approach would mean for BCI.
What is a landscape (or jurisdictional) approach?
A landscape approach aims to bring together relevant stakeholders (such as producers, sourcing companies, governments, civil society, NGOs and investors) in a particular region, to agree on sustainability goals, align activities and share monitoring and verification of goals and targets. The approach recognises that issues like water stewardship, habitat conversion, land rights and rural development are often better addressed at a larger scale, rather than looking at the sustainability of a single farm or producer unit. From an ecological and social perspective, this point is reinforced by the reality that farms and producer units do not operate in isolation but are part of broader, interconnected landscapes.
Why has BCI decided to explore this approach?
As with other farm-level sustainability standards, we are open to exploring opportunities that will help to strengthen our impact on broader environmental and social issues beyond the farm. Cotton farms and producer units (groups of BCI Farmers from small- or medium-sized farms from the same community or region) do not exist in isolation – they are part of a broader interconnected landscape. The BCI ATLA project will provide an opportunity for BCI to explore how the Better Cotton Standard System could be applied beyond the farm level and whether it is well-placed to deliver positive environmental and social impacts beyond the existing farms and producer units.
How might a landscape approach benefit BCI Farmers?
Smallholder farmers typically face the greatest challenge in implementing more responsible and sustainable farming practices as they often lack access to the resources required to do so, such as trainings, specific technologies or access to finance. This can result in lower adoption of best practices, and little progress in developing alternatives that are more effective. Through a landscape or jurisdictional initiative, farmers can benefit from collective action at a larger scale, addressing common challenges and gaining access to sustainable finance options and commercial opportunities. Landscape or jurisdictional initiatives can provide a combination of support, action, and monitoring of sustainability requirements applicable beyond the farm gate, which delivers a more effective way of including smallholder farmers in responsible supply chains.
Tell us more about the upcoming pilot projects. What will BCI and Proforest Initiative be exploring/testing on the ground?
In Turkey, BCI has partnered with WWF to explore the application of an integrated landscape approach in the Buyuk Menderes Basin. Along with coordinated stakeholder engagement, capacity building and advocacy in the region, we will assess ecosystem services (for example, the role of forests in soil retention and water quality) in the basin, and test new performance and monitoring indicators that are applicable at a landscape level.
In Pakistan, the focus is on assessing the extent to which the Better Cotton Standard System can become embedded within the Pakistan state system, engaging with relevant stakeholders through a jurisdictional approach. BCI will organise a National Stakeholder Council to provide strategic advice and help to integrate the BCI approach into existing government frameworks and extension services. This pilot will allow BCI to refine our national embedding strategy, building the capacity of governmental institutions, industry and producer associations, to take full ownership of the implementation of the Better Cotton Standard System.
How do you envision this approach will strengthen BCI’s systems and Standard?
A landscape approach could provide BCI with the opportunity to work with a broader range of partners (including governments), align our activities at scale, and combine various types of support that have the potential to contribute to more responsible cotton production in a number of ways. The approach could provide a potential solution to the challenges that are outside the control of individual cotton farmers, for example, protecting conservation areas or recognising community rights. Such initiatives can also offer a platform for new public–private partnerships, which can provide support and incentives for change, achieve transformation at scale and improve long-term governance of a region.
The shift to a landscape approach requires the formation of collaborative partnerships to drive change on the ground, and to create the enabling conditions (which may include mobilising governments, organising land use planning, or securing and leveraging climate funding and sustainable finance) required for the uptake of more sustainable practices within a region or jurisdiction. Through its multi-stakeholder model and membership structure, BCI is well placed to lead such change.
Learn more about landscape and jurisdictional approaches here.
Look out for further updates on BCI’s adaptation to landscape approach pilots in 2021.
*This project was possible thanks to a grant from the ISEAL Innovations Fund, which is supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO.