BCI and the SDGs

BCI and the SDGs

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global guidance document adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Summit in September 2015. Our efforts to make Better Cotton a mainstream sustainable commodity are intrinsically aligned to the SDGs.

Through the Better Cotton Standard System we aim to embed social, environmental and economic sustainability into cotton production around the globe. Better Cotton embraces the SDGs holistically and is inspired to be part of a global community working to make the world a better place.

Over the last year, we conducted a mapping exercise whereby we compared Better Cotton’s organisational objectives to the 17 SDGs and related targets to determine where Better Cotton is driving the SDGs in a tangible way. We used the following criteria to determine the SDGs where Better Cotton is making robust contributions.

  • There is existing data or evidence that demonstrates Better Cotton’s contribution on at least one of a goal’s targets.
  • Better Cotton anticipates, in the short to medium term, to have evidence that demonstrates our contribution on at least one of the goal’s targets.

Below are the 10 SDGs that we have identified and the ways in which our efforts are making significant contributions.

About 1 billion people still live in poverty — defined as an income of less than US $1.25 per day. The targets under SDG 1 include aiming for a world where the poor are not vulnerable to climate change, and have equal rights to economic resources.

Better Cotton and our Implementing Partners equip Better Cotton Farmers with the knowledge and tools to reduce their agricultural inputs, enhance biodiversity, use land responsibly, improve cotton fibre quality, as well as improve harvest yields, which leads to increased profits and increased resilience in the context of uncertain economic, social and environmental events.


How Better Cotton Contributes to SDG 1

  • In the 2016-17 cotton season, Better Cotton Farmers in China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey increased their profits compared to Comparison Farmers. For example, Better Cotton Farmers in China had 27% higher profits than Comparison Farmers. Farmer Results 2016-17.
  • In 2016-17 more than 99% of Better Cotton Farmers were smallholder farmers (farming less than 20 hectares of land). The Better Cotton programme reaches those who require the most support.
  • There is no licensing fee for smallholder farmers which reduces barriers to participation.

Stories from the Field

2 Zero HungerEnding hunger also includes ending malnutrition, protecting smallholder farmers, and changing farming itself so that agriculture and ecosystems can co-exist. It also means protecting the genetic diversity of the crops we grow, while investing in research to make farming more productive, especially in developing countries.

BCI recognises that the primary focus of SDG 2 is food agriculture, however, sustainable agricultural practices are also highly relevant to non-food crops. The Better Cotton Principles and Criteria are strongly aligned with the targets of SDG 2 and exist to help cotton farmers implement sustainable agricultural practices that reduce their inputs, improve their yields and productivity, while also enhancing biodiversity.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 2

  • The Better Cotton Standard System is a holistic approach to sustainable cotton production which covers all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. Farmers receive training on how to produce cotton in a way that is better for themselves, their communities and the environment.
  • Farmer Results 2016-17 show the social, environmental and economic outcomes achieved by BCI Farmers implementing sustainable agricultural practices – from reduced pesticide use to improved knowledge of child labour issues. [Farmer Results 2016-17].

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3 Good Health and Well-BeingThis goal includes a comprehensive agenda for tackling a wide range of global health challenges. SDG 3 also calls for achieving ‘universal health coverage’; reducing illness and death caused by pollution; and increasing the global health workforce, especially in the world’s poorer countries.

Through the implementation of the Better Cotton Standard, BCI works with partners to help cotton farmers reduce and eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals in cotton production; adopt alternative methods of crop protection, such as integrated pest management; and become knowledgeable about safe practices, including the use of personal protective equipment. Better Cotton Principles One, Two and Four address the use of chemicals, and water and soil contamination.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 3

  • Through Better Cotton Principle One: Crop Protection, BCI Farmers minimise the harmful impact of crop protection practices. Criterion 1.4 states that Producers (BCI licence holders) must phase out the use of any pesticide active ingredients and formulations that are known or presumed to be extremely or highly hazardous. Core Indicator 1.7.2 states that minimum personal protective equipment is worn while preparing and applying pesticides, which includes protection of body parts from dermal absorption, ingestion and inhalation.
  • Farmer Results 2016-17 reveal that BCI Farmers in China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey used fewer pesticides than Comparison Farmers. For example, BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 20% less pesticide than Comparison Farmers. [Farmer Results 2016-17].
  • Better Cotton Principle Two: Water Stewardship, ensures BCI Farmers manage and optimise pesticide application rates to maximise effectiveness while reducing the amounts that may run off or leach into fresh water bodies.
  • BCI encourages the adoption of integrated pest management and places an emphasis on the use of pest control techniques other than pesticide application, in order to reduce reliance on pesticides.

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4 Quality EducationThe targets for SDG 4 cover the need for access to university-level education, vocational training, and entrepreneurship skills, and they pay special attention to issues of equity. This goal also includes the promotion of education for sustainable development.

BCI facilitates training and capacity building for cotton farmers around the world. Through the BCI Programme, farmers receive education and training on agricultural best practice, addressing social, environmental and economic factors. In the 2016-17 cotton season, BCI and its Implementing Partners reached and trained 1.6 million cotton farmers in 23 countries. BCI also encourages cross-country knowledge sharing and learning.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 4

  • In 2016-17, BCI and its 59 Implementing Partners trained 1.6 million cotton farmers on sustainable agricultural practices (1.3 million were licensed by BCI). By 2020 BCI aims to train 5 million farmers annually.
  • Training focuses on encouraging farmers to adopt agricultural best practice techniques, in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria.
  • BCI Farmers also receive training on child labour, gender equality, health and safety, labour and other social issues.
  • We are working to better connect all BCI Implementing Partners worldwide through using common training materials and communications tools, and by providing a catalogue of Better Cotton National Guidance Material in multiple languages. These are materials that have been shared by BCI Implementing Partners in order to promote knowledge exchange, enable efficiencies and avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’.
  • In 2018 BCI and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia facilitated a knowledge exchange between Australian and Pakistani farmers.

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5 Gender EqualityEquality and empowerment includes freedom from discrimination and violence. It also includes making sure women have their equal share of leadership opportunities and responsibilities, as well as property ownership and other concrete reflections of power in society.

Gender discrimination remains one of the greatest challenges to workplace equality in the cotton sector, partly as a result of pre-existing social attitudes and beliefs about gender roles. The Better Cotton Standard provides a clear position on gender equality, which is aligned with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Decent Work agenda requirements on gender.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 5

  • Gender equality forms an intrinsic part of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and is featured throughout Principle Six of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria: Decent Work. The ILO’s approach to gender equality addresses access to employment, social protection, social dialogue, and principles and rights.
  • BCI’s Decent Work Core Indicators state that equal wages are paid to workers who perform the same job, irrespective of gender (Core Indicator 6.5.1) and that the Producer (BCI licence holders) reports annual data on number of BCI Farmers and workers trained by gender, topic and methodology (Core Indicator 7.2.3).
  • BCI focuses on women’s inclusion in training and measures the number of female farmers and farm workers trained on key agricultural topics compared to male farmers and farm workers. Training topics includes pesticide management and health and safety. For example, in China 35% of farmers trained on health and safety and other social issues were women. [Farmer Results 2016-17]
  • With funding from the C&A Foundation, BCI appointed two consultants in 2018 to help define BCI’s strategic approach to promoting gender equality in cotton-producing regions.
  • IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, together with BCI’s Implementing Partners in India, organised a 25-part workshop series on gender sensitising, which focused on gender equality, inclusivity and diversity.

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6 Clean Water and SanitationBasic water scarcity affects 40% of the global population, and nearly a billion people do not have access to that most basic of technologies: a toilet or latrine. The targets for this goal provide details for what we must do to rectify this situation, including protecting the ecosystems that provide the water in the first place.

The Better Cotton Principles and Criteria address the sustainable use of water through Principle Two: Water Stewardship. Water stewardship means using water in a way that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial. BCI partners with Helvetas and the Alliance for Water Stewardship to develop and roll out water stewardship practices.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 6

  • Through Better Cotton Principle Two: BCI Farmers promote water stewardship. BCI Farmers benefit from understanding existing and future water risks when developing climate adaptation strategies for agricultural water management.
  • Water Stewardship Criterion 2.1 states that Producers (BCI licence holders) must adopt a Water Stewardship Plan to help protect and conserve local water resources and identify opportunities for climate change adaption. It should include water mapping and address soil moisture and water quality.
  • Water stewardship plans must be linked to and integrated with pesticide application, fertilisation and soil management.
  • BCI is running a water stewardship pilot project with Helvetas and the Alliance for Water Stewardship and is rolling out a new water stewardship approach in India, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, and Mozambique.
  • In the 2016-17 cotton season BCI Farmers in China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey used less water for irrigation than Comparison Farmers. For example, BCI Farmers in China used 10% less water for irrigation than Comparison Farmers. [Farmer Results 2016-17]

Stories from the Field

8 Decent Work and Economic GrowthAt least 75 million young people around the world, aged 15-24, are unemployed, out of school, and looking at a bleak future. This goal, while calling for economic growth to help close that gap, also calls for innovation and for ‘decoupling’ growth from ecosystem degradation.

BCI works with its partners to address and prevent the risks of child labour and to promote decent work in cotton farming. Under Better Cotton Principle Six: Decent Work, Implementing Partners work with BCI Farmers to focus on children’s rights to education, health, and developmental well-being in line with the International Labour Organization conventions on child labour.

How BCI contributes to SDG 8

  • Better Cotton Principle Six is solely focused on Decent Work.
  • BCI supports farmers by helping them to understand and respect national legal requirements, as well as the fundamental, interrelated International Labour Organization conventions on respecting the minimum age for young workers (C138) and avoiding the ‘worst forms of child labour’ (C182). BCI does not operate in countries where forced labour is orchestrated by the government. Criterion 6.1 states that The Producer (BCI licence holders) must ensure there is no child labour, in accordance with ILO Convention 138.
  • In family smallholdings and many developing country settings BCI highlights the extent to which children can provide help on family farms, shares advice on promoting young people’s health and wellbeing, and encourages parents to maximise educational opportunities, where they are available.
  • In 2018 Terre des hommes Foundation, the leading Swiss organisation for children’s aid, partnered with BCI to support farmers, to address and prevent the risks of child labour and to promote decent work in cotton farming. Together, BCI and Terre des hommes plan to launch a pilot project to support BCI’s Implementing Partners in India.
  • BCI measures the percentage of participating farmers who can accurately differentiate between acceptable forms of children’s work and hazardous child labour. For example, in Turkey 83% of BCI Farmers had an advanced knowledge of child labour issues. [Farmer Results 2016-17]

Stories from the Field

12 Responsible Consumption and ProductionThe world’s nations (through the UN) have already agreed to a 10-year framework to make the way we produce and consume goods more sustainable. This goal references that, but also covers topics like reducing food waste, corporate sustainability practice, public procurement, and making people aware of how their lifestyle choices make a difference.

BCI works with almost 100 Retailer and Brand Members to integrate Better Cotton into their sustainable raw materials strategies and ensure there is global demand. BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of cotton as Better Cotton directly translates to increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable agricultural practices.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 12

  • In the 2017-18 cotton season, BCI Retailer and Brand Members contributed more than €6.4 million enabling more than 1 million farmers across China, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Senegal to receive support and training.
  • The [Better Cotton Leaderboard] highlights the leading retailers, brands, mills and traders by volumes of cotton sourced as Better Cotton.
  • Through the Better Cotton Claims Framework retailers and brands can communicate about their commitments to supporting BCI Farmers to their consumers – raising awareness of BCI’s mission and aim.
  • BCI’s long term vision is that Better Cotton production becomes embedded in national cotton governance structures. BCI is working with strategic national and regional partners – either governmental institutions or industry or producer associations – to build their capacity to take full ownership of Better Cotton implementation, eventually operating independently of BCI.

Stories from the Field

13 Climate ActionClimate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones, aggravating water management problems, reducing agricultural production and food security, increasing health risks, damaging critical infrastructure and interrupting the provision of basic services such water and sanitation, education, energy and transport.

Cotton farmers are likely to suffer complex, localised impacts of climate change. Climate change mitigation and adaptation is embedded within the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, and BCI’s Implementing Partners work with farmers to enhance and sustainably manage biodiversity, which is critical to addressing climate change.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 13

  • Climate change mitigation practices are embedded into the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria and include the following: managing soil, water, energy, nutrients, tillage, inputs and residues more sustainably; improving agronomic and Integrated Pest Management practices; and enhancing the sequestration of carbon in soils.
  • Adaptation strategies are also embedded into the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. These strategies include technical measures such as changing the intensification of production; alternative tillage and irrigation; socio-economic measures such as improved access to finance and insurance; organisation of producers and partnerships in the supply chain, and ultimately diversifying crops and/or livelihoods.
  • Through Better Cotton Principle Four: Biodiversity Enhancement and Land Use, BCI Farmers are trained on techniques to manage cotton production areas so that these areas are more resilient, can more readily adapt to climate change and provide a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits.
  • Find out more about BCI’s approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria (pages 152-153).

Stories from the Field

15 Life on LandLife on land, on our beautiful planet Earth, is under terrible stress. This comprehensive goal covers nearly every aspect of the threat to living ecosystems and biodiversity and seeks to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

BCI’s approach to biodiversity focuses on the identification, mapping and restoration or protection of natural resources. BCI Farmers must adopt a Biodiversity Management Plan that conserves and enhances biodiversity on and surrounding their farm and includes identifying and mapping biodiversity resources, identifying and restoring degraded areas, enhancing populations of beneficial insects, ensuring crop rotation and protecting riparian areas.

How BCI Contributes to SDG 15

  • Better Cotton Principle Four: Biodiversity Enhancement and Land Use, solely focuses on training farmers to enhance biodiversity and use land responsibly.
  • With the revision of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria in 2017, BCI adopted a new ‘land use change’ approach, based on High Conservation Value assessment. This is a safeguard against any planned conversion of land for the purpose of growing Better Cotton. Criterion 4.2.1 states that in the case of any proposed conversion from non-agricultural land to agricultural land, the BCI High Conservation Value risk-based approach must be implemented.
  • In 2018 BCI’s Implementing Partner SAN JFS began conducting a High Conservation Value risk assessment procedure in Mozambique.
  • Through Better Cotton Principle Three: Soil Health, BCI Farmers are trained on techniques to care for the heath of soil. Criterion 3.1 states that Producers (BCI licence holders) must adopt a soil management plan to maintain and enhance soil health that includes identifying and analysing soil type, maintaining and enhancing soil structures and soil fertility, and improving nutrient cycling.

Stories from the Field