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]n.org.

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Get up to Speed with Key Better Cotton Assurance Programme Updates

The Better Cotton Assurance Programme is a key component of the Better Cotton Standard System. It involves farmers participating in a continuous cycle of learning and improvement, and it forms the central mechanism for assessing whether farmers can grow and sell Better Cotton.

The Better Cotton Assurance Programme protocol has recently been updated to include some minor clarifications. The updates in Version 3.1 include the following:

  • If a non-conformity with the Better Cotton Standard is identified during an external assessment, Producer Unit Managers are now responsible for the preparation of a Corrective Action Plan. Where required, Producer Unit Managers will receive support from BCI’s Implementing Partners. (Section 3).
  • A Group Assurance Manager model is available for Large Farms in the USA. A rotation limit for third-party verifiers has been added to the Assurance Programme – this enhances credibility by ensuring multiple verifiers provide assurance assessments. (Section 6.4).
  • Additional details now provide clarity around the “exceptional circumstances’ clause. For example, a reoccurring incidental non-conformity may retain its grading as an incidental non-conformity rather than being escalated to a systemic non-conformity.(Section 6.5).
  • Further information has been added to the Assurance Programme overview document to provide increased clarity around what constitutes a licence cancellation, suspension and denial for Producer Units and Large Farms. (Section 7.3).
  • Producers have the right to appeal a licencing decision. The appeals timeline has been changed to 10 working days from the point of being informed of the licensing decision, an increase from 10 calendar days. (Section 9).

The Better Cotton Assurance Programme protocol V3.1 can be found on the Assurance Programme pages of BCI’s website.

Please send any questions or feedback to [email protected].

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What makes the Better Cotton Standard System unique?

 
BCI was formed by stakeholders from across the cotton sector with a specific intention: to offer an inclusive, efficient approach to more sustainable cotton production through continuous improvement, with the potential to reach a large number of farmers globally and enable transformational change. The fundamental goal is to maximise impact through scale, creating a mainstream solution to the cotton sector’s enduring sustainability challenges. Therefore, from its inception, the Better Cotton Standard System has differed from traditional certification systems, moving beyond compliance and emphasising capacity building and continuous improvement.

  • Capacity building focus: BCI emphasises upfront investment in capacity building, working through local partners to ensure farmers are supported to continuously improve. This means farmers benefit from ongoing training regardless of baseline performance level or their compliance status.
  • Accessibility for smallholders: 99.4% of cotton farmers participating in the Better Cotton Standard System are smallholders (as of the 2016-17 season). BCI was designed to enable smallholder farmers to participate in the programme and for them to benefit from learning and capacity building opportunities. The BCI model was designed to be cost-neutral for smallholder farmers, and organises these farmers into “Producer Units’ with a designated Producer Unit Manager and staff of Field Facilitators who work directly with the farmers.
  • Systematic results monitoring: BCI monitors overall progress in sustainability improvements through systematic measurement of Results Indicators where Better Cotton is produced. This annual data helps BCI and its stakeholders understand the effectiveness of the Better Cotton Standard System in achieving its expected environmental, economic, and social outcomes.
  • Driving transformation through brand and retailer sourcing commitments: Unlike many certification schemes, BCI’s market demand is driven primarily by the sustainable sourcing strategies of Retailer and Brand Members, rather than by consumer-facing product claims. BCI does not certify or label specific products as containing “Better Cotton.’ Instead, BCI uses a mass balance chain of custody model to ensure that retailer and brand sourcing commitments are connected to greater production of Better Cotton at farm level, and support continuous improvement of BCI Farmers.
  • National embedding strategy: 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.

BCI’s unique ambition and desired scale, impact, and operational efficiency inevitably require an innovative approach to assurance. BCI has therefore designed an Assurance Programme that encourages, supports and monitors continuous improvement, with a level of rigour that aligns with BCI’s objectives and the Better Cotton Claims Framework and emphasises accessibility and efficiency. Find out more here.

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The Revised Better Cotton Standard Launches This Month


This month marks a milestone for BCI as the revised Better Cotton Principles and Criteria (P&Cs) take effect. The P&Cs are central to the Better Cotton Standard System and lay out the global definition of Better Cotton. By adhering to the P&Cs, BCI Farmersproduce cotton in a way that is measurablybetter for the environment and farming communities.

The first major overhaul of the P&Cs was approved by the BCI Council in November 2017 and incorporates several substantial changes. We’ve highlighted some of these below.

Firstly, we have increased our emphasis on environmental principles. Our reinforced approach towards pesticide use and restriction includes phasing out highly hazardous pesticides and banning pesticides listed in the Rotterdam Convention. The use of minimum personal protective equipment (PPE) when applying pesticides has also been integrated into the Standard.

The Standard has also shifted focus from a water efficiency to water stewardship approach, in order to notably address collective action towards local sustainable use of water. We launched a water stewardship pilot project in October 2017 to test the new approach across small, medium and large farms in India, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan and Mozambique.

Our approach to biodiversity now focuses on the identification, mapping and restoration or protection of natural resources. A new “land use change’ approach, based on high conservation value assessment, is a safeguard against any planned conversion of land for the purpose of growing Better Cotton. The new method will be tested in high-risk countries.

On social issues, the Standard now provides a clear position on gender equality, which is aligned with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Decent Work agenda requirements on gender. Guidance on various topics such as child labour, sanitation facilities and equal payment have also been included.

As of this month farmers will be trained on the revised Better Cotton Standard. We will share furtherinformation about therevised Standard and implementation over the coming months.

Find out how the Better Cotton Standard is implemented in our Stories from the Field.

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Call for contributions: Better Cotton Production Principles and Criteria Revision

In spring 2015, BCI began a comprehensive review of its Production Principles and Criteria as part of its commitment to the ISEAL code of good practice.

BCI has now launched its public consultation phase, which runs until 3 February 2016. During this phase, BCI invites the general public and cotton sector stakeholders to provide their feedback viaour website.

The BCI Production Principles and Criteria present the global definition of Better Cotton. By following its six principles, BCI farmers produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for the environment and farming communities. The principles and associated criteria were first published in 2010. Since then, minor amendments and structural changes have been made.

BCI considers continuous improvement a pillar of its work, and has committed to regularly assessing its approach. The Production Principles and Criteria review process is part of its ongoing effort to uphold best practice in responsible cotton production.

”This consultation is anopportunity for cotton sector stakeholders and beyond to address the most significant global social and environmental issues associated with cotton cultivation, and to explain the intended outcomes by having the Principles and Criteria met.Retailers, ginners, spinners, traders, NGOs, trade unions, producer organizations and large independent cotton farmers are invited to come around the table during the next two months and contribute to redefining BCI’s sustainability ambition for years to come,”says Gregory Jean, BCI Standard and Learning Manager.

Several sustainability-related changes are being proposed to the Production Principles and Criteria, including amendments to land use, natural resource management and social issues. Significant changes to the structure are also being suggested.

During the revision process thusfar, BCI has consulted with cotton experts, scientists, advisers, environmental organisations and retailers to help inform the content of the review. The BCI Standard Setting and Revision Committee has provided detailed input and helped design the current version of the proposed draft.

To contribute feedback, views or expertise to the review process, please visit our website and follow the instructions. For further information, please contact , Gregory Jean, BCI Standard and Learning Manager.

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Better Cotton Standard Review underlines commitment to continuous improvement

Today we are announcing that the BCI Council have approved the launch of a formal review of the BCI Standard. This revision process will take place throughout 2015 and provides an exciting opportunity for us to incorporate improvements into the Standard. These improvements will take us closer to reaching our ultimate mission; transforming cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. Importantly, the review of the Standard will strengthen the credibility of the overall Better Cotton Standard System.

We are committed to reviewing the Standard at least once every five years, and as part of this process, will integrate feedback from our various stakeholders. As an ISEAL Associate Member the review process will be undertaken in line with ISEAL’s recommendations for good practice.

This is a unique opportunity to contribute to the review of the BCI Standard. To read about the process that will be followed in the review and how you can get involved,click here.

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