Cotton Sector Comes Together to Drive Climate Action

Last week, Better Cotton welcomed more than 450 participants from 50 countries to the Better Cotton Conference in Malmö, Sweden and online. Together, we examined the overarching conference theme of climate action through a variety of lenses, including gender, smallholder livelihoods, traceability and sustainable finance.

Over two days, we heard from more than 70 inspiring speakers representing the entire cotton supply chain – from Better Cotton Farmers to organisations such as Forum for the Future, Walmart, IKEA, Marks and Spencer, Tony’s Chocolonely, Rainforest Alliance, WWF and many more.

We had a fantastic few days of collaboration, challenging ideas and passion. From Safia Minney’s keynote address that spotlighted issues in the fashion industry and the opportunities for businesses to move towards a regenerative model, to our breakout panel on measuring and reporting on impact that sparked a dynamic discussion on how the cotton industry can align around the right metrics, we covered a lot of ground in a short timeframe.

There to capture the discussions visually was the graphic artist Carlotta Cataldi, who created wonderful illustrations that showcase the depth and breadth of topics covered. 

We want to say a huge thank you to our sponsors – ChainPoint, Cotton Brazil, Gildan, JFS SAN, Louis Dreyfus Company, Spectrum and Supima –speakers, attendees, the organising team, our event partners Altitude Meetings, and Better Cotton staff who made the Better Cotton Conference possible.

The conference may be over, but let’s keep the momentum going as we work together to drive climate action in cotton. 

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Last Chance to Register for the 2022 Better Cotton Conference

There is just one day left to register to attend the 2022 Better Cotton Conference online. Don’t miss out! Register by 5pm CEST on Tuesday 21 June to secure your spot.

The packed two-day conference includes a series of keynotes led by Better Cotton Farmers and Members, as well as plenaries and breakout sessions on the following topics:

  • Climate change capacity building
  • Smallholder livelihoods
  • Breakthrough approaches
  • Women taking climate action
  • Impact investing and sustainable finance
  • Smallholder and large farm panels
  • Traceability in cotton
  • Regenerative agriculture
  • Landscape approaches
  • Due diligence in cotton
  • The evolving legislative landscape
  • Ecosystem service payments
  • Sustainable sourcing targets
  • Measuring and reporting on impact
  • And more

The conference will bring the entire cotton sector together on 22 & 23 June 2022 in Malmö, Sweden and online, to explore the theme of Climate Action + Cotton and collaborate on a more sustainable future for the cotton sector.  

Join us to engage in insightful sessions, dynamic dialogue and an opportunity to meet face to face with peers once again.

Thank you to our conference sponsors.

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Global Farming and Its ‘50:50’ Moment

By Alan McClay, CEO, Better Cotton.

This article was first published by Devex on 14 June 2022.

News that the world has a “50:50” chance of exceeding the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark in the next five years is a wake-up call to the world. If you’re a cotton farmer struggling with drought in South Africa or with bollworm — which is linked to high rainfall — in Punjab, the prospect of a more erratic climate comes as unwelcome news.

As across the global agricultural landscape, the cotton industry has been investing heavily in building its climate resilience for some years now. Research into drought-tolerant breeds is continuing apace, for instance, as are tools for assessing and planning for future climate risks.

Alan McClay, CEO, Better Cotton by Jay Louvion.

Awareness is one thing, but the ability to act is another. An estimated 350 million people currently rely on cotton production for their livelihoods, half of whom face high or very high exposure to climate risk. Of these, most are smallholders, who, even if they wanted to act on climate change, lack the economic means or market incentives to do so.

Loud as the climate alarm bells ring and as much as global development agencies fret, transitioning agriculture onto a sustainable footing simply won’t happen without smallholder buy-in. As people who depend on the Earth’s productivity for their livelihoods, farmers have more incentive to steward the natural environment than anyone.

But the returns on climate-friendly agriculture need to pay clearly, quickly, and fairly. On the first two, there is an increasingly compelling case to be made. In India, for example, we have been able to show that over a season, Better Cotton Initiative farmers’ profits were 24% higher, while using a lower volume of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, than those not implementing more sustainable practices.

Compared to the vicissitudes of the market, multiyear purchasing guarantees from large buyers present a far more attractive prospect for agricultural producers looking to transition. In Brazil, for example, the U.S. commodity trader Bunge offers long-term financing to soybean producers that have robust anti-deforestation policies in place. However, opportunities for smallholders to negotiate such complex contractual arrangements is difficult, if not impossible.

The same hurdle presents itself with conventional carbon finance projects. Take carbon offsetting, for example. On paper, climate-smart farmers that promote carbon-reducing practices such as cover cropping and reducing tillage are well positioned to sell credits. Yet, proving the climate efficacy of such efforts is by no means straightforward. And, even if a farmer can, registering on a carbon credit marketplace such as Nori or even locating a relevant credit programme presents a challenge.

But imagine that wasn’t the case. Imagine, instead, a world in which development agencies, multilateral banks, finance institutions, commercial buyers, and philanthropists come together to devise funding mechanisms that meet the financing needs of small farmers — conservatively estimated at $240 billion per year.

Problem solved, right? Regrettably, no. Clear and quick as climate-positive farming returns may one day become, if they are not distributed fairly, then climate transition in agriculture is dead in the water before it gets going.

Of course, “fairness” is a subjective term. By any measure, however, ensuring it includes the 95% of farmers around the world who operate on less than 5 hectares has to be central. Likewise, guaranteeing equal access and opportunities within this grouping of some 570 million agricultural households is every bit as critical.

Gender injustice presents the starkest example. In many agricultural regions, especially in the global south, women farmers lack formal rights, such as land ownership, and struggle to access credit, training, and other key support mechanisms. This is despite exercising a significant influence over farming decisions. In India and Pakistan, for instance, the majority of cotton farm workers are female.

Producers, buyers, and other key players within the agricultural sector can and must seek ways of incorporating issues of social justice and inclusivity into their climate efforts. Without deliberative action, it simply won’t happen. Even then, our experience at Better Cotton, where we have been prioritizing gender equality for a number of years now, suggests change takes time.

Climate-positive farming is an agricultural issue, characterized by technological innovation and smart practices. It’s also a finance issue, for which a huge increase in capital investment is needed. But, at its heart, it is a justice issue. Bringing marginalized farmer groups into the fold is not only the right thing to do; it is a condition of effective climate action in agriculture.

 Modern industrial agriculture has seen yields spike. But its emphasis on high capital expenditure and fossil fuel-based inputs has also seen economic inequality and environmental damage become baked into the system. Responding to the urgent threat of climate change presents an opportunity to resolve these systemic failings.

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Better Cotton Announces 2022 Conference Agenda

We are excited to announce the agenda for the Better Cotton Conference, taking place in Malmö and online on 22-23 June!

Attendees can look forward to joining thought-provoking sessions on the topics of regenerative agriculture, traceability, gender equality, climate change capacity building and many more. Below we share a sneak peek of the plenary and breakout sessions.

Plenary Sessions

Expert speakers from the cotton industry and beyond will lead a series of plenary sessions across the two-day conference, focusing on climate mitigation and adaptation, traceability, gender, sustainable sourcing, smallholder livelihoods and more. See a selection of the sessions below.

Climate Change Capacity Building in Collaboration with Forum for the Future and Cotton 2040 

Understanding the climate risks facing the cotton sector and exploring the implications for future production.  

How can the cotton sector build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change? 

Smallholder Livelihoods & Farmer Panel 

What is needed to shift the economics of cotton farming, and so improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of smallholder farmers and their communities? How does climate change affect the options available to us? 

Spotlight on Women Taking Climate Action 

Highlighting the personal experiences of women taking climate action in cotton, exploring the link between climate change and gender equality.

Breakout Sessions

Expert speakers from the cotton industry and beyond will lead a series of plenary sessions across the two-day conference, focusing on climate mitigation and adaptation, traceability, gender, sustainable sourcing, smallholder livelihoods and more. See a selection of the sessions below.

Regenerative Agriculture 

How regenerative agriculture can help with climate action and much more. 

Ecosystem Service Payments 

How can ecosystem service payments be used effectively to benefit farmers? What are the opportunities and challenges? 

Delta Project 

Creating a shared approach to measuring and communicating sustainability progress – the Delta Framework

Join us in June to see how the sector can collaborate to create and drive collective impact in shaping a more sustainable future for cotton.  

The conference is sponsored by globally renowned organisations. We have a variety of sponsorship packages available, please contact [email protected] for more information. 

For more details, please visit the conference website

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Better Cotton Conference Registration Is Open: Early Bird Tickets Available for Two Weeks

We are pleased to announce that registration for the Better Cotton Conference 2022 is now open!  

Hosted in a hybrid format—with both virtual and in-person options for joining—we look forward to the opportunity to bring our global cotton community together and engage face-to-face once again. 

Date: 22 – 23 June 2022 
Location: Malmö, Sweden or join us online  
Audience: Public
Price: Early bird tickets start at €272 (excl. VAT)

Register before 4 April 2022 to take advantage of the early bird rates. 

Conference Theme

This year the conference theme is Climate Action. We will be exploring a wide range of topics through this lens including: 

  • regenerative agriculture,
  • traceability,
  • gender equality,
  • climate change capacity building and many more.

Join us to see how the sector can collaborate in these areas to create and drive collective impact in shaping a more sustainable future for cotton. 

Sponsorship Opportunities

We have a number of sponsorship opportunities available, from supporting cotton farmers’ travel to the event, to sponsoring the conference dinner.

Please contact Events Coordinator Annie Ashwell at [email protected] to find out more. 

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