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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Participate in Cotton 2040’s Roundtable Events to Create a Climate-Resilient Cotton Sector

Earlier this year, Cotton 2040, with partners Acclimatise and support from Laudes Foundation, authored the first-ever global analysis of physical climate risks across global cotton growing regions for the 2040s, as well as a Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment of cotton growing regions in India. Cotton 2040 are now inviting you to join us for three roundtable events where we will dive into this data in deeper detail, sharing a geography-specific analysis of the expected impacts and implications across different cotton growing regions, seeking to understand the critical impacts for actors across the supply chain and to collectively prioritise both urgent and long-term action across the cotton sector.

Apply to participate in this series of roundtable events through November and December 2021, where Cotton 2040 and its partners will come together to future-proof the cotton sector through climate and social adaptation. The three two-hour roundtable sessions are designed to build on each other over the course of five weeks and participants are encouraged to attend all three sessions. Each session will run online twice on each date, to suit time zones across the Americas, Europe, Africa, India and South East Asia.

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Find more details on the roundtable events and register here.

  1. Roundtable 1: Thursday 11 November: Understanding the climate risks facing the cotton sector and exploring the implications for future production
  2. Roundtable 2: Tuesday 30 November: Developing a deeper understanding of the adaptation response required to build a more climate resilient cotton sector
  3. Roundtable 3: Tuesday, 14 December: Shaping a pathway towards collaborative action for a climate resilient cotton sector

Roundtable Conveners: 

  • Dhaval Negandhi, Associate Director of Climate Change, Forum for the Future
  • Erin Owain, Lead Associate – Climate and Resilience Hub, and Alastair Baglee, Director, Corporates – Climate & Resilience Hub, Willis Towers Watson
  • Charlene Collison, Associate Director, Sustainable Value Chains and Livelihoods, Forum for the Future

How is Better Cotton contributing?

As part of Cotton 2040’s ‘Planning for Climate Adaptation’ working group, Better Cotton worked with partners to develop the resources released earlier this year, particularly in setting up regional working groups to discuss how to optimise data in India and other regions. We will continue to use this research to feed into our climate strategy and prioritise areas with high climate risk.

Better Cotton looks forward to using the valuable outcomes of the Cotton 2040 Climate Change Adaptation workstream to better understand priority regions to focus on, and to identify specific climate hazards facing farmers in these areas. Better Cotton also welcomes the highly useful research in the India Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment report, which points to a strong linkage between climate change resilience and socio-economic factors such as poverty, literacy, and female work participation. This underscores the importance of a holistic approach in helping cotton farmers better adapt to climate change, and reinforces the need for Better Cotton to work closely with multiple partners on this front.

The Better Cotton Initiative is a proud member of Cotton 2040 – a cross-industry partnership that brings retailers and brands, cotton standards and industry initiatives together to align efforts in priority areas for action. Read more about Better Cotton’s collaboration with Cotton 2040:

  • Delta Framework – during 2019 and 2020, we have been working collaboratively with fellow sustainable cotton standards, programmes and codes via the Cotton 2040 Impacts Alignment Working Group to align sustainability impact indicators and metrics for cotton farming systems.
  • CottonUP – an interactive guide to help brands and retailers fast track sustainable sourcing across multiple standards, the CottonUP Guide answers three big questions about sourcing sustainable cotton: why it’s important, what you need to know and do, and how to get started.

Learn more about Cotton 2040’s ‘Planning for Climate Adaptation’ workstream by visiting their microsite.

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Better Cotton Appears in Ecotextile News Addressing Climate Change

On 4 October 2021, Ecotextile News published “Can cotton cool climate change?”, exploring the role cotton growing plays in climate change. The article looks closely at Better Cotton’s climate strategy and draws from an interview with Lena Staafgard, COO, and Chelsea Reinhardt, Director of Standards and Assurance, to understand how we plan to impact climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Accelerating the pace of change

With Better Cotton’s recent study on GHG emissions commissioned with Anthesis and our work with Cotton 2040, we now have better information to identify the areas contributing most to emissions and which regions will be most affected by climate change. Our existing Standard and programmes implemented on-the-ground by partners and farmers across the Better Cotton network currently address these issue areas. But we need to act fast to build on what already exists to deepen our impact.

What we are looking to do really is to refine our focus and accelerate the pace of change, to have a deeper impact in those particular areas that are the big drivers of emissions.

– Chelsea Reinhardt, Director of Standards and Assurance

Collaborating across the cotton sector

The recent Cotton 2040 study shows that half of all cotton growing areas are at high risk of extreme weather conditions in the coming decades, and we have the opportunity to take action in these regions with our potential to convene relevant stakeholders. There are challenges in providing solutions that are relevant to localised conditions, so we are using our nuanced understanding of these issues and are in a position to address them with appropriate strategies through the network we have. Ensuring we bring smallholder and large farm contexts into our approach is important.

We should be able to get there, but it’s going to be difficult and it’s going to require a lot of collaboration, pulling in the technology and the knowledge we have at the large farms and finding ways of making it available at smallholder level where so much of the world’s agriculture takes place.

Lena Staafgard, COO

Better Cotton is in a position where we have the resources and network to collaborate towards change. Join our upcoming Member-Only Webinar to learn more about Better Cotton’s 2030 Strategy on Climate Change.

Read the full Ecotextile News article, “Can cotton cool climate change?”

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Better Cotton Joins Industry Leaders and Experts to Drive Impact on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition Board of Directors

I am very excited to be elected as a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition Board of Directors, where I will join leaders and experts from brands, retailers, manufacturers, NGOs, government, academia, and more in guiding the direction of the organisation for exponential impact. As a member of the Board, I will be joining a diverse set of stakeholders to drive systemic change across the consumer goods industry. I am proud to join my peers and fellow sustainability champions as we join together to help the SAC achieve their vision of an industry that gives more than it takes — to the planet and its people.

Last month, Lena Staafgard, COO of Better Cotton was elected to sit as a Director on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition Board (SAC) representing the Affiliate Category of the SAC Membership. The SAC is a global, multi-stakeholder non-profit alliance for the fashion industry. In this position, Lena will work closely with the SAC Leadership Team and other members of the board to drive impact through sustainable production across the global footwear, apparel and textile value chains, including reducing environmental impact and promoting social justice.

As Better Cotton works towards our 2030 Strategy, collaboration across the sector and our membership will continue to be essential in deepening impact and delivering our ambitions to improve lives and livelihoods in rural communities, and transform the cotton sector – for good.

The SAC has been a Better Cotton Associate Member since 2019. Through ongoing collaboration and knowledge sharing, we work together to reach cotton farming communities with more sustainable farming practices.

Better Cotton is also a SAC Affiliate Member, joining over 250 leading brands, retailers, suppliers, service providers, trade associations, non-profits, NGOs and academic institutions in the SAC Membership since 2013. We share a common journey as we endeavor to create positive change for people and the planet. We work tirelessly to ensure that the Higg Index performance improvements robustly and factually reflect the environmental performance of Better Cotton as a raw material.

Learn more at the SAC website.

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Sharing Progressive Environmental Practices Globally

Climate change poses a real and growing threat for the world’s cotton farmers, many of whom cultivate their crops in countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate risks. Irregular rainfall, in particular, creates a steep challenge, with farmers under pressure to use less water to grow a traditionally water-intensive crop.

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WWF and IKEA Release Better Cotton Project Report

BCI are pleased to share the results of an inspiring collaboration between two of our most active members.

WWF and IKEA are both founding members of BCI, and have always been fundamental in supporting our efforts to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. In 2005, WWF and IKEA started collaborating on joint projects in India and Pakistan, and have recently released an inspiring “progress report’. The report outlines the partnership history and story so far, and details 2013 project results including reduced usage of chemical pesticides, chemical fertilisers and water, along with improved earnings and social benefits for workers.

Through BCI, and supported by our partners and members including WWF and IKEA, 193,000 farmers in India and Pakistan are now using cotton farming techniques that are better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future.

Click here to read the full report.

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Better Cotton Programme seeks China government collaboration

13.11.13 Ecotextile News

GENEVA – A new report from the Better Cotton Initiative’s Fast Track Program, which includes clothing retailers, Adidas, H&M and Walmart, has outlined the association’s aim to collaborate with Chinese government to develop new good agricultural practices and a greater understanding of China’s cotton policy.

Aiming to address the sustainability challenges faced in the production of cotton and work to mainstream sustainable cotton, retailers involved in the Better Cotton Initiative’s (BCI) Better Cotton Fast Track Program also include Marks and Spencer, Levi Strauss and VF Corporation.

The Better Cotton Fast Track Program End Year Report 2012, From field to fashion, report looks the impact of the fast track program worldwide, including the BCFTP funded ABRAPA (Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Algodão), project in Brazil covering over 210,000 acres and 100 farmers,20 projects in India reaching more than 90,000 workers and farmers, and an investment of EU 390 000 made in China.

The recent distortion of the market by China’s national cotton reserve program has been the biggest challenge for retail brands to procure Better Cotton from Chinese suppliers, the report claims, with thecountry cultivating around 25 per cent of the total global cotton production, according to BCI figures.

”BCI is actively seeking collaboration with central and local government (initially by engaging with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Research Centre for the Rural Economy to develop the China Good Agricultural Practices )… Developing an understanding of China’s cotton policy and exploring solutions is clearly indispensable to all stakeholders in the cotton supply chain,” the report states.

2012 was the first year Better Cotton was licensed and produced in China, with 32,000 megatonnes(MT) of lint licensed as Better Cotton, from which 29,000 MT was taken up by ginners.

Looking forward, the report states the BCI is aiming to set targets for brands to deliver on their public commitments in the coming years, whilst ”looking to evolve beyond sustainability departments of apparel companies get entrenched in their operations and commercial business.”

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