Better Cotton Farmers Achieve Tangible Results Through More Sustainable Farming Practices

In the 2018-19 cotton season*, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and our on-the-ground partners provided training on more sustainable farming practices to more than 2.3 million cotton farmers in 23 countries.

With BCI training, supportand capacity building, BCI Farmers are better equippedtotackle pertinent issues in cotton production – such as water use,pest management and gender equality –and producecotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, the environment and farming communities.

Each cotton season, BCI andpartners collect data from BCI Farmers to monitor and assess a range of social, environmental and economic indicators. BCI provides an analysis of this data through our annual Farmer Results report, and we’re pleased to now release the 2018-19 edition.


Here are some key highlights from six countries where the Better Cotton Standard System was implemented in the 2018-19 season –China, India, Mali, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.


  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 15% less synthetic fertiliser.
  • BCI Farmers in Mali used 31% fewer pesticides.
  • BCI Farmers in Tajikistan applied biopesticides 8% more often.
  • BCI Farmers in China used 10% less water.


  • BCI Farmers in India achieved 11% higher yields.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan achieved 38% higher profits.


  • In Turkey, 73% of BCI Farmers had advanced awareness of child labour issues.
  • In Mali, 39% of BCI Farmers and farm workers trained on more sustainable farming practices were women.

All BCI Farmer results are relative to the results achieved by Comparison Farmers (non-BCI farmers in the same geographic area who are not participating in the BCI programme). e.g. BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 15% less synthetic fertiliser than Comparison Farmers.

Access the 2018-19 Farmer Results Report to see how BCI Farmers are benefitting from implementing the Better Cotton Standard and driving measurable improvements in cotton production.

*Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles all over the world. For BCI, the 2018-19 cotton season harvest was completed towards the end of 2019. BCI Farmer results and indicator data must be submitted to BCI within 12 weeks of the cotton harvest. All data then goes through a rigorous data cleaning and validation process before it can be published.

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Sustainable Cotton Standards and Programmes Make Progress Towards Aligned Impact Measurement and Reporting

At the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) we know how important it is to measure the impacts of our own work on cotton producing communities and our shared environmental challenges. Looking at the sector more widely, it is clear that consistent, credible and comparable impact data across the wide range of sustainable cotton standards, programmes and codes is also important, and would encourage more brands and retailers to invest in a switch to more sustainable cotton.

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 toalign sustainability impact indicators and metrics for cotton farming systems. The working group included: BCI, Cotton Connect, Cotton Made in Africa, Fairtrade, MyBMP, the Organic Cotton Accelerator and Textile Exchange, with advisory input from ICAC, the ISEAL Alliance and funding support from Laudes Foundation.

The two-year process was facilitated by international sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future as part of the Cotton 2040 Initiative, working in close collaboration with the Delta Project. All partners in this initiative have a shared ambition to harness the benefits from more aligned impact data measurement and reporting: more credible, consistent data, with reduced time, costs, and duplication of efforts for all partners across the cotton system.

Together we have contributed to the development of the Delta Framework – a core set of indicators addressing key social, economic, and environmental issues which are relevant to sustainable cotton. The Delta Framework is voluntary and intended to apply worldwide to any cotton and coffee farming system, with the potential to be expanded to other agricultural commodities over time. Ultimately this common indicator set will help brands and retailers to confidently track the impact of their sustainable cotton sourcing decisions; support upgrading of farmer services to encourage continuous improvement at farm level; and facilitate increasing transparency and communication with consumers.

We are pleased to announce that we have reached a significant milestone in our collaboration. BCI along with the other working group members, has jointly-signed a Memorandum of Understanding – ”The Sustainable Cotton Aligned Impacts Measurement and Reporting Joint Commitment”. This sets out our intention that the Delta Framework will become a credible and shared framework to guide impact measurement and reporting of core sustainability issues of relevance to the cotton sector. During 2020 and 2021 we will be continuing to work with the Delta Project team to help test and refine the indicators and data collection and reporting methodologies. This will include piloting them with farmers and local partners as soon as local circumstances allow to ensure the indicators and methodologies meet the needs of cotton farmers and our partner organisations, including retailers and brands, and also the wider cotton sector.

“The Delta Project was initiated by BCI to respond to the needs of our stakeholders to have access to harmonised information on the outcomes of the different sustainability programmes implemented at farm level. Beyond the development of a common sustainability framework, BCI will ensure that farmers will also benefit from the data they provide, both through learning opportunities and more informed decision making, as well as through better access to more targeted services.” – Eliane Augareils, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager, BCI.

We now encourage all organisations with interests in sustainable cotton to engage with the Delta Project as it moves forward. The draft indicators are publicly available for review and testing. Wider participation across the sector will help to accelerate progress towards alignment, supporting the transition to a sustainable cotton sector. The final indicator framework, including reporting guidance, will be available in 2021.

To receive future updates about this work please contact:

Delta Project: Eliane Augareils

Cotton 2040: Farinoz Daneshpay


Delta Framework – for further details on the indicator framework

Cotton 2040 Impacts Alignment workstream – for full details of the commitment statement

About Cotton 2040

Cotton 2040 is a platform which aims to accelerate progress and maximise the impact of existing sustainable cotton initiatives, bringing together leading international brands and retailers, sustainable cotton standards, and other stakeholders across the value chain. Facilitated by Forum for the Future, with support from Laudes Foundation, Acclimatise, Anthesis and the World Resources Institute (WRI), Cotton 2040 envisages a sustainable global cotton industry, which is resilient in a changing climate; which uses business models that support sustainable production and livelihoods; and where sustainably produced cotton is the norm.

About the Delta Project

The Delta Project is a joint effort of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), and it is supported by the ISEAL Innovation Fund. It is seeking to create a common language on sustainability performance across a range of agriculture commodities, starting with cotton and coffee, for measuring, monitoring and reporting progress.

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Sustainable Cotton and Coffee Standards Seek to Align Impact Measurement and Reporting

There are many sustainability standards and public-sector initiatives that promote and drive sustainability within commodity sectors. However, there is no alignment on how data is collected and reported, which makes it difficult to have a clear view on the collective ability of these programmes to progress towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a global scale.

As the sustainability standards and initiatives increasingly focus on reliable data and credible reporting, more information is being required from producers on their environmental, social and economic performance. This leads to data collection becoming more time consuming and costly, while not necessarily adding any value for producers.

To bridge these gaps and improve efficiency, the Delta Project was developed to align the measurement and reporting on sustainability performance at farm level across sustainability standards and commodities. The project is a collaboration between the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) and the International Coffee Association (ICO). It is funded by the ISEAL Innovation Fund.

The Delta Project will ultimately lead to the creation of the “Delta Framework’ which aims to build a common approach and language for sustainability reporting that is linked to SDG targets,” says Eliane Augareils, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at BCI.

The framework will feature a common set of environmental, social, and economic indicators to measure sustainability across the cotton and coffee commodity sectors, though the number of indicators will be limited to ensure that the framework remains manageable for companies and governments. The project will also provide examples of good and bad practices; tools and information to facilitate the framework’s adoption; and recommendations on how companies can communicate sustainability information to their customers.

Coffee and cotton farmers will also be able to use the information produced for the framework to track their own progress, compare their performance to their peers and access more resources and data to develop better insights,” says Andreas Terhaer, Manager IT & Processes at GCP.

Standardising a framework and making it adaptable to a range of commodities will also foster the development of a common language for sustainability in agriculture and make it easier to collect and compare data. The results are expected to improve the quality of support and services farmers receive in the future, including better financing terms and more favourable government policies that promote sustainability in the agricultural sector.

While the Delta Project currently focuses on two commodities, cotton and coffee, it is being designed to allow for further expansion. We’re really excited about its potential application to cocoa, soy, palm oil, sugar, and other commodity sectors in the future,”saysNorma Tregurtha,Policy and Outreach Director at ISEAL.

Learn more about the Delta Project.

The project is possible thanks to a grant from the ISEAL Innovations Fund, which is supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO.

Left:© BCI / Paulo Escudeiro | BCI farm worker |Niassa Province, Mozambique, 2018.
Right:© Global Cotton Platform, 2019

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Evidensia: The New Evidence Website Informing Action for a Sustainable Future

ISEAL, WWF and Rainforest Alliance have developed a new website, Evidensia, which brings together credible research into the effects and impact of sustainability initiatives to enable more informed decisions.

Credible evidence underpins decision-making and supports businesses and governments in addressing pressing sustainability challenges at scale.Currently, much of the available information on the impacts of sustainability tools is not presented in an easy to understand format that is useful for decision-oriented analysis. This makes it difficult for decision-makers to easily identify and understand what information already exists about the impacts, effectiveness and business value of sustainability initiatives.

To address this challenge, ISEAL, WWF and Rainforest Alliance have developed a new website, Evidensia, which brings together credible research into the effects and impact of sustainability initiatives to enable more informed decisions.

Evidensia is designed to meet the needs of business leaders, policy makers and researchers. It hosts evidence and information on a range of sustainability supply chain tools and approaches, including standards, company sourcing codes and jurisdictional approaches.

The content on the site covers a whole range of sustainability issues, from climate change and deforestation to biodiversity and water conservation. The content is represented in a variety of formats including independent scientific studies, evaluation reports and case studies. It is also easily accessible and usable through a range of searching, filtering and mapping tools.

Having a site that collates this evidence and information makes it possible to clearly identify research gaps and priorities for researchers and funders. This minimises the duplication or misalignment of research efforts.

Through these efforts, Evidensia can help companies and others identify and implement effective mechanisms for sustainable production and sourcing, and will help improve the effectiveness of sustainability tools and approaches.

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