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.

Highlights

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.

Environmental

  • 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.

Economic

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

Social

  • 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

Links:

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.

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

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Better Cotton Farmers Achieve a Reduction in Water and Pesticide Use while Increasing Yields and Profits

 
BCI Farmers Demonstrate the Benefits of Implementing more Sustainable Farming Practices

In the 2017-18 cotton season*, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and its on-the-ground partners provided training on more sustainable farming practices to more than two million cotton farmers in 21 countries. Through training, tools and capacity building, BCI Farmers address and tackle pertinent issues in cotton production, from water use to pest management to Decent Work. By implementing the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, farmers produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, the environment and farming communities.

Each cotton season, BCI and its partners collect data from BCI Farmers to monitor and assess a range of social, environmental and economic indicators. BCI Farmer results from the 2017-18 cotton season clearly demonstrate the benefits of implementing more sustainable practices around the world.Here are some key highlights from China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Social

  • In Turkey, 74% of BCI Farmers had advanced awareness of child labour issues.
  • In Tajikistan, 25% of BCI Farmers trained on health and safety practices were women.

Environmental

  • BCI Farmers in India used 10% less water than comparison farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 17% less synthetic fertiliser than comparison farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Tajikistan used 40% fewer pesticides than comparison farmers.

Economic

  • BCI Farmers in China achieved 14% higher yields than comparison farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan achieved 40% higher profits than comparison farmers.

Access the2017-18 BCI Farmer Results to see how BCI is driving measurable improvements in cotton production.

Note about Comparison Farmers: BCI Farmer Results compare the country averages of key social, environmental and economic indicators achieved by licensed BCI Farmers to non-BCI farmers in the same geographic area who are not participating in the BCI programme. We refer to the latter farmers as Comparison Farmers.

*Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles all over the world. For BCI, the 2017-18 cotton season harvest was completed towards the end of 2018. BCI Farmer results 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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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.

https://www.evidensia.eco.

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Better Cotton Drives Measurable Improvements in Cotton Production

 
In order to produce and sellBetter Cotton, licensed BCI Farmers adhere to the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria(P&C), addressing topics from water use to pest management to decent work. Implementing the Better Cotton P&C enables farmers to produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, the environment and farming communities.

Farmer results from the 2016-17 season demonstrate the benefits of implementing more sustainable practices around the world.Here are some key highlights from China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Social

  • In Turkey, 83% of BCI Farmers had advanced knowledge of child labour issues.
  • BCI is addressing women’s inclusion, and in China, 37% of farmers who received BCI training on pesticide preparation and use were women.

Environmental

  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 20% less water for irrigation than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in India used 17% less synthetic fertiliser than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Tajikistan used 63% less pesticide than Comparison Farmers.

Economic

  • BCI Farmers in China hada 14% higher yield than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan had a 37% higher profit than Comparison Farmers.

Access theBCI Farmer Results 2016-17to see how BCI is driving measurable improvements in cotton production.

Comparison Farmers
The BCI Farmer Results presented here compare the country averages of key social, environmental and economic indicators achieved by licensed BCI Farmers to non-BCI farmers in the same geographic area who are not participating in the BCI programme. We refer to the latter farmers as Comparison Farmers.

Talking About Farmer Results Accurately
Farm results must not be manipulated in any way. Averaging farm results across different geographies undermines the credibility of the data. Should you wish to use results pleasecontactthe Communications Team who will help you craft your Better Cotton story in a way that maintains the integrity of the data.

Gujarat, India. BCI Farmer Vinodbhai Patel (left) together with share croppers, working on his farm. © 2018 Florian Lang.

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Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund Reaches 1 Million Farmers

 
The Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund (Better Cotton GIF),managed in partnership with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), makes strategic investments into Better Cotton projects to support the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in reaching its 2020 targets.

In the 2017-18 cotton season, the Better Cotton GIF invested €9.4 million in more sustainable cotton farming practices in China, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Tajikistan and Turkey Рreaching and training over one million cotton farmers*.

The Better Cotton GIF Annual Report provides insight into the Funds activities to reach this milestone, with stories from BCI’s Implementing Partners and BCI Farmers in the seven cotton-producing countries.

Access the reporthere.

What is the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund?

The Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund (Better Cotton GIF) was launched in 2016, by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH).The Better Cotton GIF is governed by the BCI Council, in partnership with BCI Retailer and Brand Members, Civil Society Members and government bodies. IDH is the official fund manager, as well as an important funder.In the 2017-18 cotton season, the Better Cotton GIF directly invested €6.4 million in field-level programmes and mobilised an additional €3 million in co-funding from partners, resulting in a total portfolio value of €9.4 million.

*While the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund reached over one million farmers in the 2017-2018 season, the Better Cotton Initiativeis forecast to reach and train a total of 1.7 million cotton farmers in the season. The final figures will be released in BCI’s 2018 Annual Report.

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Better Cotton Announces Results of First Year US Pilot

BCI has completed a small scale pilot of its standard system in the USA during 2014. Twenty-two farms in four states (Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and California) took part in the pilot project, and together produced over 11,000 metric tons (26 million lbs) of cotton lint. The farms each completed a self-assessment and hosted an on-farm visit by independent, 3rd party verifiers to confirm they meet BCI’s criteria for environmental stewardship and working conditions. All participants who completed the process are now licensed to sell Better Cotton to participating merchants.

Cheryl Luther of Black Oak Gin in northeastern Arkansas guided three farmers through the licensing process. She said ”I was skeptical at first. I’ve been a sustainability proponent for years, and I understood the brands want transparency and verification, but I thought the process and paperwork would be a burden. In the end, though, it was simple and easy to gather.” One of the three Black Oak growers, Danny Qualls of Lake City, Arkansas said,” I love growing cotton, but the market needs more innovative ideas like BCI.”

Cannon Michael, owner of Bowles Farming Company in California’s San Joaquin Valley, said, ”We take pride in the way we treat our employees, care for the environment and strive to improve. I think this opportunity to “prove up’ against independent standards and verification is good for us and our customers.” Bowles is one of six participating farms that are members of Supima, the US pima cotton marketing association. Supima president Jesse Curlee echoed Michael’s sentiments saying, ”We’re on board for very practical business reasons. British retailer Marks & Spencer is a key customer for us. They’re also a BCI member and sourcing Better Cotton is a key component of their corporate sustainability strategy.”

CEO of BCI Patrick Laine added, ”We’re delighted with the collaboration and efforts of cotton growers in the US to bring US Better Cotton to the supply chain. This responds to a request of many global brands. The first volumes of US Better Cotton to reach the market were purchased immediately – and we intend to satisfy that demand in coming years by expanding the supply of US Better Cotton.This is an extremely positive start, and we look forward to working with more USA farmers on continually improving practices that are directly relevant to their businesses.”

In West Texas, twelve members of the Hart Producers Coop Gin participated in the project. Gin Manager Todd Straley said, “We see this as a great way to stay ahead of the curve, being responsive to changing market expectations and demonstrating our growers’ commitment to sustainability and continual improvement.”

BCI has been working in other cotton growing regions of the world since 2010 to promote measurable and continuing improvements for the environment, farming communities, and their economies. Last year, spurred by strong interest from major brands and retailers using Better Cotton as a supply benchmark, we chose to expand our focus to include the US.

BCI will convene a multi-stakeholder process early in the new year to review the lessons learned during the pilot, and receive feedback from all parties engaged in this project or interested in BCI’s development.

 

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