Exploring Traceability – What We’re Doing to Make Better Cotton Traceable

The Better Cotton Initiative was founded with a clear vision of making sustainable practices in cotton production the norm around the world. To make such a big impact, scaling our programme quickly was key. With that in mind, we created a Chain of Custody (CoC) framework that incorporates the concept of ”mass balance” – a widely-used volume-tracking system that allows Better Cotton to be substituted or mixed with conventional cotton provided equivalent volumes are sourced as Better Cotton.

Today, BCI is the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world, with more than 10,000 supply chain actors using our Better Cotton Platform. Mass balance has enabled the rapid growth of the amount of cotton sourced as Better Cotton while at the same time facilitating farmers to implement better practices to produce more sustainably. But as our world progresses, we recognise that it is time to explore going beyond this mass balance CoC model to offer full traceability and even more value to Better Cotton farmers and companies.

The Rising Demand for Traceability

What exactly do we mean by “traceability’? While there are many different models for implementation and use, essentially the principle is in the name – the “ability to trace’ something. In our case, cotton. For Better Cotton, this means that, at minimum, we seek to determine the region in which the seed cotton was produced and identify the businesses involved in its transformation to a finished good.

This has never been as important as it is now. As legislation requiring businesses to demonstrate knowledge of their supply chains is becoming more common around the world, companies are not only being asked to know more about the origins of their materials but also about the conditions under which they are produced. Increasing media and academic attention on geopolitical issues, including the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang area of China, has further demonstrated that production location and sustainability are crucially interlinked.

Given this quickly changing operating environment, retailers and brands need to integrate both sustainability and traceability into their standard business practices. BCI already offers companies a powerful way to support sustainable agricultural practices and farmers’ livelihoods, and now we are focusing our attention on making cotton supply chains more traceable as well.

Benefits of Traceability

Up until now, the costs versus benefits of developing a traceability system for Better Cotton have prevented this work, but as the scales tip in the other direction, we are uniquely well-positioned to implement a global traceability system to meet member needs and support us in achieving our mission.

This is due to the shifting in significance of the benefits offered by traceability, which in all three main areas are increasing at every level of the supply chain:

  • Efficiency: contributions in stakeholder reporting, inventory and merchandise management, strategic sourcing enablement, process control and data management
  • Risk management: contributions in regulatory compliance, impact monitoring, contingency planning, forecasting
  • Innovation: contributions in consumer engagement, circular economy and resale, collaboration, process automation and improvement, community of practice and learning, market insight

Greater visibility of supply chains also means that retailers and brands can take greater responsibility and work to address any problems they may find, such as forced labour, poor agricultural practices and more.

Challenges to Implementing Traceability

Implementing traceability is no easy feat. It’s not simply a matter of adding on to existing processes – though we can use the existing participation from members on the Better Cotton Platform as a springboard, developing full traceability will require substantial investment, especially as we work to move quickly on these developments.

Main Challenges

  • Additional resources: This includes, for supply chain actors, the expense of developing internal control systems, potential cost implications from limited supply when many companies request traceable cotton at the same time, and significant associated resource requirements for BCI. A higher level of supply chain assurance also comes at a cost, as verifying the exact origins of a garment requires many more checks and controls.
  • Sourcing and intellectual property concerns: Creating just the right yarn and fabric blends often requires sourcing from several countries of origin – making the idea of “tracing back to the farm’, and it being just one farm, or even country, very unlikely. Concerns about protecting intellectual property add another layer of complexity.
  • Alignment with existing traceability systems: Many companies and other initiatives have begun developing their own traceability systems. The system we develop will need to align and eventually interface with existing traceability systems, from companies, for different technology solutions and country of origin programmes, which will require a great deal of collaboration and coordination.
  • Full member support: Last, but certainly not least, we need to ensure support from all categories of BCI members to move ahead with our traceability plans.

What We’re Doing Now

In July 2020 we had the first meeting of our newly formed multi-stakeholder Chain of Custody Advisory Group, and have begun getting input on priority requirements and key questions. We are also in the process of seeking funding for the first phase and this week have launched the recruitment for additional staff resources to deliver this work.

With the benefits and challenges of creating a Better Cotton traceability system clear, we have developed a high-level plan for moving forward in four distinct phases:

  • Set up and planning
  • Development and piloting
  • Stakeholder engagement and roll-out
  • Monitoring compliance and maintaining performance

With the right funding and resources, we anticipate a solution could be ready as early as 2022, following piloting in late 2021.

As we dive into the first phase of planning, we are consulting with additional members and stakeholders to identify solution requirements, including key data elements, interfaces, operating models, funding arrangements and governance structures. We are also making a detailed budget and project plan. Based on stakeholder feedback, available funding and the likelihood of long-term success, we will then determine what course of action we will take, with the knowledge that we have explored the options in partnership with our members.

Join Us as We Build on Mass Balance to Deliver More Value

While we are working on this new, traceable CoC model, it’s important to note that we are not getting rid of our current mass balance system altogether. Mass balance has an important role to play in achieving scale in sustainability for companies and farmers across the globe. We simply want to build upon this foundation to offer our retailer and brand members greater visibility of their whole supply chain, for those that want it, which ultimately brings us closer to our vision of making sustainability in cotton the norm.

Now is the time to start this work. We will be surveying members and other stakeholders in the new year – please look out for these invitations and share your input. We are also starting recruitment this week to support this work – keep an eye on the Jobs at BCI page.

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Sustainable Cotton Reaches 22% of Global Production as 2.3 Million Farmers Receive Training on Improved Agricultural Practices

 
Today, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) launched its 2019 Annual Report. In the report, BCI shares that Better Cotton – cotton produced by licensed BCI Farmers in line with the initiative’s Better Cotton Principles and Criteria – now accounts for 22% of global cotton production*.

In the 2018-19 cotton season, together with expert on-the-ground Implementing Partners and with support from more than 1,800 members, BCI provided training on more sustainable agricultural practices to 2.3 million cotton farmers – 2.1 million gained a license to sell Better Cotton. This drove the volume of more sustainably produced cotton available on the global market to a new level.

At the opposite end of the supply chain, BCI’s Retailer and Brand Members passed a significant milestoneat the end of 2019, sourcing more than 1.5 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton ¬≠– a record for BCI. That’s a 40% increase on 2018 and sends a clear signal to the market that Better Cotton is becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity. Better Cotton uptake now accounts for 6% of global cotton production.

It is particularly pleasing to share the progress BCI is making, thanks to the concerted efforts of our members, partners and other stakeholders, towards our 2020 targets. With two more cotton seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21) within which to make further advances at field level, we are committed to not only continuing to deliver beneficial change at field level, but also to learning from the experience and adapting to become more effective. We do not yet know how close we will come to our 2020 targets, and we are still assessing how the current Covid-19 pandemic will impact our efforts. But one thing is certain, we have made significant and undeniable progress over the past 10 years, and there are many successes to celebrate.” – Alan McClay, CEO, BCI.

2019 Report Highlights

  • Better Cotton was grown in 23 countries in the 2018-19 cotton season.
  • Licensed BCI Farmers produced 5.6 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton. That is enough cotton to make approximately 8 billion pairs of jeans, a pair each for every person in the world.
  • Better Cotton now accounts for 22% of global cotton production.
  • BCI and its 76 field-level partners delivered training and support to a total of 2.3 million farmers.
  • 2.1 million cotton farmers received a BCI license to sell their cotton as Better Cotton – 99% are smallholders farming on less than 20 hectares.
  • BCI Retailer and Brand Members sourced 1.5 million metric tonnes of cotton as Better Cotton in 2019 – a record volume.
  • Uptake of Better Cotton now accounts for 6% of global cotton production.
  • BCI welcomed more than 400 new members in 2019.
  • By the end of the year, BCI had 1,842 members across five membership categories, a 29% increase on 2018.

Access the interactive BCI 2019 Annual Report to learn more about our successes, challenges and the progress we are making towards our 2020 targets.

*The percentage has been calculated using ICAC’s 2019 global production figures.

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2020 Sustainable Cotton Ranking Launched

 
For the fourth time, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Solidaridad and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK have published the Sustainable Cotton Ranking. The ranking analysed the 77 largest cotton users among international apparel brands and retailers, reviewing their policies, actual uptake of more sustainable cotton and transparency in their supply chains.

Access the 2020 Sustainable Cotton Ranking.

Adidas scored the highest in the 2020 Sustainable Cotton Ranking, followed by IKEA, H&M Group, C&A, Otto Group, Marks and Spencer Group, Levi Strauss & Co., Tchibo, Nike Inc., Decathlon Group and Bestseller, who all fell into the “leading the way’ category. Nine of these companies are BCI Retailer and Brand Members and also sit at the top of the Better Cotton Leaderboard, based on volumes of cotton sourced as Better Cotton.

The 2020 Sustainable Cotton Ranking illustrated that 11 companies are “leading the way’ when it comes to their sustainable cotton sourcing efforts, followed by 13 more companies that are “well on their way’ and 15 others which are “starting the journey’. According to the report, the remaining 38 companies have not yet started the journey.

Overall, the report found that progress has been made across the board on policy, uptake and traceability. Increasing numbers of companies are sourcing more sustainable cotton including Organic, Fairtrade, CmiA and Better Cotton, and overall uptake of more sustainable cotton has increased.

However, there is still a long way to go. With this ranking, PAN UK, Solidaridad and WWF hope to accelerate demand and uptake of more sustainable cotton by clothing and home-textile retailing companies around the world.

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Better Cotton Retailer and Brand Members Increase Better Cotton Sourcing by 40% in 2019

 
In 2019, 150 of the world’s most recognised retailers and brands collectively sourced more than 1.5 million metric tonnes of cotton as “Better Cotton’ – that is enough cotton to make approximately 1.5 billion pairs of jeans. The retailers, who are all members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), hit a new sourcing milestone and sent a clear signal to the market that there is increasing demand for more sustainably grown cotton.

Uptake1 of Better Cotton – cotton produced by licensed BCI Farmers in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteriaincreased by 40% on the previous year. The volume sourced by BCI’s 150 Retailer and Brand Members in 2019 represents 6% of global cotton production2. By increasing sourcing commitments year-on-year and integrating Better Cotton into their sustainable sourcing strategies, BCI Retailer and Brand Members are driving demand for more sustainable cotton production worldwide.

Long-standing BCI Member Decathlon shared their thoughts on BCI and Better Cotton; ”While physical Better Cotton is not traceable to the end-product, what matters is that the funds channelled through BCI end up contributing to farmer training and expanding the network of cotton farmers who are improving their livelihoods, while protecting and restoring the environment.Decathlon has a target to source 100% more sustainable cotton by 2020 – this is a combination ofBetter Cotton together with organic and recycled cotton. This commitment has generatedahigh level of motivation internally at Decathlon. The BCI Team has also always been supportive of our journey, listeningto our needs and quickly responding to any challengeswe met,” says Nagy Bensid, Director Yarns and Fibres, Decathlon

BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of Better Cotton directly translates into increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices. For example, in the 2018-19 cotton season, Retailer and Brand Members, public donors (DFAT) and IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative) contributed more than ‚Ǩ11 million to field-level projects, enabling more than 1.3 million cotton farmers in China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Tajikistan and Mozambique to receive support, capacity building and training.3

BCI Supplier and Manufacturer Members also play a crucial role in increasing uptake as they bridge the gap between Better Cotton supply and demand. In 2019, suppliers and manufacturers sourced more than two million metric tonnes of cotton as Better Cotton, ensuring that there was enough supply available to meet retailers’ needs.

The retailers and brands, cotton traders and spinners who sourced the largest volumes of Better Cotton in 2019 will be revealed in the 2019 Better Cotton Leaderboard, launching at the 2020 Global Cotton Sustainability Conference in June. You can view the 2018 Leaderboard here.

Notes

1Uptake refers to the sourcing and purchasing of more sustainable cotton in a supply chain.By “sourcing cotton as Better Cotton,’ BCI is referring to the action taken by members when they place orders for cotton-containing products. It does not refer to the cotton present in the finished product. BCI uses a chain of custody model called Mass Balance whereby volumes of Better Cotton are tracked on an online sourcing platform. Better Cotton may be mixed with or replaced by conventional cotton in its journey from field to product, however, the volumes of Better Cotton claimed by members on the online platform never exceeds the volumes physically procured by spinners and traders.
2As per the global cotton production figures reported by ICAC. More information is availablehere.
3While the investment from BCI Retailer and Brand Members, public donors (DFAT), and IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative), mobilised through the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund, reached over 1.3 million farmers in the 2018-2019 season, the Better Cotton Initiativeis forecast to reach more than 2.5 million cotton farmers in the season. The final figures (including final licensing figures) will be released in spring 2020 in BCI’s 2019 Annual Report.
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Which Cotton Merchants and Mills Are Sourcing the Largest Volumes of “Better Cotton’?

 
As demand for Better Cotton – cotton grown by licensed BCI Farmers in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria – increases, more and more organisations throughout the cotton supply chain are joining the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and supporting increased uptake of Better Cotton*. Earlier in the year, we announced the BCI Retailer and Brand Members that sourced the largest volumes of cotton as Better Cotton in 2018. Now we are launching the Cotton Merchants and Mills Leaderboard.

The Merchants and Mills Leaderboard highlights the top 20 cotton merchants and top 50 mills, based on volumes of cotton sourced as Better Cotton. Access the 2018 Better Cotton Leaderboard.

Cotton merchants and mills are supporting the transformation of the cotton sector by joining BCI and sourcing increased volumes of Better Cotton for BCI Retailer and Brand Members – forming a critical link between Better Cotton supply and demand.

”Market demand for more sustainable cotton has dramatically increased over the years. It began with a few retailers sourcing more sustainable cotton in limited quantities for small collections. Over time, retailers have grown their collections and implemented overarching sustainable sourcing targets which has increased the volumes of more sustainable cotton sourced, including Better Cotton. We see this demand increasing further over the next 5 to 10 years.” – Osman Ustundag,Cotton Purchasing Manager at Kipa≈ü Holding, a BCI Member since 2011.

Increased sourcing of Better Cotton generates essential funding for farmer training and support. This is in turn driving more sustainable practices in cotton production, making it better for the people who produce it and the environment it grows in. BCI has a goal to train five million cotton farmers on more sustainable practices by 2020. Find out more in the BCI 2018 Annual Report.

“With the creation of BCI in 2009, a holistic and pragmatic approach for farmers to embed sustainable farming practices was launched.Better Cotton addressed the gap that existed between retailers’ sustainable sourcing targets and market supply of more sustainably produced cotton. Using innovative models such as mass-balance during sourcing, the market now has access to alarge and growing supply base to procure from.”– Amit Shah, CEO and Founding Director at Spectrum International, a BCI Member since 2013. Amit Shah also holds the position of Treasurer on the BCI Council.

Find out which merchants and mills sourced the largest volumes of cotton as Better Cotton in the 2018 Better Cotton Leaderboard.

*Uptake refers to the sourcing and purchasing of more sustainable cotton in a supply chain. By “sourcing cotton as Better Cotton,’ BCI is referring to the action taken by members when they place orders for cotton-containing products. It does not refer to the cotton present in the finished product. BCI uses a chain of custody model called Mass Balance whereby volumes of Better Cotton are tracked on an online sourcing platform. Better Cotton may be mixed with or replaced by conventional cotton in its journey from field to product, however, the volumes of Better Cotton claimed by members on the online platform never exceeds the volumes physically procured by spinners and traders.
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Which Global Brands Are Leaders in Sustainable Cotton Sourcing?

 
The Better Cotton Initiative’s (BCI) Retailer and Brand Members are forging the way for more sustainable cotton production by integrating Better Cotton into their raw material sourcing strategies and driving demand for more sustainable practices worldwide.

In 2018, 92 BCI Retailer and Brand Members sourced more than one million metric tonnes of Better Cotton – a record for BCI! This represents 4% of global cotton consumption*. BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of Better Cotton directly translates into increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices.

While all BCI Retailer and Brand Members are contributing to the sustainable future of cotton, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the leaders. The following members are the top 15 (in descending order) based on their total Better Cotton sourcing volumes in the 2018 calendar year. Together they represent a significant proportion (88%) of the Better Cotton that was sourced last year.

1 – Hennes & Mauritz AB

2 – IKEA Supply AG

3 – Gap Inc.

4 – adidas AG

5 – Nike, Inc.

6 – Levi Strauss & Co.

7 – C&A AG

8 – PVH Corp.

9 – VF Corporation

10 – BESTSELLER

11 – DECATHLON S.A.

12 – Target Corporation

13 – Marks and Spencer PLC

14 – Tesco

15 – OVS Spa

Access the Better Cotton Leaderboard 2018.

Since September 2015, all of the cotton we source for IKEA products is responsibly sourced – 85% of that is sourced as Better Cotton.It took a decade of determination and hard work to embed sustainability into our supply chain and we are pleased to have reached our 100% sustainable cotton target. We won’t stop there though. We are committed to creating positive change throughout the entire cotton industry and continue to collaborate with our partnersto make this a reality,” says Rahul Ganju, Sustainability Manager Textiles, IKEA of Sweden.

Cotton is our main raw material and it’s a natural choice for our consumers. However, we know that being natural doesn’t necessarily mean being sustainable. That’s why, in 2016, we decided to source only more sustainable cotton by 2020. BCI represents a core pillar in our strategy to reach that goal as the initiative increases cotton farmers’ capabilities to adopt sustainable agricultural practices and focus on continuous improvement,” says Simone Colombo, Head of Corporate Sustainability, OVS Spa.

“BESTSELLER joined BCI in 2011 and we’ve been an active member since then. We’ve increased our uptake of Better Cotton year on year and invested in farmer training and support. BESTSELLER has a target to source 100% of its cotton more sustainably by 2022 – to achieve this we source Better Cotton, Cotton made in Africa, organic cotton and recycled cotton,” says Dorte Rye Olsen, Sustainability Manager, BESTSELLER.

In addition to considering the absolute volumes of Better Cotton sourced, the proportional amount of Better Cotton as a percentage of total cotton consumption is important to highlight. For some Retailer and Brand Members, Better Cotton accounts for a substantial percentage of their total cotton sourcing. In 2018, the companies who sourced more than 90% of their cotton as Better Cotton were adidas AG, HEMA BV and Stadium AB. Decathlon SA, Fatface Ltd, Hennes & Mauritz AB, and IKEA AG sourced more than 75% of their cotton as Better Cotton.

The “fastest movers’ of 2018 (listed in alphabetical order) are Benetton, Burberry Ltd, Fatface Ltd, GANT AB, Gap Inc., HEMA BV, La Redoute, Nike Inc., Olymp Bezner KG, Peak Performance, PVH Corp. and Stadium AB. These retailers and brands increased their volumes of cotton sourced as Better Cotton by more than 20 percentage points compared to 2017, demonstrating that sourcing cotton more sustainably can become the norm for organisations of all sizes.

BCI has a goal to reach and train fivemillion cotton farmers by 2020.In order to achieve this, BCI calls upon its current Retailer and Brand Members as well as new members to be as ambitious as possible in setting Better Cotton sourcing targets. Increased sourcing generates essential funding for farmer training and support. We’re pleased to note that of BCI’s current 125 Retailer and Brand Members, 27 already have a public target to source 100% of their cotton more sustainably by 2020. An additional 23 members have sustainable sourcing targets that are set for just beyond 2020.

We’re now looking for the next wave of sustainability leaders to join BCI and close the gap between the supply of Better Cotton on the market (19% of global cotton production in the 2017-18 cotton season) and demand from Retailer and Brand Members (4% of global cotton consumption in the 2017-18 cotton season*). In the 2019-20 cotton season, Better Cotton is forecast to account for 30% of global cotton production.

Access the Better Cotton Leaderboard 2018.

As demand for Better Cotton increases, more and more organisations throughout the cotton supply chain are joining BCI and supporting increased uptake of Better Cotton. In the coming weeks, we will launch cotton merchant and cotton mill leaderboards, highlighting who sourced the largest volumes of cotton as Better Cotton in 2018.

*Global cotton consumption figures as reported by ICAC. More information is availablehere.

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Important Better Cotton Platform Updates

 
As part of BCI’s commitment to continual improvement, we are making some changes to how Better Cotton Claims Units (BCCUs) can be transferred through the BCP and the supply chain. Thisis designed toprotect the credibility of BCI’s chain of custody system and simplify the transfer of BCCUs.

What is the Better Cotton Platform?

The Better Cotton Platform (BCP) is an online system owned by BCI, and used by ginners, traders, spinners, other textile supply chain actors, and retailers and brands to document their Better Cotton sourcing volumes.Find out more about the Better Cotton Platform.

What are Better Cotton Claims Units?

A BCCU is the designated unit that corresponds to 1 kg of Better Cotton lint sold by a participating ginner.

Important Changes

  • As of 1 January 2020, companies wishing to transfer Better Cotton Claim Units (BCCUs) must do so electronically through the BCP. Starting on this date, members or BCP non-member suppliers* will no longer be able to transfer BCCUs using the manual entry option that is currently available in the BCP.
  • If a company is already a member of BCI or a BCP non-member supplier, no action is required.
  • Paper/hard copy Output Declaration Forms (ODFs) will no longer be accepted as a transaction entry method in the Better Cotton Platform.
  • BCI Retailer and Brands Members will have until 31 March 2020 to manually addBCCUs to their accounts (for ODFs generated before 31 Dec 2019).
  • The annual BCP access fee will be reduced from ‚Ǩ750 to ‚Ǩ500 on 1 June 2019.
  • There will be a 20% promotional discount available for those who sign up for a new BCP account between 1 June – 30 September 2019.

*A BCP non-member supplier is a company that is not a BCI member but has access to the BCP and can transfer BCCUs electronically using a supplier, end-product manufacturer, non-lint trader or sourcing agent account type.

For more information, please visit the BCP homepage.

 

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Record Level of Better Cotton Uptake Sends Clear Signal to the Market

 
In 2018, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) experienced a historic level of uptake1as 93 Retailer and Brand Members sourced more than one million metric tonnes of Better Cotton – that’s enough cotton to make approximately 1.5 billion pairs of jeans.

Better Cotton uptake increased 45% on the previous year, and at the end of 2018, retailer and brand member sourcing of Better Cotton accounted for 4% of global cotton consumption2. By integrating Better Cotton into their sustainable sourcing strategies and increasing sourcing commitments year-on-year, BCI’s Retailer and Brand Members are driving demand for more sustainable cotton production worldwide.

Now, to continue to accelerate the mainstreaming of Better Cotton and hit BCI’s 2020 targets – to reach and train 5 million cotton farmers and have Better Cotton account for 30% of global cotton production – BCI needs the next wave of sustainability leaders to come on board and close the gap between supply and demand. (In the 2017-18 cotton season, Better Cotton is forecast to account for 19% of global cotton production.)

Founding BCI Member, H&M group, has played an integral role in the growth of Better Cotton; in 2018 the retailer sourced the largest volume of Better Cotton (for the third year running). ”Cotton is one of H&M group’s most important materials – BCI plays a key role in our goal towards using only sustainably sourced cotton by 2020,” says Mattias Bodin, Sustainability Business Expert, Materials and Innovation at H&M group.

adidas is another founding member with ambitious sustainable sourcing targets. In 2018, adidas sourced 100% of its cotton as more sustainable cotton. Ebru Gencoglu, Senior Manager, Merchandising and Sustainability at adidas commented, ”BCI and adidas have worked closely from the beginning to reach this ambitious goal. BCI has engaged actors throughout the supply chain to enable the right amount of supply in the right locations. This has helped our suppliers to source cotton as Better Cotton, which allowed us to ramp up sourcing in a short period of time.”

BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of Better Cotton directly translates into increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices. For example, in the 2017-18 cotton season, BCI Retailer and Brand Members, public donors and IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative) contributed more than ‚Ǩ6.4 million, enabling more than 1 million farmers across China, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Senegal to receive support and training*.

ALDI South Group are among a group of new BCI Members who will help to increase uptake of Better Cotton in 2019 and beyond. Katharina Wortman, Director CRI at ALDI South Group said, ”ALDI supports sustainable cotton standards in their aim to ensure improved farming conditions and reduced environmental impacts. ALDI joined BCI at the end of 2017, and we foresee that BCI will play a significant role in our approach to responsibly sourced cotton. The mass-balance chain of custody system used by BCI enables our supply chain partners to more easily source Better Cotton.”

A member that has illustrated how to scale uptake of Better Cotton rapidly is Gap Inc. The retailer joined BCI in 2016 and is now among the top five BCI Retailer and Brand Members based on total Better Cotton sourcing volumes. ”Better Cotton sourcing is an important part of Gap Inc.’s sustainability strategy. We have been able to leverage our scale across our portfolio of brands to accelerate sourcing of Better Cotton in a relatively short time,” said Agata Smeets, Director, Sustainability Sourcing Strategy at Gap Inc.

As well as increased investment in farmer training and capacity building, uptake of Better Cotton sends a clear signal to the market and has an impact throughout the supply chain. Cotton traders are seeing the increased demand for more sustainably produced cotton but believe there is much more to be done. Marco Baenninger, Head Trader Hand Picked Cotton at PaulReinhartAG said, ”Better Cotton has become an integral part of the international cotton trade. It’s very pleasing to see that uptake from retailers has increased strongly over the last few years. However, there is still a lot to do. Some organisations are still skeptical, but in the long-term they risk losing market share if they overlook more sustainable options. That says a lot about the success of BCI and other sustainable cotton initiatives and standards in promoting sustainably produced cotton.”

Transforming cotton production worldwide requires commitment and collaboration from the entire cotton supply chain. As we celebrate BCI’s 2018 sourcing milestone, we thank all of our members and partners for supporting BCI. The retailers and brands, cotton traders and spinners who sourced the highest volumes of Better Cotton in 2018 will be revealed in the Better Cotton Leaderboard, launching at the 2019 Global Cotton Sustainability Conference in Shanghai in June.

1Uptake refers to the sourcing and purchasing of more sustainable cotton in a supply chain.By “sourcing cotton as Better Cotton,’ BCI is referring to the action taken by members when they place orders for cotton-containing products. It does not refer to the cotton present in the finished product. BCI uses a chain of custody model called Mass Balance whereby volumes of Better Cotton are tracked on an online sourcing platform. Better Cotton may be mixed with or replaced by conventional cotton in its journey from field to product, however, the volumes of Better Cotton claimed by members on the online platform never exceeds the volumes physically procured by spinners and traders.
2Global cotton consumption figures as reported by ICAC. More information is available here.
3 While the investment from BCI Retailer and Brand Members, public donors and IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative), mobilised through 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 2.1 million cotton farmers in the season. The final figures will be released in BCI’s 2018 Annual Report.
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Better Cotton Members Lead on More Sustainable Cotton Sourcing

 
Committed BCI Retailer and Brand Members have significantly contributed to the dramatic growth of Better Cotton over the past eight years, helping to drive BCI towards its 2020 target of having Better Cotton account for 30% of global cotton production. They are supporting market transformation by integrating Better Cotton into their raw materials strategies and driving demand for more sustainable cotton production worldwide.

While all BCI Retailer and Brand Members are contributing to the sustainable future of cotton, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the leaders.

In 2017, 71 BCI Retailer and Brand Members sourced a record-breaking 736,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton. The following members are the top 15 (in descending order) based on their total Better Cotton sourcing volumes in the 2017 calendar year1. Together they sourced a significant proportion of the total volume of Better Cotton.

1. Hennes & Mauritz AB

2. Ikea Supply AG

3. adidas AG

4. Gap Inc.

5. Nike, Inc.

6. Levi Strauss & Co.

7. C&A AG

8. Decathlon SA

9. VF Corporation

10. Bestseller

11. PVH Corp.

12. Marks and Spencer PLC

13. Tesco Clothing

14. PUMA SE

15. Varner Retail AS

In addition to considering total volume, the percentage of a company’s overall portfolio of more sustainable cotton is also important. For some retailers and brands, Better Cotton accounts for a substantial percentage of their total cotton sourcing. adidas AG – who have been steadily working to meet a 100% Better Cotton sourcing target by 2018 – sourced more than 90% of their cotton as Better Cotton in 2017. DECATHLON SA, Hemtex AB, Ikea Supply AG and Stadium AB sourced more than 75% of their cotton as Better Cotton1.

We would also like to highlight the “fastest movers’ of 2017 – adidas AG, ASOS, DECATHLON SA, Gap Inc., Gina Tricot AB, G-Star RAW C.V., HEMA B.V., Hennes & Mauritz AB, IdKIds Sas, Just Brands B.V., KappAhl Sverige AB, KID Interi√∏r AS, MQ Holding AB and Varner Retail AS. These retailers and brands increased their volumes of cotton sourced as Better Cotton by the highest number of percentage points compared to the previous year (2016).

BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of Better Cotton directly translates to increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices. In the 2017-18 cotton season, BCI Retailer and Brand Members contributed more than ‚Ǩ6.4 million enabling more than 1 million farmers across China, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Senegal to receive support and training*. Visit Stories from the Field on the BCI website to learn first-hand from farmers about the benefits they are experiencing from implementing the Better Cotton Standard System.

Please visit the Better Cotton Leaderboard on the BCI website for more information. Here you will find a list of all the retailers and brands that contributed to the collective demand for 736,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton in 2017, along with the leading cotton traders and mills in terms of volumes of Better Cotton sourced.

Transforming cotton production worldwide requires commitment and collaboration. We are proud to be working together with all BCI Members and Partners to create a more sustainable sector.

*While the investment from BCI Retailer and Brand Members (mobilised through 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.

[1]By “sourcing cotton as Better Cotton,’ BCI is referring to the action taken by members when they place orders for cotton-containing products. It does not refer to the cotton present in the finished product. BCI uses a chain of custody model called Mass Balance whereby volumes of Better Cotton are tracked on an online sourcing platform. Better Cotton may be mixed with or replaced by conventional cotton in its journey from field to product, however, the volumes of Better Cotton claimed by members on the online platform never exceeds the volumes physically procured by spinners and traders.
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