Call for Proposals: Better Cotton Innovation & Learning Project

Photo Credit: Better cotton/Emma Upton

Location: Khujand, Tajikistan. 2019. Description: Better Cotton Farmer Sharipov Habibullo delivers training to neighbouring farmers.

Together with longstanding partner IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, Better Cotton has launched a new Innovation & Learning Project to seek solutions that will help Better Cotton and its Implementing Partners accelerate positive impact for cotton farmers around the world.

The Innovation & Learning Project addresses three key areas:

Focus area 1: How can Better Cotton make progress towards its 2030 strategy impact areas?

What we are looking for: Solutions that will help strengthen and make progress towards Better Cotton’s five impact areas for 2030: soil health, women’s empowerment, smallholder livelihoods, pesticides and toxicity, and climate change mitigation.

Focus area 2: How can Better Cotton support farmers adapting their lives to a changing climate?

What we are looking for: Solutions that can help us to identify, modify, and replicate (at scale) relevant climate change adaptation practices, particularly among smallholder farmers.

Focus area 3: How can Better Cotton learn more about the quality of training delivered to farmers?

What we are looking for: Solutions that can help Better Cotton and our Implementing Partners to set up strong monitoring and evaluation systems with feedback loops going back to farmers.

Proposals for any one of the three themes above may include new operational processes, field interventions, behavioural insights, or ways of delivering programme activities in such a way that it benefits more cotton farmers. Innovation also includes taking existing approaches and applying them in new ways, in new regions or in new contexts.

At Better Cotton, we are focused on delivering real impact for cotton farmers and farming communities around the world. This means continuously improving our practices, while looking for innovative solutions to cotton farming challenges. We are delighted to launch this new project in collaboration with IDH and encourage those with experience and expertise in the project focus areas to submit a proposal.

Learn more about the project and find out how to submit a proposal.

This call for proposals is open to existing Better Cotton Implementing Partners and external organisations. The deadline for submissions is 29 October 2021.

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Better Cotton and Regenerative Agriculture: Our Approach

By Chelsea Reinhardt, Director, Standards & Assurance

Regenerative agriculture seems to be on everyone’s radar these days. From new regenerative agriculture certifications to sourcing commitments from big brands, the concept is gaining traction.  

Chelsea Reinhardt

Many regenerative practices are already woven into the Better Cotton Standard System, and as the research and conversations around regenerative agriculture evolve, we are working to deepen our impact along with it. 

Below, we discuss regenerative agriculture as it relates to Better Cotton — from how we define it to our approach moving forward. 

What is Regenerative Agriculture? 

While there is currently no universally accepted definition of regenerative agriculture, it is generally related to practices that promote soil health and restore organic carbon in the soil. These practices may include reducing tilling (no-till or low-till), use of cover crops, complex crop rotation, rotating livestock with crops and avoiding or minimising the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides — practices that have the potential to turn agricultural soil into a net carbon sink.  

Regenerative Agriculture in the Better Cotton Standard  

We don’t currently use the term ‘regenerative agriculture’ in the Better Cotton Standard. However, what is considered regenerative agriculture today is aligned with many of the sustainable farming practices that form the basis of our Standard. Our on-the-ground Implementing Partners in 23 countries around the world support farmers to implement these practices, which can be found throughout the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. 

Regenerative Agriculture in the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria

  • Principle 3 on Soil Health: Better Cotton Farmers are required to implement a multi-year soil management plan which covers enhancing soil structure, soil fertility and improving nutrient cycling, which includes processes such as breaking down of organic matter and soil respiration that facilitates uptake of soil nutrients like carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. Farmers are encouraged and supported to identify practices that are most appropriate to their local context. These typically include cover cropping, crop rotation, mulching and other regenerative methods.  
  • Principle 4 on Biodiversity and Land Use: Better Cotton Farmers must adopt a biodiversity management plan which explicitly encourages crop rotation and the restoration of degraded areas. 
  • Other Better Cotton Principles: Due to the interconnected nature of sustainable farming practices, regenerative agriculture practices are embedded within other principles as well. For example, principle one on crop protection introduces an Integrated Pest Management Programme to help farmers reduce their pesticide use and principle two on water stewardship details soil moisture practices such as mulching and cover cropping. 

How We’re Diving Deeper into Regenerative Agriculture for Greater Impact 

While we recognise the value of regenerative agriculture practices and support the growing awareness of the role of farming in combatting climate change, we are cautious about making promises about soil carbon contributions while the science in this area is still evolving. For example, although no-till agriculture has been shown to improve carbon sequestration in the short term in many cases, in the long term, the outcomes are less certain. Some studies have shown that even periodic ploughing can reverse years of carbon benefits. Other research points to mixed impacts on soil organic carbon, depending on the content and depth of the soil layer. 

Regardless of the long-term carbon benefits of regenerative agriculture, we will continue to focus on supporting farmers to improve their soil health. This is crucial to enhance long-term soil fertility, reduce erosion and adapt to climate change. It also plays a key role in improving yields and livelihoods for farming communities. 

What’s Next

Climate-smart agriculture practices will play a more prominent role in the Better Cotton Standard after an upcoming revision of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. They will also feature strongly in our 2030 Strategy and connected climate change strategy, which will cover how Better Cotton Farmers and communities can become more resilient by mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, reducing carbon emissions and measuring their progress. 

An approach of continuous improvement is at the heart of both regenerative agriculture and our 2030 Strategy. To that end, we are currently in the process of finalising outcome targets and associated indicators to act as drivers of change for Better Cotton Farmers. The outcome target issue areas will likely include climate change mitigation and soil health. These targets will enable progress to be measured towards the Better Cotton mission and incentivise farmers to find new ways to enrich the environment in and around their farms.  

Stay tuned — we will be sharing more information on these targets and launching our 2030 Strategy at the end of the year.  

Learn more about how the Better Cotton Standard addresses soil health and climate change mitigation and adaptation

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Sustainability Remains Front of Mind as Better Cotton Welcomes New Members Through 2020

As the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world, BCI works with members across the cotton supply chain – from farm to retail – to ensure there is continuous demand for and supply of Better Cotton, the cotton produced by licensed BCI Farmers.

In the second half of 2020, BCI was delighted to welcome 197 new members, including 24 retailers and brands and 170 suppliers and manufacturers, as well as one new civil society organisation and two new associate members.

You can find a list of all members who joined BCI in the second half of 2020 here.

The latest retailers and brands to join BCI and support Better Cotton are: BIG W, DR Ling Indústria e Comércio, Eterna Mode GmbH, Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof GmbH, JD Sport Plc, JYSK, Koton Magazacilik Tekstil Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.S., Lands End, Luxottica Group, Maison Tess, Marc Cain GmbH, Masai Clothing Company, Mustang Group, New Balance Athletics, Inc., Newbale Clothing Pty Limited, Peek & Cloppenburg KG Hamburg, Reiss, Sprinter Megacentros del Deporte SL, Stitch Fix. Inc, Suzhou Les Enphants Children Articles Co., Ltd, The Workwear Group Pty Ltd, Tommy Bahama, Wehkamp and Zimmermann Wear Pty Limited.

In 2020, Koton Magazacilik Tekstil Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.S. became the first Turkish brand to join BCI. Mrs G√ºlden Yƒ±lmaz, Koton Board Member, said, ”Sustainability is vital for our business and essential to address our consumers’ changing priorities and needs. As an important step in our sustainability journey, we became the first Turkish brand to become a member of BCI. We are proud to raise awareness of the initiative and Better Cotton in Turkey. We aim to source 10 percent of all our cotton-containing products as Better Cotton by the first anniversary of our BCI membership (November 2021), rising to 60 percent over the next five years.”

DelRio (DR Ling) became BCI’s second Brazilian retailer and brand member in 2020. ”By joining BCI, we affirm our purpose to continuously improve our commitment to the environment and more sustainable practices. Our ambition is to progressively expand our sourcing of more sustainable cotton in the coming decade to reach the target of 100% of our cotton sourced as Better Cotton,” said Carlos Pereira de Souza, President, Del Rio.

BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that when BCI’s retailer and brand members source cotton as Better Cotton it directly translates into increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices. Learn more about BCI’s mass balance chain of custody model.

In addition to retailers and brands, 170 new suppliers and manufacturers joined BCI in 2020. Organisations joined from 25 countries including Poland, Peru, South Korea, Egypt and Mauritius. Suppliers and manufacturers form a critical link between Better Cotton supply and demand, and they ensure increased volumes of Better Cotton can flow through the supply chain.

After a challenging year due to Covid-19, it has been incredibly encouraging to see businesses across the cotton supply chain continue to address sustainability challenges and commit to sourcing and supporting more sustainable cotton,” commented Paula Lum Young-Bautil,Deputy Director, Membership & Supply Chain, BCI.

Through 2020, more than 400 organisations joined BCI, taking BCI’s total membership to just shy of 2,200 members at the end of the year. Find a full list of all BCI Members here.

Learn more about BCI membership.

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Sustainable Agriculture Experts and Better Cotton Partners to Convene for Virtual Event

Each year, BCI hosts an event for its field-level Implementing Partners who provide training on more sustainable practices to millions of cotton farmers worldwide.

The annual Implementing Partner Meeting enables BCI’s partners to come together to share best practices in sustainable farming, learn from one another, be inspired by innovations in the field and the market, collaborate and engage in valuable networking.

Across four days in January 2021, more than 100 of BCI’s partners from 18 countries will gather for the first virtual edition of the event. The theme this year is Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption, and sessions will focus on topics such as gender and climate, financing climate action, soil health, restoring degraded areas and commitments to action.

BCI partners will be joined by BCI staff and sustainability experts from Solidaridad, Helvetas, WWF, Forum for the Future, Rainforest Alliance, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), PAN-UK, Care International, the Foundation for Ecological Security, and the Sustainable Agriculture Network.

On the final day of the event, partners will reflect on Covid-19 adaptations and learnings from 2020 and explore how to best prepare for the future.

Highlights and key learnings from the 2021 meeting will be shared following the event. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].

BCI’s 2021 Virtual Implementing Partner Meeting is officially sponsored by Interactio.

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Learn More About Better Cotton & Brazil in Our New Q&A

As one of the world’s largest producers, and consumers, of cotton fibre, Brazil is a key country for BCI to continue to improve the uptake and flow of Better Cotton across the supply chain. We have published this series of questions and answers below to provide clarity on a variety of aspects of BCI’s programme in Brazil.

[expand title=”How is Better Cotton licensed in Brazil?”]ABRAPA (Associa√ß√£o Brasileira dos Produtores de Algod√£o) – the Brazilian Association of Cotton Producers – is our Strategic Partner in Brazil, and Better Cotton from Brazil is licensed under ABRAPA’s ABR Protocol. This protocol is successfully benchmarked against the Better Cotton Standard System.

Benchmarking is a formal process for comparing, calibrating and conferring one-way recognition of other credible cotton sustainability standard systems. This recognition enables farmers who comply with a successfully benchmarked standard system to market Better Cotton.[/expand]

[expand title=”Why is BCI, through ABRAPA, only working with large farms in Brazil?”]The vast majority of cotton farms in Brazil are medium and large farms, and the benchmarked ABR Protocol currently applies only to these farms. The average size of cotton cultivation on ABR-BCI farms in the 2019/2020 season was 3,498 hectares.

However, BCI and ABRAPA acknowledge the need to work with cotton growing smallholders in Brazil. In 2019, planning began for trainings of smallholders in Minas Gerais as part of a BCI licensing pilot. These were scheduled for March 2020 but were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once launched, ABRAPA is looking at replicating this pilot in the state of Bahia. ABRAPA’s state-based member associations already work with smallholders in the Catuti region of Minas Gerais, and the Guanambi region of Bahia.


[expand title=”What links can be drawn between issues present in soy, such as deforestation and land conversion, and cotton production in Brazil?”]It is not BCI’s role or responsibility to speak about issues related to soy or other crops in Brazil – our goal at BCI is to transform cotton production. However, we can speak about how the Better Cotton Standard System (BCSS)and by extension ABR-BCI licensed farmsaddresses sustainability issues in cotton farming that are often also cited in soy production, such as pesticide use, land use conversion and deforestation. See the questions and answers below for more details.[/expand]

[expand title=”Does the Better Cotton Standard System address land conversion and deforestation issues in Brazil?”]

Yes. We recognise the value of social and environmental elements in a landscape and that these values must not be lost in the process of producing cotton. We also recognise that land use change comes with increased risks to biodiversity and other resources used by local people. That’s why we require BCI farmers to complete a High Conservation Value (HCV) assessment to identify, maintain and monitor those values early on so that they are not damaged by expanding cotton operations. This is part of our HCV approach that works to ensure farmers are respecting the rights of local communities, indigenous people and the environment.

This approach is outlined in Better Cotton Principles & Criteria 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 that all BCI farmers around the world, including ABR–BCI licensed farmers, must follow.

Beyond our criteria, ABR certification requires compliance with Brazilian environmental legislation. This means that, according to Brazilian law, even growers who only plant a small area of cotton must preserve 20-80% of the property. The percentage preserved depends on the biome in which the farm is located. For example, if a property is located in the Amazon biome, it must preserve 80% of its area. Brazil is made up of six biomes with different characteristics: Amazon, Caatinga, Cerrado (savanna), Atlantic Forest, Pampa and Pantanal.

All external audits of ABR-BCI farms consider the legislation of the biome in which the farm is located, and, most importantly, the licensing process is for the farm as a whole and not just for the area under cotton cultivation. Through the ABR audit and licensing process, all farms are visited annually. It should also be noted that no ABR-BCI licensed cotton farm is located in the legally-defined Amazon region.


[expand title=”What is the status of pesticide use in Brazilian cotton production?”]

In a tropical climate with intense pest pressure (boll weevil and white fly, in particular),a key challenge for Brazilian farmers is how to address the phase-out of harmful pesticides, as they work to reduce their overall pesticide use. Through our Strategic Partner, ABRAPA, we are helping cotton farmers in Brazil do this and find alternative methods for dealing with pests.

This starts with ABRAPA’s ABR Protocol which must uphold BCI’s current Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, including our increasingly stringent approach to the phase out of “Highly Hazardous Pesticides’, introduced in 2018 as part of a formal BCI Standard revision.

The Better Cotton Principle on Crop Protection requires that any pesticides listed under Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions and the Montreal protocol are not used. It also requires producers to phase out the use of any pesticide active ingredients and formulations that are known or presumed to be extremely or highly hazardous (acute toxicity) and carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic as per World Health Organization (WHO) and Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) classification. ABRAPAis currently updating its standard to align with these recent BCI requirements and supporting farmers as they seek viable alternatives for crop protection.

ABRAPA has set up five biological control factories, operated in collaboration with its state partners, to produce pest control products that are alternatives to more toxic offerings. The factories produce methods of pest control like natural enemies and entomopathogens (biological control with entomopathogens can be defined as the use of fungi, viruses and bacteria). One factory is located in Minas Gerais, one is in Goi√°s and three are in Mato Grosso, the largest cotton-producing state.


[expand title=”How did the Better Cotton Fast Track Programme (BCFTP), or its successor, the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund (GIF) contribute to the development and benchmarking of ABRAPA’s ABR Protocol?”]The development of the ABR standard was undertaken by ABRAPA without funding from BCI. Better Cotton Fast Track Programme (BCFTP) funding was used for a variety of activities, such as training materials, capacity building for ABRAPA and farmers on the Better Cotton Standard System (BCSS), worker training on decent work, and alignment of ABRAPA and BCI’s chain of custody system.[/expand]

[expand title=”Does BCI say Better Cotton from Brazil is “sustainable’, “better’ or “preferred’? Is Brazil “the largest producer of sustainable cotton’?”]

“Better Cotton’ means cotton that is better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. BCI Farmers that produce “Better Cotton’ adhere to the seven principles defined in the BCIPrinciples & Criteria, including minimising the harmful impact of crop protection practices, enhancing biodiversity, using land responsibly, promoting decent work and promoting water stewardship. Sustainability is also a journey that doesn’t end when a farm is licensed – that’s why BCI Farmers commit to participating in a continuous cycle of learning and improvement.

BCI is committed to only making claims that are credible and able to be substantiated, which is why we describe Better Cotton as ‘more sustainable’ than conventionally grown cotton rather than stating that it is categorically “sustainable’. We are intentional and consistent across our communications about using “more sustainable’ in the place of “sustainable’ because this is more accurate and better captures the ethos of our approach.

Describing Brazil as “the largest producer of sustainable cotton’ is not in line with our position. We do say, however, that Brazil is the largest producer of Better Cotton because this is true, and we are proud of our partnership.


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Winners of Global Sustainable Farming Challenge Revealed

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative are delighted to announce that Agritask Ltd., an Israel-based agricultural-tech start-up, has won the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge.

CropIn Technology Solutions, an India-based agricultural-tech company, was awarded with second place. The winning teams will now receive cash prizes of €100,000 and €35,000 respectively.

The Better Cotton Innovation Challenge, initiated by BCI and IDH and organised by Dalberg Advisors, launched in November 2019 to find new and innovative ideas to scale more sustainable cotton production. The challenge focused on two areas:

  • Customised training: Innovations to bring customised training on more sustainable farming practices to hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers.
  • Data collection: Innovations to reduce the time and cost of data collection to enable more efficient BCI licensing processes.

The challenge received close to 100 applications, 20 of which were shortlisted after a rigorous review process. Of the shortlisted applicants, five finalists – Agritask, CropIn, Ricult, WaterSprint and eKutir – were selected to trial their sustainable solutions in the field with BCI Farmers. Following the eight-week pilot period, a jury composed of BCI, IDH and Dalberg representatives, assessed the finalists and selected the winners based on a six-point criteria: impact, technical performance, likelihood of adoption, scalability, financial sustainability and team capability.

Agritask: winner

Agritask offers a holistic agronomic platform that enables agricultural stakeholders, including farmers, to capture and make use of a range of data in a highly flexible manner. The Agritask mobile app is customisable, allowing farmers to adopt digital solutions intuitively in a way that works for them. In addition, the platform enables remote monitoring via satellite and virtual weather stations and supports interaction with third-party systems. Data that is captured through the app is then aggregated and processed to provide actionable insights, tailored to each user.

Arsira Thumaprudti, Head of Business Development at Agritask commented, ”We are proud to work with global leaders in sustainability such as BCI. We are coming out of the field trials with a deeper appreciation of the complexity involved in implementing and monitoring sustainability programmes in the field, and this is exactly the type of challenge we were looking for.”

Images: ©Agritask. Cotton farming in Israel, 2020









CropIn: runner-up

CropIn’s solution is a digital farm management solution that enables complete digitisation of farming processes. The platform empowers data-driven decision-making and provides complete visibility of people, processes and performance on a near real-time basis. It enables farmers to efficiently manage farming practices, while also ensuring they are adhering to compliance and certification requirements. The solution will assist farmers to address issues such as pest and crop-health and manage budgets and inputs, helping farmers to maximize their returns.

The need for technological interventions to support sustainable farming is more pressing than ever. CropIn’s digital platforms are built to maximise value per acre for farmers, in an efficient, predictable and sustainable manner. Our solutions enable cotton farmers to manage and monitor crop farming in an accurate, affordable and scalable manner”, said Pallavi Kanak, Cropin Director India SEA.

Both winning solutions were selected from the data collection challenge category.

The Innovation Challenge was set up to help identify solutions and partnerships that would accelerate the benefits for cotton farmers in their adoption of BCI principles and practices towards more sustainable cotton farming. The winning innovations have demonstrated in the field trials how adoption of new engagement models and technology can support and strengthen impact at field level,” said Pramit Chanda, Global Director Textiles and Manufacturing at IDH.

Cristina Martin Cuadrado, Programme Manager at BCI, praised the finalists, ”Congratulations to Agritask and CropIn, who persevered, along with the other three challenge finalists, and piloted their solutions despite the challenges and set-backs caused by Covid-19 this year. Now the challenge is over, we are excited to be exploring next steps and a potential roll out plan. We look forward to sharing further updates soon.”

Additional information about the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge can be found at:

About the organisations

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a global not-for-profit organisation and the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. It aims to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. BCI partners with on-the-ground Implementing Partners to provide training on more sustainable farming practices to more than 2.3 cotton farmers in 23 countries. Better Cotton accounts for 22% of global cotton production.

IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, convenes companies, civil society organizations, governments, and others in public-private partnerships in order to drive the joint design, co-funding and prototyping of new economically viable approaches. IDH is supported by multiple European governments, including the institutional donors: BUZA, SECO, and DANIDA.

Dalberg Advisors is a global advisory firm that provides high-level strategic, policy and investment advice to the leadership of key institutions, corporations, and governments, working collaboratively to address pressing global problems and generate positive social impact. Dalberg has a global presence, covering 25 countries across continents.

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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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Better Cotton Launches New Cotton Sustainability Digital Series for 2021

We are delighted to launch a new Cotton Sustainability Digital Series for 2021!Sessions and speakers originally curated for the in-person 2021 Global Cotton Sustainability Conference will now be coming to you live online, at more accessible rates and times across the entire year.

Join BCI and partners throughout 2021 for the monthly Cotton Sustainability Digital Series, where the entire sector will come together to shape a more sustainable future for cotton.

Connect with industry leaders and experts andexplore the entire cotton value chain. Sessions will focus on topicsincludingclimate action, innovation today and social sustainability.


January Episode| A 2030 Futurescape

What will 2030 look like and how do we respond as brands, manufacturers, NGOs and citizens?’

Join Lucy Shea, Group CEO, Futerra, for an exploration of the sustainability trends that are shaping the world around us and the fashion and textiles sector. In particular, we will look at how companies who embed sustainability have proven to be more resilient in 2020 and are building back better, becoming the businesses that our future needs. The next ten years will see the disruption of almost every industry, driven by our fast-changing world and the shifting desires of consumers, especially Gen Z.Learn more about Lucy Shea.

Date: Tuesday 19 January 2021
Time: 15:00-16:00 GMT




You can look forward to hearing from a selection of brilliant speakers throughout the year! Episodes and speakers will be updated and added to the BCI website inthe coming weeks and months. Keep checking back for new sessions.

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Better Cotton Celebrates World Cotton Day 2020


Cotton is used by nearly everyone across the world on a daily basis. Today, on World Cotton Day 2020, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate the cotton farming communitiesat the heart of the industry, and at the heart of the Better Cotton Initiative,who work tirelessly to bring us this incredible natural fibre.

Promoting and embedding sustainability within cotton farming is more essential than ever. The Better Cotton Initiative exists to improve farmer livelihoods through the adoption of more sustainable practices. This past year has been challenging, but every crisis carries an opportunity. I applaud all the cotton farming communities around the globe that have adapted and persevered, and on World Cotton Day, I would like to thank them for their invaluable contributions to the sector.” – Alan McClay, CEO, BCI.

Follow the link below to hear from BCI Farmers from around the globe as they share their stories and details on how they are embedding sustainability into their farming practices.

Meet the BCI Farmers

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Innovation Challenge Finalists Pilot Sustainable Farming Solutions

In November 2019, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), with the support of Dalberg Advisors, launched the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge – a global project seeking creative ideas and solutions to improve sustainable cotton farming practices around the world.

The first round of the challenge aimed to uncover innovative approaches and/or existing solutions to two identified challenges:

Challenge One: Customised Training
Innovations to help bring customised training on more sustainable farming practices to hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers across the globe.

Challenge Two: Data Collection
Solutions that could reduce the time and cost of farmer data collection to enable more efficient BCI processes.

A jury composed of external experts, BCI representatives, IDH representatives and the Dalberg team assessed 87 applications and shortlisted 20, before selecting five candidates to progress to the final phase of the competition. The five finalists now have the opportunity to pilot their sustainability-focused solutions in the field with BCI Farmers.

Meet the Finalists

Finalists Challenge One: Customised Training for Farmers


Ekutir’s solution restructures training content into shorter, easily digestible modules delivered to farmers at the appropriate time of the year. It also provides individually tailored, immediately actionable advice to farmers based on a combination of their progress in the cotton growth cycle and real-time weather data. Ekutir’s solution automates the delivery of general training content and creates several delivery routes that cater to both literate and illiterate, smartphone-enabled and smartphone-less farmers.


Water Sprint offers an interactive Decision Support System (DSS) which is designed to help farmers manage their crops by providing actual and forecasted measures of soil, climatic and agronomic conditions at local and regional levels. On the basis of the measurements, the system computes the required need for irrigation, fertilisers and pesticides. This proposed technology will use remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to gather data from satellites and formulate and communicate information to farmers through a smartphone app.

Finalists Challenge Two: Efficiency of Data Collection


Agritask offers a platform to manage the entire cotton verification process, including digital data collection, field inspection planning, remote sensing and other technologies. Its mobile app enables farmers to keep records digitally, and for Field Facilitators (field-based staff, employed by BCI’s Implementing Partners, who deliver on-the-ground training to farmers) to document inspections digitally. Agritask enables remote monitoring via satellite and virtual weather stations and provides agronomic advice to farmers. It can also integrate with other technologies such as voice-based mobile apps to facilitate data collection.


CropIn’s proposed solution is a digital farm management solution (that has both mobile and web interfaces) that enables complete digitisation of farming processes. The platform empowers data-driven decision-making and provides complete visibility of people, processes and performance on a near real-time basis. It enables farmers to efficiently manage farming practices, while also ensuring they are adhering to compliance and certification requirements. The solution will help farmers to address issues such as pest and crop-health and manage budgets and inputs, helping farmers to maximize their returns.


Ricult is an integrated Artificial Intelligence based digital platform that collects data directly from farmers (through mobile phones) and via remote sensing, satellite imagery, processing mills, middlemen and other cotton supply chain actors. The platform processes and analyses the data and generates actionable insights which are then distributed throughout the agriculture ecosystem through mobile phones and a web-based application. The generated insights are both predictive and diagnostic and will help farmers in improving their yield and crop health, while also enabling cotton mills to gain access to yield forecasts.

Field Trials

The field-level trials provide an opportunity for the five finalists to test their proposed solutions in a real farming environment. To support the finalists, each organisation has been paired with one BCI Implementing Partner who will support them during the eight weeks of the trials.

The trials are now underway in India, Pakistan and Israel, after facing a slight delay due to Covid-19. Travel restrictions and social distancing requirements have also led the finalists to come up with alternative approaches to conduct many of their trial activities remotely, such as data collection and delivery of training sessions. Despite the challenges, the trials are going well and should be complete by the end of September.

Once the field-level trials have been completed, a new jury composed of Implementing Partner representatives, BCI representatives, IDH representatives and the Dalberg team will assess the finalists and select the final winners based on a six-point criteria: impact, technical performance, likelihood of adoption, scalability, financial sustainability and team capability.

The final winners will be announced around the end of October! We look forward to sharing a further update then.

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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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