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Better Cotton Principles and Criteria v2.1

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Achieving our vision of a world where Better Cotton is the norm and cotton farmers and their communities thrive takes a holistic approach and a rigorous standard to match.

A critical component of the Better Cotton Standard System is the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, which lay out the global definition of Better Cotton through seven guiding principles.

By following these principles, Better Cotton Farmers produce cotton in a way that is better for themselves, their communities and the environment.

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Revision of the Better Cotton Principles & Criteria

In October 2021, we launched the revision of the Better Cotton Principles & Criteria. The aim of the revision is to strengthen the Principles & Criteria to ensure they continue to meet best practice, are effective and locally relevant, and align with Better Cotton’s 2030 strategy.

The Seven Better Cotton Principles

Better Cotton Farmers minimise the harmful impact of crop protection practices

We support farmers in developing a better understanding of Integrated Pest Management. This approach promotes alternative pest control techniques in order to reduce reliance on conventional pesticides. Better Cotton also helps farmers phase out the use of Highly Hazardous Pesticides, which pose great risks to both the environment and the health of farmers and workers.

Better Cotton Farmers promote water stewardship

We support farmers to use water in a way that is environmentally sustainable, economically beneficial and socially equitable. This water stewardship approach can improve crop yields, strengthen resilience to climate change, minimise negative impacts on water quality and enable fair water access for all users in a catchment area. Learn more about water stewardship.

Better Cotton Farmers care for the health of the soil

We support farmers to better understand and protect the soil. Healthy soil leads to bigger and higher quality yields, reduces the need for expensive fertiliser, pesticide and labour costs, and can more easily withstand unpredictable weather changes caused by climate change. Healthy soil also helps to mitigate climate change, as it is better able to sequester carbon and serve as a carbon sink. Learn more about soil health.

Better Cotton Farmers enhance biodiversity and use land responsibly

We support farmers in conserving and enhancing biodiversity on their land and in adopting practices that minimise the negative impact on habitats in and around their farm. Learn more about biodiversity.

Better Cotton Farmers care for and preserve fibre quality

We support farmers in adopting best practices during the harvest, storage and transport of their seed cotton. This reduces man-made contamination and waste content present in the fibres, which enhances the value of the cotton and leads to a better price for farmers.

Better Cotton Farmers promote decent work

We support farmers in ensuring that all workers enjoy decent working conditions — work that offers fair pay and equal opportunities for learning and progression in an environment where people feel safe, respected and able to express their concerns and negotiate better conditions. Learn more about decent work.

Better Cotton Farmers operate an effective management system

We support farmers in operating a management system that incorporates the policies and procedures needed to ensure they meet the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. An effective management system sets farmers up for success by enabling continuous learning and improvement of farming practices.

By following these principles, Better Cotton Farmers produce cotton in a way that is better for themselves, their communities and the environment.

Better Cotton Principles and Criteria Resources

Key Principles and Criteria Documents
  • Overview of Better Cotton Principles 52.31 KB

  • Terms of Reference for the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria 182.30 KB

  • Overview of Better Cotton Principles – Extended 109.83 KB

Additional Principles and Criteria documents
  • Better Cotton HCV Procedure: Smallholders 176.02 KB

  • Better Cotton HCV Procedure: Medium and Large Farms 191.81 KB

  • Better Cotton Normative Requirements – Smallholders 321.57 KB

  • Better Cotton Normative Requirements – Medium Farms 339.36 KB

  • Better Cotton Normative Requirements – Large Farms 341.29 KB

  • Better Cotton National Interpretation Procedure 264.63 KB

Revision of the Principles & Criteria
  • Better Cotton Principles & Criteria: Revision Process 159.86 KB

  • Better Cotton Principles & Criteria: 2015-17 Revision – Q&A 216.27 KB

  • Better Cotton Principles & Criteria: 2015-17 Revision – Synopsis 341.88 KB

  • Better Cotton Principles & Criteria: 2015-17 Revision – Public Report 240.91 KB

  • Better Cotton Principles & Criteria: 2015-17 Revision – Overview 161.78 KB

  • Standard Setting and Revision Procedure 452.65 KB

Archived and Reference Documents
  • Better Cotton Standard Draft 2 3.53 MB

  • Standard Setting and Revision Committee second meeting decision on Draft 1: Synopsis 461.21 KB

  • Stakeholder Consultation Report 1.07 MB

  • Better Cotton Standard Draft 1 1.98 MB

  • Guidelines for Consultation 417.67 KB

History, Credibility and Upcoming Revision

The Better Cotton Principles and Criteria were first developed in 2010 with input from Regional Working Groups in Brazil, India, Pakistan and West and Central Africa, Advisory Committee members, Better Cotton Partners (including experts and critical friends) and public consultation.

Better Cotton is ISEAL Code Compliant. Our system, including the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, has been independently evaluated against ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice. For more information, see isealalliance.org.

The Better Cotton Principles and Criteria were also developed under the guidance of ISO/IEC Guide 59 Code of Good Practice for Standardization. The Principles and Criteria were last revised in February 2015, in accordance with the Better Cotton Standard Setting and Revision Procedure.

The next revision of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria launched in October 2021 and will run until 2023. You can find out more here.

Questions about the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria? Send us a message through our contact form.