An effective assurance system is an essential part of any sustainability programme. Assurance refers to the measures put in place to ensure that something meets a certain performance level. Think of it as a quality check — there to make sure everything is running up to standard.

The Better Cotton Assurance Programme ensures that farms and farmer groups meet all the core requirements of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria before they can be licensed to sell Better Cotton. The Assurance Manual is the core document that defines processes, roles, and requirements related to the Assurance Programme.

The Better Cotton Assurance Model

Our assurance model provides a roadmap for Better Cotton Farmers and farmer groups to progress from baseline performance to meeting the core indicators of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, and eventually, to achieving long-term improvement goals. The model has four overarching objectives.

Verify that cotton Producers (Better Cotton Farmers) have met the core indicators of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria before they are licensed to sell their cotton as Better Cotton.

Provide a framework for continuous improvement to ensure that Producers— once licensed — continue to identify priority areas for more sustainable practices, and make progress on these targets over time.

Create channels for ongoing learning by sharing information back to Producers and/or Implementing Partners that can help them identify improvement opportunities or compliance gaps.

Flora on the mountains of northern Tajikistan

Measure the sustainability performance of Producers and overall Better Cotton programme impacts through regular collection of field-level (Results Indicator) data.

What Makes Our Approach Unique

Our assurance model is unique from many other standard systems in two key ways:

We aim to balance credibility with scalability and cost-effectiveness. Many certification programmes rely only on third-party assessors to issue licenses or certificates. This can have a high cost for producers and can make it challenging to create effective feedback loops on improvement areas. Better Cotton ’s approach combines assessments by approved third-party verifiers along with assessments by trained Better Cotton staff members, support visits by Implementing Partners, and regular self-assessments by producers themselves. This multi-level structure helps keep Better Cotton cost-neutral for small and medium-sized cotton farms. It also means that knowledge from assessments can be more easily fed back and used to inform our capacity building priorities and system improvements.

We recognise that sustainability is a journey of continuous improvement. That’s why Producers are required to make ongoing sustainability improvements in order to maintain their Better Cotton licence, and assessments focus not only on compliance but also on identifying areas where further support or capacity building is needed.

Credibility

Better Cotton is ISEAL Code Compliant. That means our system, including our Assurance Programme, has been independently evaluated against ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice.

For more information, see isealalliance.org.

Better Cotton Assurance Manual

The Assurance Manual sets out the main requirements of the assurance model for key stakeholders. It is intended to be a reference manual for Implementing Partners, Producers, Better Cotton staff and third-party verifiers to ensure consistent implementation of assurance requirements across all Better Cotton projects.

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Better Cotton Assurance Manual v4.1

The Assurance Manual sets out the main requirements of the assurance model for key stakeholders.
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Assurance and assessment documents and resources

Reporting templates, assessment checklists, guidance materials and more can be found below.

Assessment Documents and Resources

The Better Cotton Assurance Programme has been revised to improve overall credibility and to enable Implementing Partners to focus more effort on continuous improvement and capacity building. The revised Assurance Model is now applicable to all Producers from the season 2020-21. An overview of these changes can be found in the document ‘Better Cotton Summary of Assurance Revisions 2020’ below.

  • Better Cotton Summary of Assurance Revisions 140.54 KB

    This document summarises the primary changes in the Better Cotton assurance model, which will become effective for the 2020/21 season.

  • Assessment Guidance 2020 V1.2 408.48 KB

    Applicable to all farm sizes

  • External Assessment Summary: Season 2019-20 203.08 KB

  • Assurance Model System Review 143.42 KB

Competencies and Approval Procedures
  • Better Cotton Approved Verifier List 96.64 KB

  • Approval Procedures for Verifiers 81.52 KB

  • Third Party Verifier Qualifications and Competencies 129.22 KB

Guidance for Smallholders
  • Better Cotton Assessment Report Template 2021 (for smallholders) 118.93 KB

  • Better Cotton Assessment Field Checklist (for smallholders) 113.63 KB

  • Better Cotton Readiness Check for Producer Units (for Smallholders) 211.60 KB

  • Better Cotton Internal Assessment Field Book (for smallholders) 100.42 KB

  • PU Progress Matrix 55.05 KB

  • Better Cotton Producer Unit Support Visit (for Smallholders) 135.90 KB

Guidance for Medium Farms
  • Better Cotton Assessment Report Template (for medium farms) 113.44 KB

  • Better Cotton Assessment Field Checklist (for medium farms) 116.30 KB

  • Better Cotton Internal Assessment Field Book (for medium farms) 101.31 KB

  • PU Progress Matrix 55.05 KB

  • Better Cotton Readiness Check for Producer Units (for medium farms) 222.03 KB

  • Better Cotton Producer Unit Support Visit (for medium farms) 136.88 KB

Guidance for Large Farms
  • Better Cotton Assessment Report Template (for large farms) 116.93 KB

  • Better Cotton Assessment Field Checklist (for large farms) 109.46 KB

Variations and Extension

The Better Cotton Assurance Manual outlines, in Section 18, the specific cases and their deadlines where variations or extension requests can be submitted; such as variations request for licensing or extension of time to submit the Self-Assessment.

All requests for variations or extensions are to be submitted using this form by the Producer Unit or Large Farm Manager with clear rationale and supporting evidence where required. All variation and extension requests are decided on by the Better Cotton Assurance Manager(s) and decisions will be communicated back to you within 5 working days of receiving the request.

The derogations process is to only be used in exceptional circumstances as outlined within the policy.

  • Better Cotton Derogation Policy 129.88 KB

  • Better Cotton Derogation Request Form 65.12 KB

  • Better Cotton Active Derogation List 15.22 KB

Appeals Process and Documents

Better Cotton Appeals Procedure

Producer Units or Large Farms may appeal against a licensing decision by submitting a written application (along with objective evidence) within 10 working days of being informed of a license cancellation or denial.

The Appellant (i.e. Producer Unit Manager or Large Farm) must submit a completed Appeals Submission form found through the link below. All appeal submissions must:

  1. Include a clear rationale for each separate non-conformity being appealed.
  2. Include detailed supporting evidence for each non-conformity being appealed.

Appeal submissions are reviewed and decided by a selected set of members from Better Cotton’s Appeals Committee. Better Cotton aims to communicate final decisions to the Appellant within 35 calendar days of receiving an (eligible) appeals submission.

  • Appeals Committee Members 2021 76.31 KB

  • Better Cotton Appeals Committee TOR 156.37 KB

  • Better Cotton Appeals Submission Form for Producer Units 1.83 MB

  • Better Cotton Appeals Submission Form for Large Farms 592.39 KB

  • Better Cotton Appeals Procedure 92.32 KB

Better Cotton Assurance Programme Planning for Covid-19

This document outlines the Assurance Programme force majeure response to the Covid-19
pandemic. As the situation continues to evolve, we will re-evaluate conditions in our
countries of operation and review this document as necessary in line with the guiding
principles; individually set out within the document.

  • Better Cotton Assurance Programme Planning for COVID-19 174.78 KB

    This document sets out the Better Cotton Assurance Programme’s force majeure response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more

For any enquiries, please use our contact form.

For information about the assurance model changes, please refer to our FAQs.

Find relevant Assurance Programme documents using the resources section.