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We are working hard to transform the global cotton sector by making Better Cotton a sustainable, mainstream commodity. Direct investment in farmers and field-level projects is essential to achieving this goal. The Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund (Better Cotton GIF or the Fund) is our main vehicle for making these investments.

The Better Cotton GIF is governed by the BCI Council in partnership with Better Cotton Retailer and Brand Members, Better Cotton Civil Society Members and donors. IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, is the official Fund Manager along with being an important funder.

Channelling funds directly into farming communities

The Better Cotton GIF identifies and makes strategic investments in Better Cotton field-level programmes and innovations. It is one part of our two-prong Capacity Building Programme. Next to the Better Cotton Standard System, field-level investments made through the Better Cotton GIF play an important role in enabling us to reach more farmers and train them on sustainable farming practices.

Who manages the Fund?

The Better Cotton GIF is governed by the BCI Council in partnership with Better Cotton Retailer and Brand Members, Better Cotton Civil Society Members and donors. IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, is the official Fund Manager along with being an important funder.

Within the Fund, representatives from IDH and Better Cotton form the Better Cotton GIF Secretariat. They are responsible for proposing and implementing the Fund’s strategy, managing and processing applications, promoting knowledge sharing and reporting on Fund activities.

Two multi-stakeholder committees support and approve the Fund’s investment programme. Better Cotton Members who meet certain criteria are invited to join these committees and participate in the development of the Fund’s investment strategy.

Buyer and Investor Committee

Comprised of Retailer and Brand Members and funders, this committee reviews and endorses the Better Cotton GIF annual operating plan and annual budget, while also proposing new strategic initiatives.

They also help to connect supply and demand of Better Cotton by providing sector insight and support, and monitoring evolving demand patterns across different geographies.

Field Innovation and Impact Committee

Comprised of Retailer and Brand Members, funders and civil society organisations, this committee oversees the annual Better Cotton GIF application process and approves Fund investment allocation for capacity building projects and programmes delivered by Implementing Partners, as well as for innovation and learning projects.

Who invests in the Fund?

Contributions to the Fund come from three main sources:

  • Better Cotton Retailer and Brand Members: Better Cotton Retailer and Brand Members contribute to the Fund through a fee based on the volume of Better Cotton they source. This fee enables brands to directly and efficiently support field-level programmes.
  • Institutional Donors and Government Agencies: To ensure the Fund can effectively make an impact in Better Cotton communities around the world, we rely on global institutional donors and government agencies, in an effort to match the fees contributed by Better Cotton Retailer and Brand Members.
  • Implementing Partners: Better Cotton Implementing Partners are encouraged to directly invest in the projects they run through the Fund.
What is the reach of the Fund?

In the 2020-21 cotton season, the Fund is working with 1.8 million* cotton farmers in India, Pakistan, China, Mozambique and Turkey. The farmers have received training and support from the Fund through Implementing Partners. The Better Cotton GIF has directly invested €8.4 million of volume-based fee from Better Cotton Retailer and Brand Members and donors (DFAT, Laudes Foundation and IDH), and mobilised an additional €2.9 million in co-funding from Implementing Partners to create a total portfolio value of €11.3 million .

Final 2019-20 season data was published by Better Cotton in Better Cotton’s 2020 Annual Report (link below). Complete 2020-21 season data will be published by Better Cotton in June 2022.

What kind of projects does the Better Cotton GIF fund?

The Better Cotton GIF invests in projects carried out by endorsed Better Cotton Implementing Partners. These projects focus on capacity building that helps farmers to adopt more sustainable farming practices consistent with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. Better Cotton GIF funded projects aim to bring tangible benefits – social, economic and environmental – to farmers, workers and farming communities.

The Better Cotton GIF funds two types of projects:

  • Projects delivered by Better Cotton Implementation Partners operating in the Better Cotton GIF focus countries.
  • Innovation and learning projects addressing thematic needs that have the potential for replication across partners or countries.
How is funding allocated?

Better Cotton Implementing Partners operating in Better Cotton GIF programme countries, with a proven ability to carry out Better Cotton projects in line with the annual Better Cotton GIF strategy, are invited to submit project proposals to the Fund annually.

Following a rigorous review process, funding is allocated to projects that align with global and country-level priorities and meet eligibility criteria. In January, shortlisted proposals are presented to the Field Innovation and Impact Committee (FIIC) and members vote on each proposal.

Focus Countries

For the 2021-22 cotton season, the Fund’s strategic focus countries are India, Pakistan, Turkey, Mozambique and Mali.

How do I submit a proposal to the Fund?

Better Cotton Implementing Partners interested in seeking funding for a Better Cotton GIF focus country are encouraged to submit a request for interest at any time of the year. To begin this process, please contact us using our contact form and add the subject line “Better Cotton GIF Funding Opportunities”.

If you are a Better Cotton Implementing Partner working in a country that is not a focus area for the Fund, please reach out to your primary Better Cotton contact for more information.

As we continue to scale Better Cotton, investments from institutional partners will be key to our success

In our environment, every penny counts, so the funding we receive from the Better Cotton GIF makes a difference

Projects Funded by the Better Cotton GIF

During the 2020-21 cotton season, the Better Cotton GIF funded 44 projects managed by 29 Better Cotton Implementing Partners and/or their local partners. Below is a selection of innovation and learning projects funded by the Better Cotton GIF during the 2020-21 season.

Field Facilitator Capacity Building Tool — India

In 2019, the Better Cotton GIF piloted an online skill-development learning platform for Field Facilitators (FFs) in Maharashtra and Gujarat, India to help ensure a consistent skill set across Better Cotton Implementing Partners (IPs) in the region. Six IPs and 634 FFs participated in the pilot.

Impact: The final version of the learning platform — launched in September 2020 — was developed and hosted by ABARA Learning Management System. FFs can use the platform to personalise and self-direct their learning on topics such as soil health, record keeping, safe usage of pesticides, pest management and the cotton growth cycle. It is available for 2,100 FFs in six local languages (English, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu and Punjabi). In the 2021-22 cotton season, the Better Cotton GIF will fund the launch of the platform in Pakistan with training materials for FFs available in Urdu and adapted to the local context.


Studying Cover Cropping and Tillage Practices with the University of Arkansas — USA

In 2019, the Better Cotton GIF partnered with the University of Arkansas to fund research evaluating the long-term effects of cotton production with cover cropping and little tillage versus no cover cropping and conventional tillage practices. Results from the first year of the study show that cotton fields using cover crops have better water infiltration and soil health compared to conventional fields.

Impact: The demonstration fields established during the study will continue to provide educational opportunities for agricultural extension workers, researchers, farmers and stakeholders across the supply chain who want to better understand these practices. In turn, this will help Better Cotton increase the adoption of more sustainable practices throughout the country.


Researching Multifunctional Vegetation Buffers — Israel

In April 2020, the Fund partnered with the Israel Cotton Production and Marketing Board (ICB) to research the efficacy of multifunctional vegetation buffers (MFVBs) in mitigating the effects of agricultural runoff (such as sediments, nutrients and agrochemicals) and improving the ecosystem on and around cotton farms.

Impact: In 2020, ICB set up demonstration plots with MFVBs which they are currently monitoring. In 2021, they will conduct farmer surveys to evaluate the willingness of farmers to adopt this conservation practice. Based on their findings, they will develop customised tools and an online platform for farmers to learn more about agroecological systems, ecosystem services and environmental conservation practices with MFVBs.

Get Involved, Make an Impact

To ensure we are delivering the most possible impact through the Fund and bringing the Better Cotton mission to scale, we count on support from our partners. By contributing to the Fund, you are actively aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Agenda and directing funds to where they matter most — farming communities. Join us in transforming the cotton industry as we know it and creating a more sustainable future for millions of cotton farmers, businesses and consumers around the world.

To learn more about how your organisation can get involved, get in touch via our contact form.

I think the biggest driver behind the Fund’s effectiveness is the involvement of big brands to motivate suppliers to source Better Cotton

Read the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund Annual Report

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Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund Annual Report 2020-21

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