What is the Better Cotton Initiative?
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world with the aim to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. It has set an ambitious target to reach and train five million farmers on more sustainable practices and to have Better Cotton account for 30% of global cotton production by 2020.
BCI has developed a holistic approach to sustainable cotton production through the Better Cotton Standard System, which covers all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. The Better Cotton Standard System is designed to ensure the exchange of good practices, and to encourage the scaling up of collective action to establish Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.
As part of the Better Cotton Standard System, BCI farmers adhere to seven Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. These include minimizing the harmful impact of crop protection practices, enhancing biodiversity, promoting water stewardship and decent work, and caring for the health of the soil. The Principles also emphasize on moving beyond basic compliance towards capacity-building and continuous improvement.
The Better Cotton Assurance Programme involves farmers participating in a continuous cycle of learning and improvement. It is the primary mechanism for assessing whether farmers can grow and sell Better Cotton. Within the programme, farms are differentiated into smallholders, medium farms and large farms. To be licensed to grow Better Cotton, farmers must first reach a set of Core Indicators that ensure that the cotton grown meets the standards for pesticide use, water management, decent work, record keeping, training and other factors. At the same time, farmers are encouraged to develop further through Improvement Indicators. Improvements are measured through a questionnaire and receive a score based on their answers. The high scoring farmers are rewarded through extended Better Cotton licence periods.