Retailers and brands affiliated with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) sourced more than 1.5m metric tonnes of Better Cotton by the end of 2019, a 40% jump on the previous year.
BCI revealed the data as part of its 2019 Annual Report and said it marked a new record that “sends a clear signal to the market that Better Cotton is becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity”.
Better Cotton uptake now accounts for 6% of global cotton production.
The Better Cotton Standard System is a holistic approach to sustainable cotton production, which covers all three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental and economic, and addresses the many challenges of cotton production.
Its latest report also revealed cotton produced by licensed BCI farmers in line with the initiative’s Better Cotton Principles and Criteria – now accounts for 22% of global cotton production.
In the 2018-19 cotton season, together with expert on-the-ground implementing partners and with support from more than 1,800 members, BCI provided training on more sustainable agricultural practices to 2.3m cotton farmers – 2.1m gained a license to sell Better Cotton. This drove the volume of more sustainably produced cotton available on the global market to a new level, BCI said.
Meanwhile, Better Cotton was grown in 23 countries in the period, with licensed BCI farmers producing 5.6m metric tonnes of Better Cotton in 2019. That is enough cotton to make approximately 8bn pairs of jeans, a pair each for every person in the world, according to the organisation.
BCI now has two more cotton seasons to meet the targets it set for the end of 2020:
- We aim for Better Cotton and its equivalents to represent 30% of global production
- We aim to support 5m cotton farmers to improve their livelihoods by adopting sustainable agricultural practices
- We aim for 10% of global cotton production to be sourced as Better Cotton
- We aim for nine countries to take responsibility for funding and implementing the Better Cotton Standard
- We aim for all core operation costs to be covered with earned income: 100% of donor funds go to projects at farm-level or to innovation.
Commenting on whether it would meet its targets, BCI said the Covid-19 pandemic and suspension of licensing in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) could throw them off track but predicted it would “come close”.
BCI CEO, Alan McClay, said: “It is particularly pleasing to share the progress BCI is making, thanks to the concerted efforts of our members, partners and other stakeholders, towards our 2020 targets. With two more cotton seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21) within which to make further advances at field level, we are committed to not only continuing to deliver beneficial change at field level, but also to learning from the experience and adapting to become more effective.
“We do not yet know how close we will come to our 2020 targets, and we are still assessing how the current Covid-19 pandemic will impact our efforts. But one thing is certain, we have made significant and undeniable progress over the past ten years, and there are many successes to celebrate.”
Earlier this month, BCI, together with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), launched its first programme in Egpyt, paving the way for some 2,000 smallholder cotton farmers to receive training and support on how to grow Egyptian Cotton more sustainably.