Better Cotton, the world’s largest cotton sustainability initiative, has updated its Principles & Criteria (P&C) to enhance sustainability impact and drive continuous improvement at a field level.

The revised P&C covers key areas of cotton production, including Management, Natural Resources, Crop Protection, Fibre Quality, Decent Work, and Smallholder Livelihoods, as well as the two cross-cutting priorities of Gender Equality and Climate Change.

According to Better Cotton CEO, Alan McClay, the updated P&C will help cotton-growing communities continue to deliver improvements at a field level. McClay added: “With a practice-oriented focus, our standard strengthens requirements across both environmental and social topics, and even goes further to encompass farmer livelihoods for the first time. We’re grateful to the many stakeholders that supported this latest revision, it’s with their support that we can ensure the P&C is effective across our industry.”

The updated P&C is more locally relevant and farmer-centric, addressing the most pertinent environmental, social, and economic matters of cotton production. The revised standard champions regenerative agricultural practices, more sustainable crop protection methods, and effective water use to accelerate environmental improvements.

From a social standpoint, the revised standard places a stronger onus on driving impact and promoting well-being in farming communities, supported by more robust requirements surrounding Decent Work and Gender Equality. A new subsection on climate change will offer guidance for farmers on how to best adapt to field-level challenges and highlight the best available, region-specific measures.

The revision process involved extensive consultations to ensure it best reflects the organisation’s latest focus areas, including its 2030 Strategy, and aligns with global trends towards more sustainable agricultural value chains and market regulations. Refined in compliance with the codes of good practice from ISEAL, a leading authority on sustainability standards, Version 3.0 (v.3.0) will become effective for licensing starting in the 2024/25 season.

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“I experienced the review process of the Decent Work & Gender working group as a highly participatory and constructive process with ample space to include insights and experiences from different kinds of stakeholders,” said Joky Francois, lead on gender at the Rainforest Alliance.

“This has led to revised principles that are not only clear, related to the context and practical but also in line with international standards and principles. As such, they will be a great support to cotton growers to identify and address labour and gender issues and improve working conditions and livelihood of the people involved in cotton production in a sustainable way.”

On Tuesday, Better Cotton, in collaboration with companies including C&A, Marks & Spencer, Target, and Walmart, announced it is currently testing traceability solutions from Retraced, TextileGenesis, Haelixa and Tailorlux to determine the best way to boost transparency across India’s cotton supply chains.