• The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) experienced a "historic" level of uptake in the year, with members sourcing enough cotton to make about 1.5bn pairs of jeans.
Better Cotton uptake increased 45% on 2017

Better Cotton uptake increased 45% on 2017

In 2018, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) experienced a historic level of uptake as 93 retailer and brand members sourced more than 1m metric tonnes of the fibre, an achievement the organisation says sends a "clear signal" to the market. 

The global not-for-profit organisation is the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world with more than 1,400 members and working with 60 field-level partners, to reach and train 1.6m cotton farmers in 23 countries.

Better Cotton uptake increased 45% on the previous year, and at the end of 2018, retailer and brand member sourcing of Better Cotton accounted for 4% of global cotton consumption.

"By integrating Better Cotton into their sustainable sourcing strategies and increasing sourcing commitments year-on-year, BCI's retailer and brand members are driving demand for more sustainable cotton production worldwide," the organisation says.

Now, to continue to accelerate the mainstreaming of Better Cotton and hit BCI's 2020 targets – to reach and train 5m cotton farmers and have Better Cotton account for 30% of global cotton production – BCI says it needs the next wave of sustainability leaders to come on board and close the gap between supply and demand.

In the 2017-18 cotton season, Better Cotton is forecast to account for 19% of global cotton production.

BCI's demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of Better Cotton directly translates into increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices. For example, in the 2017-18 cotton season, BCI retailer and brand members, public donors and IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative) contributed more than EUR6.4m (US$7.2m), enabling more than 1m farmers across China, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Senegal, to receive support and training.

"As well as increased investment in farmer training and capacity building, uptake of Better Cotton sends a clear signal to the market and has an impact throughout the supply chain," BCI adds.

Yet while cotton traders are seeing increased demand for more sustainably produced cotton, there is much more work to be done.

"Better Cotton has become an integral part of the international cotton trade," says Marco Baenninger, Head Trader Hand Picked Cotton at Paul Reinhart AG, which operates as an organic raw cotton trading company worldwide. "It's very pleasing to see that uptake from retailers has increased strongly over the last few years. However, there is still a lot to do. Some organisations are still skeptical, but in the long-term they risk losing market share if they overlook more sustainable options. That says a lot about the success of BCI and other sustainable cotton initiatives and standards in promoting sustainably produced cotton."