The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) aims to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity with the following aims:
- Reduce the environmental impact of cotton production
- Improve livelihoods and economic development in cotton producing areas
- Improve commitment to and flow of Better Cotton throughout the supply chain
- Ensure credibility and sustainability of the Better Cotton Initiative
The BCI itself has transformed since I had the pleasure of acting as its first Chairperson five years ago, when a dozen passionate council and staff members came together to design the initial principles and framework for implementation
When we envisioned the evolution and global expansion of the BCI we saw three stages:
- A start-‐up phase with limited members and a goal to build credibility and collect data to make a compelling business case for engaging more farmers, involving more governments, and gaining support from other value chain actors.
- An expansion phase with additional regions and value chain actors. During this stage we would be collecting data (e.g., key performance indicators) and following other business benefits to tell an increasingly convincing story for more farmer participation and industry support.
- A normalization phase that would include further expansion to new regions. Better Cotton would flow into already existing systems without much direct engagement from actors. Farmers’ participation, industry and government support expands with program expansion.
- This past year the BCI worked with 125,000 farmers (approximately 90,000 of whom produced Better Cotton) on 450,000 hectares through a network of farmer learning (training) groups and implementing partners1 to produce approximately 490,000 metric tons of Better Cotton lint in Brazil, India, Mali and Pakistan.
- In addition, 25,000 workers, including over 20,000 women, received training tailored to what was most important to them. For example, while farmers typically were trained on all Better Cotton principles, most women and workers were trained only on decent work and fiber quality principles – the principles that directly correspond to their needs.
- Membership more than doubled to 119 organizations by the end of 2011, with the largest growth in the supplier and manufacturer categories. The cotton consumption of BCI brand and retail members now represents over 5 percent of the world’s total consumption.
You can find a snapshot of the BCI’s key performance metrics for each BCI indicator from 2011 to 2012 in their 2011 Annual Report.
The BCI’s recent accomplishments are impressive for this initial stage of development. With this said, the BCI recognizes that there is much more to do as they enter a new stage of development. Better Cotton is perched on the edge of expanding to become a mainstream commodity. To this end the BCI recently developed a strategy for the years 2013 to 2015 that is aimed at scaling up Better Cotton and working towards financial self-‐sufficiency.
Some changes to the BCI system include their membership options and structure. I have highlighted these below with the hope that some of you will consider exploring supporting the BCI in a way that makes most sense for your organization.
Suppliers and manufacturers will be able to choose between basic and registered membership.
- Basic membership is for entry-‐level companies that want to support BCI in a more hands-‐off way while they learn about what it means to market, buy and sell Better Cotton.
- Registered membership is for those suppliers and manufacturers who are active in the Better Cotton supply chain.
- Brands and retailers can choose between standard membership and pioneer membership.
- Standard members contribute to supply creation by investing in farmer support, communicating about
- Better Cotton and accessing all BCI benefits, such as the traceability system, field data and results.
- Pioneer Members are the driving force behind the success of BCI. They invest significant financial support
both in BCI capacity and for farmer support, work closely with members and their staff to ensure that Better
Cotton is entering their supply chain. They are also members of the Better Cotton Fast track program. Brands are also able to start with a learning membership as they get ready to start supporting and procuring Better Cotton the following year. On a personal note I would like to ask that you urge your favorite retailers to consider joining or otherwise supporting the BCI.