By  on August 11, 2014

LAHORE, Pakistan — Better Cotton is on target toward becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity, with strong growth in demand from global brands and retailers, and supply of licensed Better Cotton from cotton-growing countries.

“Collaboration is key in achieving our goal of developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity, benefitting 20 million people in primary cotton production by 2020,” said Lena Staafgard, business director for the Better Cotton Initiative, based in Geneva. “There is no one player that can transform an entire sector. The only way we will achieve our vision is to work toward it together.”

BCI, a multistakeholder initiative, has members from all steps of the cotton supply chain and aims to reduce any negative environmental, social and economic impact of conventional cotton cultivation through better management practices at the farm level. Farmers are trained to decrease water, pesticide and fertilizer usage, provide a decent working standard, particularly for women, and eschew child and bonded labor.

Brands and retailers that are members of the initiative include Ikea, Nike, Adidas, Levi Strauss & Co., H&M, Marks & Spencer, VF Corp., Tommy Hilfiger, A|X stores, Wal-Mart, Inditex, Eroglu, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, representing more than 10 percent of global cotton consumption.

Ikea and Nike were voted to the BCI Council at the General Assembly in June in Amsterdam. Nike president and chief executive officer Mark Parker said the company will help BCI with marketing and communication strategies, driving growth for BCI and Nike, and bring about meaningful change.

In the last year, Cotton Australia, Brazilian ABRAPA and Cotton Made in Africa signed long-term partnership agreements with BCI, increasing Better Cotton supply. In 2014, the U.S., Mozambique, Turkey and Tajikistan will reap their first Better Cotton harvests, China its third, and India and Pakistan their fourth harvests. Total acknowledged transactions of licensed BC lint were more than 126 million kilograms from Jan. 1, 2013 to May 23, 2014. The highest transactions of 46 million kilograms were made in Pakistan.

In 2014, according to BCI projections, 900,000 farmers holding 1.3 million hectares in 17 countries will cultivate Better Cotton, representing 7 percent of world cotton production. BCI targets training 5 million farmers producing 30 percent of global cotton by 2020.

Presently, products are not labeled Better Cotton because establishing a system of full physical traceability throughout the supply chain is costly. In 2016, however, labeling may start. In addition, contaminated Better Cotton may be substituted with conventionally grown but cleaner cotton by spinners through the Mass Balance Administrative system by using claim units to overcome any shortfall, also known as forward selling, to be made up in four months. At present, BCI claims framework stipulates how brands and retailers communicate to consumers their support of BC.

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