The Australian government’s Business Partnerships Platform has given a major grant to the Better Cotton Initiative, which has been matched by several BCI members to train about 200,000 cotton farmers in Pakistan in sustainable and human rights methods and standards next year.
The Australian BPP investment is for 500,000 (Australian dollars, or about $378,000. Investing brands include BCI retail and brand members Adidas, Ikea, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Marks & Spencer and Nike Inc. The training will address the most pressing sustainability issues in cotton farming, such as pesticide and water use, and social challenges like child labor, forced labor, gender issues and fair pay.
The contributions are significant in aiding BCI to reach its 2020 target of 5 million farmers producing Better Cotton globally, with 600,000 of these farmers in Pakistan. The Geneva-based BCI reached 1.6 million farmers worldwide last year, a 23 percent increase from 2014. Licensed BCI farmers produced 2.6 million metric tons of Better Coton, up 34 percent from the previous year and representing 11.9 percent of global cotton production. Better Cotton was grown and processed in 21 countries on five continents last year.
BCI said the project is an example of a global public-private sector initiative and is the first time that a government outside of Europe has contributed to BCI.
“BCI works to catalyze positive change throughout the cotton sector and to promote healthy production for future generations,” said Alan McClay, chief executive officer of BCI. “A shared value approach by public and private partners, bringing together business, civil society and governmental bodies, is what underpins successful, durable and positive change in the sector.”
Using BCI methodologies, farmers achieve higher yields and more financial security through access to global markets, while improving the working conditions in their fields. Early results in Pakistan reveal that farmers who have applied BCI’s methodology earned 46 percent more profit than similar farmer groups not using the BCI practice.
BCI said Cotton Australia initiated the project proposal and will share its best practices, skills and experience with farmers in Pakistan. Cotton Australia represents the Australian cotton growing industry to provide a united voice for cotton growers across research, stewardship, natural resource management and cotton production issues.