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Better Cotton 2030 Targets Look to ‘Galvanize Change’

Better Cotton has set new targets to bolster farmer incomes, improve soil health, empower women and reduce the use of pesticides by 2030.

The commitments, designed to “galvanize change” at the field level, will sit alongside an earlier pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent per metric ton of Better Cotton lint produced by the end of the decade, the world’s largest sustainable cotton program revealed Monday. They also dovetail with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and build on the agreements reached at COP27 to achieve action-based climate mitigation outcomes for cotton farming communities.

“Driving impact at the field level is imperative for Better Cotton’s ambitions in what is a defining decade for our planet,” said Alan McClay, CEO of Better Cotton. “Our new impact targets will allow us to continue taking measurable steps to support more sustainable cotton production. Pushing further towards regenerative and climate-smart agriculture, we can ensure cotton farmers and farm workers are equipped to address their environmental impact, futureproof their operations and adapt to the often unpredictable effects of global warming.”

More than 22 million metric tons of cotton are produced annually across diverse landscapes, making the fiber one of the world’s tentpole renewable resources. As a result, it provides opportunities to address poverty, tackle sustainability and promote equality.

By 2030, Better Cotton aims to sustainably increase the net income and resilience of 1 million cotton farmers and workers. It plans to see, across all program participants, improvements in soil health, along with a reduction of the use of synthetic pesticides by at least half. The initiative also intends to provide 1 million female cotton workers with resources that promote equitable farm relationships, climate resilience or improved livelihoods while ensuring that one-quarter of field staff with the power to make decisions are women.

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The announcement comes on the heels of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent synthesis report, which warned that each increment of temperature rise will trigger more extreme climate and weather events, including blistering heatwaves and heavier flooding, increasing the likelihood of crop failure, species extinction and harm to humanity.

“Better Cotton continues to train an ever-growing global community on more sustainable farming practices,” McClay said. “The impact targets will improve conditions across more than just cotton production, reaching beyond farming communities to benefit their landscapes, supply chains and ultimately consumers.”

A 2021 study commissioned by sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future predicted that under a “worst-case scenario,” all cotton-growing regions will be exposed to increased danger from at least one climate hazard and as many as seven over the next two decades, including heat stress, flooding, extreme wind, increased risk of wildfires and higher incidence of landslides. The worst-affected regions, it said, will likely be northwestern Africa, including northern Sudan and Egypt, and western and southern Asia.