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Amazon, Kontoor Take Steps to Source Better Cotton

Uptake of Better Cotton–cotton produced by licensed Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) farmers–increased 40 percent in 2019 from the previous year to 1.5 million metric tons, while in the second half of 2019, BCI welcomed more than 210 new members across its membership categories.

The volume sourced by BCI’s 150 retailer and brand members in 2019 represents 6 percent of global cotton production. By increasing sourcing commitments year on year and integrating Better Cotton into their sustainable sourcing strategies, these members are driving demand for more sustainable cotton production worldwide, BCI said.

“While physical Better Cotton is not traceable to the end-product, what matters is that the funds channeled through BCI end up contributing to farmer training and expanding the network of cotton farmers who are improving their livelihoods, while protecting and restoring the environment,” Nagy Bensid, director of yarns and fibers at Decathlon, said. “Decathlon has a target to source 100 percent more sustainable cotton by 2020–this is a combination of Better Cotton together with organic and recycled cotton.”

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 2018-19 cotton season, retailer and brand members, public donors and the Sustainable Trade Initiative contributed more than 11 million euros ($12.1 million) to field-level projects, enabling more than 1.3 million cotton farmers in China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Tajikistan and Mozambique to receive support, capacity building and training.

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BCI noted that its supplier and manufacturer members also play a crucial role in increasing uptake, since they bridge the gap between Better Cotton supply and demand. In 2019, suppliers and manufacturers sourced more than 2 million metric tons of Better Cotton, ensuring a sufficient supply to meet retailers’ needs.

A variety of new members joined BCI in the second half of 2019, including 32 retailers and brands from 13 countries, 179 suppliers and manufacturers, and three civil society organizations.

The Indira Priya Darsini Women’s Welfare Association of India which addresses women’s empowerment, sustainable agriculture, child labor, skill development and training; the Sustainability Innovation Advocacy Foundation Pakistan, a group of researchers, scientists and policy scholars committed to sustainable development; and the Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organization, which seeks to improve the socioeconomic conditions of disadvantaged, vulnerable and rural communities were among the new civil group BCI members.

In total, 66 new retailers and brands joined BCI across all of 2019, including 52 that had already started sourcing Better Cotton by the end of the year.

“This reinforces the trend we see, that more sustainable materials are an important part of any sustainability program in the fashion and retail sector,” BCI said.

New retailer and brands members include Amazon Services, Debenhams, Hawes and Curtis, Indicode Jeans, J Barbour and Sons, Kontoor Brands Inc., Mulberry Company (Design) Ltd. and River Island Clothing Co.

New supplier and manufacturer members joined from 26 countries, including Bangladesh, Belgium, Egypt, Malaysia, Moldova, Netherlands, Peru, Thailand and Vietnam. At the end of 2019, BCI had welcomed more than 400 new members across its membership categories, closing the year with a total of 1,842 members.