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Better Cotton Initiative Expands Globally and Vertically

The Better Cotton Initiative continues to grow from farm to shelf, as its mission of making cotton production more sustainable and the lives of small cotton farmers better expands around the world.

According to the 2016 BCI Annual Report, about 1.58 million farmers were licensed to sell Better Cotton in the 2015-2016 crop season compared to 1.22 the previous year. With the addition of Israel, Madagascar and South Africa.

BCI farmers produced Better Cotton in 23 countries, across five continents, which amounts to 12 percent of global cotton production. In 2016, 54 brands and retailers sourced 461 metric tons of Better Cotton compared to 251 metric tons a year earlier. Spinners used 807 metric tons of Better Cotton in 2016.

BCI membership grew to 986 in 2016, representing a 40 percent increase from the previous year. Top international brands, organizations and governmental agencies, including World Wildlife Fund; the Sustainable Trade Initiative; the Australian, German and Dutch governments; Adidas; Asos; Bestseller; C&A; H&M; Ikea; Levi Strauss & Co.; M&S; Nike Inc. and VF Corp. are engaged in efforts to promote Better Cotton.

[Read more about BCI companies: BCI Says These 10 Companies Are Doing the Best at Sourcing Better Cotton]

The BCI Growth and Innovation Fund directly invested 4.2 million euros ($4.88 million) in field-level programs and mobilized an additional 4.7 million euros ($5.47 million) in co-funding from partners—a total portfolio value of 8.9 million euros ($10.12 million)—to provide farmers in China, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Tajikistan and Turkey with essential training.

Alan McClay, chief executive officer of BCI, said, “As BCI continues to scale up and engage with more farmers around the world, the role of data collection, management, and analysis becomes critical. It enables us to identify, isolate, and report on the effects and results of implementing the Better Cotton Standard System.”

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BCI has built a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system, McClay added, collecting millions of results indicator data points each season. BCI has evolved into a data management organization and uses this information to prioritize its interventions and demonstrate farmers’ continuous improvement.

McClay said there is a clear need for global standards such as BCI to reliably measure the impact of implementation, demonstrating the real and measurable change brought about in the field. He noted that BCI is undertaking to upgrade its methodology “in a way that takes into account the diversity in parameters related to cotton production.”

By 2020, the organization said its aim is for BCI farmers to produce 8 million metric tons of Better Cotton annually.