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Coffee With a Dash of Cotton: Two Industries Unite on Sustainable Farming

Sustainable farming just got a jolt of good news.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a collaborating with the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) and the International Coffee Association (ICO) to form the Delta Project.

The project aims to align the measurement and reporting on sustainability performance at the farm level across sustainability standards and commodities.

Myriad sustainability standards and public-sector initiatives promote and drive sustainability within commodity sectors, the groups noted. But there isn’t proper alignment on how data is collected and reported, which makes it difficult to have a clear view on the collective ability of these programs to progress toward the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a global scale.

In addition, as sustainability standards and initiatives focus on reliable data and credible reporting, more information is being required from producers on their environmental, social and economic performance. This leads to data collection becoming more time consuming and costly, while not necessarily adding value for producers.

“The Delta Project will ultimately lead to the creation of the Delta Framework, which aims to build a common approach and language for sustainability reporting that is linked to SDG targets,” Eliane Augareils, monitoring and evaluation manager at BCI, said.

The framework will feature a common set of environmental, social and economic indicators to measure sustainability across the cotton and coffee commodity sectors, though the number of indicators will be limited to ensure that the framework remains manageable for companies and governments, the groups said. The project will also provide examples of good and bad practices, tools and information to facilitate the framework’s adoption, and recommendations on how companies can communicate sustainability information to their customers.

“Coffee and cotton farmers will also be able to use the information produced for the framework to track their own progress, compare their performance to their peers and access more resources and data to develop better insights,” Andreas Terhaer, manager of IT and processes at GCP, said.

It is funded by the ISEAL Innovation Fund, which is supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

“While the Delta Project currently focuses on two commodities, cotton and coffee, it is being designed to allow for further expansion,” Norma Tregurtha, policy and outreach director at ISEAL, said.