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Better Cotton Initiative Says it’s on Track to Transform the Market

2015 was a big year for the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).

According to its latest annual report, the nonprofit reached 1.6 million farmers in 21 countries on five continents last year—23 percent more than in 2014—and 1.5 million licensed growers produced 2.6 million metric tons of Better Cotton lint, up 34 percent from the prior year.

In fact, BCI said Better Cotton comprised 11.9% of global cotton production in 2015 and the area of land under cultivation increased from 2.6 million hectares to 3.4 million hectares.

On top of that, membership and retailer procurement grew by 50 percent and 115 percent respectively, and the nonprofit enhanced its Better Cotton Tracer system to enable end-to-end traceability from field to store.

“Overall, we are achieving scale in an exceptionally short time and building the momentum we need to transform the market,” said Alan McClay, chief executive officer, calling 2015 a watershed year. “We are proud that our members are acting on the key sustainability issues we see today in cotton farming, including pesticide and fertilizer use, water management and efficiency, gender issues and labor conditions.”

Another highlight from last year: BCI and its partners invested almost 12 million euros ($13.4 million) through the Better Cotton Fast Track Program (BCFTP), supporting 70 farm projects across eight countries. The nonprofit said its priority remains to invest as much as possible in field-level efforts, including training and capacity building.

In addition, BCI joined the “Demonstrating and Improving Poverty Impacts” project helmed by ISEAL (the International Social and Environmental Accreditation Labeling), which seeks to determine how three agricultural sustainability standards, including the Better Cotton Standard System (BCSS), affect farmers’ lives in the long term. Through rigorous impact evaluations, ISEAL will explore every aspect of BCSS, from pre-licensing to post-licensing. The process is expected to be completed this year.

BCI’s retailer and brand members include German athletic giant Adidas, Swedish fast-fashion seller H&M and true-blue American brand Levi Strauss & Co., to name just three, who the organization said are driving demand for Better Cotton and providing funds for farmer support.

Paola Geremicca, director of communications and fundraising, said, “We thank our partners, funders, members and BCI staff for having played such a crucial role in achieving our goals this year and positioning us to make Better Cotton a responsible mainstream commodity by 2020.”