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BCI Members Sourced Record 1.5 Million Metric Tons of Better Cotton Last Year

Better Cotton–cotton produced by licensed Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) farmers in line with the initiative’s principles and criteria–now accounts for 22 percent of global cotton production, compared to 19 percent the previous year, the organization said in its 2019 annual report.

In the 2018-19 cotton season, together with on-the-ground implementing partners and support from more than 1,800 members, BCI provided training on more sustainable agricultural practices to 2.3 million cotton farmers, with 2.1 million gaining a license to sell Better Cotton. This drove the volume of more sustainably produced cotton available on the global market to new heights.

At the opposite end of the supply chain, BCI’s retailer and brand members passed a significant milestone at the end of 2019, sourcing a record 1.5 million metric tons of Better Cotton. That’s a 40 percent increase over 2018 and shows that Better Cotton is becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity, BCI said. Better Cotton uptake now accounts for 6 percent of global cotton production.

“It is particularly pleasing to share the progress BCI is making, thanks to the concerted efforts of our members, partners and other stakeholders, toward our 2020 targets,” BCI CEO Alan McClay said. “With two more cotton seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21) within which to make further advances at field level, we are committed to not only continuing to deliver beneficial change at field level, but also to learning from the experience and adapting to become more effective.”

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“We do not yet know how close we will come to our 2020 targets, and we are still assessing how the current Covid-19 pandemic will impact our efforts,” McClay added. “But one thing is certain, we have made significant and undeniable progress over the past 10 years and there are many successes to celebrate.”

McClay wrote in the report that forced labor and discrimination are incompatible with the Better Cotton Standard and unacceptable within BCI programs. BCI established a Task Force on Forced Labor and Decent Work to review selected elements of the Better Cotton Standard System and produce recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the system in identifying, preventing, mitigating and remediating forced labor risks.

In 2020, the BCI Council also made the decision to suspend BCI assurance and licensing activities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China, effective beginning the 2020-21 season, “as these activities cannot currently be implemented in a credible manner within the existing operating context.”

The report highlights that Better Cotton was grown in 23 countries in the 2018-19 cotton season and that licensed BCI farmers produced 5.6 million metric tons of Better Cotton. That’s enough cotton to make 8 billion pairs of jeans, or a pair each for every person in the world.

BCI welcomed more than 400 new members in 2019 and by the end of the year, BCI had 1,842 members across five membership categories, a 29 percent increase over 2018.