Better Cotton has revised its Principals & Criteria (P&C) to better emphasize social issues facing cotton farmers like labor, gender equality, quality of life and provisions for smaller landowners, in addition to broader issues of fiber quality, sustainability, climate change, regenerative farming, water use and conservation.
The updates reflect Better Cotton’s 2030 Strategy and brings its principles into line with evolving global trends in market regulations and more sustainable agricultural value chains. It follows the codes of good practice of the ISEAL Alliance (the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance), a leading authority on sustainability practices, Version 3.0. It was finalized in February and will go into effect for the 2024/25 season.
The P&C details the organization’s approach to more sustainable cotton production and requirements farmers must meet to obtain a license to sell their cotton under the ‘Better Cotton’ brand. At present, more than 2 million farmers of all sizes worldwide have the mandate.
Those farmers are the focus of many of the revisions with emphasis on field-level changes. They include a new effort focused on Smaller Livelihoods to address the concerns of farmers with small operations, with provisions to promote well-being in farming communities. They produce 22 million metric tons of cotton annually.
There is also a new subsection on climate change that advises farmers on how to meet field-level challenges and find the best available region-specific measures to do so.
According to Alan McClay, Better Cotton’s CEO, field-level improvements remain a priority but the new emphasis on farmer economics and quality of life is a much-needed shift.
“With a practice-oriented focus, our standard strengthens requirements across both environmental and social topics, and even goes further to encompass farmer livelihoods for the first time,” he said.
Joky Francois, lead on gender at the Rainforest Alliance, agrees with the timeliness of emphasizing labor and workplace gender issues. He called the revised principles clear, relative to the context, and practical.
“They will be a great support to cotton growers to identify and address labor and gender issues and improving working conditions and livelihood of the people involved in cotton production in a sustainable way,” he said.