Standards for better cotton

Updated Wednesday, 4th November 2015
The Better Cotton Initiative, BCI, is an organization looking at global cotton-production standards. Ruchira Joshi, one of the Programme Directors at BCI, explains what they do.

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BCI - The Better Cotton Institute When people think of their clothes and where they come from, they most often imagine a factory in China, India or Bangladesh. A crowded workplace filled with people sewing on buttons and ironing shirts you will wear on a night out. What we often don’t realise is that millions of people were involved in producing your shirt even before it got to that factory– farmers who grow cotton and are often truly invisible in the textile supply chain. 

In fact, cotton is arguably the world’s most important natural fibre. Almost everyone comes into contact with cotton on a daily basis. 250 million people worldwide depend on cotton production for their livelihoods. For millions of people, cotton is the only crop from which they can generate cash income to feed themselves. And we, as consumers, like this natural, soft and recyclable fibre.

But, unfortunately, cotton production is associated with some negative practices.

  • It accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sales of insecticide and pesticides respectively.
  • It is linked to the use of child, migrant and forced labour
  • And it is subject to fluctuating prices and a low level of trust in the supply chain

So what can be done about this situation in a crop that is so essential? We think the answer is Better Cotton and we’ve been working on this solution for 5 years already.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a not-for-profit organisation stewarding the global standards for Better Cotton, and bringing together cotton’s complex supply chain, from the farmers to the retailers. BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. BCI has been demonstrating that farmers growing cotton according to our production principles and criteria can make significant savings in water and chemical use and substantially boost their incomes as a result. We are thus already demonstrating results at field level. But what can you do as a consumer?

Well, very soon, consumers will be able to see the BCI logo on-product. You can actively choose products with the BCI logo, or choose to shop at retailers who are BCI members. They have all contributed to the training of farmers to grow Better Cotton and improve social, environmental and economic conditions on farms in over 20 countries from Africa to Asia and in the US, Australia, Brazil and Turkey. So when you think about where your shirt was manufactured, give a thought also to the farmer who grew the cotton that went into it, and make sure you chose Better Cotton if you can.

You can find out more about us and our members here

The Life Story of your T-shirt

This blog was written as part of an online event run by The Institute for Social Marketing as part of the Festival of Social Science week (7th-14th November 2015).

Visit our event hub to learn more about how t-shirts are made, make decisions about sustainability and share the story of your own favourite t-shirt.



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