The Better Cotton Initiative is here to help change the way clothes are made and bought, and what impact they have on the environment. We all know that the way we buy and use our clothes can affect the planet. Fast fashion and low-quality clothes have negative impacts on the environment and the way we view our clothes. While as consumers we can adapt our shopping habits, what happens when the brands themselves source their materials responsibly? We explore what the Better Cotton Initiative is, what it means for the planet, and which brands are leading the way towards a more sustainable future.
What is the Better Cotton Initiative?
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a global not-for-profit organisation and the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. The BCI seeks to make global cotton production better for those who produce it, the environment it grows in, and the future of the industry.
The BCI, together with their partners, provide training on more sustainable farming practices to more than 2.3 million organic cotton farmers in 23 countries. The Better Cotton Principles and Criteria require BCI Farmers to:
- Minimise the harmful impact of crop protection practices
- Promote water stewardship
- Care for the health of the soil
- Enhance biodiversity and use land responsibly
- Care for and preserve fibre quality
- Promote decent work
- Operate an effective management system
Knowing where the cotton a company uses is from (known as cotton traceability) and who grew it makes sure the farms use fair and safe working conditions, provide fair pay, and practice good safety and environmental methods.
What are the Environmental Impacts of Cotton?
Cotton is the biggest non-food crop in the world that can be turned into a profit. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the cotton industry has a massive impact on the environment. Its production employs more than 250 million people worldwide and is responsible for almost 7% of all labour in developing countries. Around half of global textiles are made of cotton. Cotton production in its current way, is environmentally unsustainable.
Growing cotton often requires fertilisers and pesticides. These chemicals can threaten the biodiversity of the environment in the soil and water systems nearby. These chemicals ‘run off’ the crop fields and can affect water supplies for other crops as well as for human consumption. Cotton production using traditional methods uses a lot of water which can cause water management problems.
These negative environmental impacts lead the Better Cotton Initiative to begin. This way, organic cotton is grown using methods which require less water, no artificial pesticides and fertilisers and secure a fair wage for the farmers that grow it.
Who are Better Cotton Initiative Members?
Brands leading the way by using organic cotton in their manufacturing which is part of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) are helping to lower the negative impact of unsustainable cotton on the environment and the farmers growing it. Popular brands committing to the BCI are IKEA, and Adidas.
Sustainable brands like Kotn, named after the phonetic spelling of the Arabic word for cotton, use organic cotton in line with the Better Cotton Initiative in their products made in Portugal. This is to ensure the organic cotton they use is produced using the most ethical and sustainable methods possible.
All Saints have been members of the BCI since January 2020, as well as online fashion moguls ASOS who have been members since 2014. Designer brands such as Burberry (since August 2015), Fred Perry (since June 2019), and Hugo Boss (since March 2017) are all members. You can find Better Cotton Initiative members on the BCI website and find out more about what the BCI is doing for the planet.
Better Cotton For The Future
The Better Cotton Initiative is just one way in which brands can help to aid in a more sustainable production process. While some brands source their organic cotton using the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification, others may use recycled materials to the Global Recycling Standard (GRS). Whatever the certification, it is clear that brands are leaning towards slow fashion and beginning to proactively ensure their textiles and raw materials are responsibly sourced.
The Better Cotton Initiative allows consumers to vote with their wallets and align what they buy with their values. There is a growing demand for businesses to source more responsible, eco-friendly materials. Shoppers have the power to reward or punish businesses through the way they buy. By choosing brands committing to the Better Cotton Initiative you know you are helping to provide a more transparent and sustainable future for the fashion industry.