Becoming more sustainable is a burning issue for big fashion brands and retailers  


No commodity is as polluting as cotton. About 10% of all agricultural chemicals used worldwide are processed by the cotton sector. Due to the environmental damage  caused, coupled with issues of high costs and low incomes for the farmers, the demand for organic and fair trade cotton has grown rapidly. Nevertheless, the organic cotton market is predicted to stay relatively small. There is a need for initiatives that aim for mass market transformation that makes sustainable cotton the norm.


An initiative that focuses on making sustainable cotton production the mainstream standard, is the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). This initiative has been formed 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. International brands and retailers – such as IKEA, H&M, M&S, adidas, and Levi Strauss & Co amongst others - have joined the BCI.


In the course of 2009, a group of private and public players, including IDH, developed a strategy to speed up the implementation of the Better Cotton System. This is a demand driven strategy, based on the commitment of frontrunner brands and retailers to invest both in farmer support programs and in the procurement of mainstream volumes of Better Cotton.


Program at a glance


on MDGs

Key indicators

Increase of income for 500,000 farmers

1.5 million ha of land used sustainably

1.5 million MT lint produced sustainably by 2015

Sustainable economic growth

The increase of technical knowledge of the cotton producers will strengthen their ability to compete on the world market. By producing a verified product they will become preferred suppliers in the industry.

Private sector development

Production facilities that engage in the development of Better Cotton trade will become preferred suppliers and will thus have the potential to increase their business.
Economic empowerment The reduction of pesticides brings economic benefits to farmers. Criteria of BCI are based upon the Decent Work ILO* standard. The Decent Work concept enables BCI to develop a broad-based and consistent approach to the diversity of contexts in which cotton is grown, from family smallholdings to large-scale farms.
Importance for Europe

The textile and clothing industry has an annual turnover of € 3.6 billion and provides 7,000 direct FTEs in the Netherlands.

* International Labour Organization 


Herbert Hainer, CEO adidas
“By supporting the Better Cotton Initiative, we want to contribute to making global
cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for our consumers.”
Herbert Hainer, CEO adidas



2008 - 2015



Private partners


Marks & Spencer

Levi Strauss & Co.





VF Corporation

Tommy Hilfiger Europe





Rabobank Foundation


FSP (Solidaridad)




Implementing partners

We partner with several not for profits and supply chain partners who work with producers on the farm level. For the complete list of our implementing partners, please visit the BCFTP page

Active in:








 € 26 M (IDH € 7 M)