Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber in the world. However, many cotton-growing methods place unsustainable levels of stress on the environment and the people who produce it. Since 2009, IDH and Better Cotton (Better Cotton Initiative as it was then known) have worked together to develop Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.

Through enabling the adoption of sustainable agriculture and labor rights principles, Better Cotton creates benefits for both farming communities and the environment. Better Cotton’s ambitions are aligned with IDH’s themes of Better Environment, Better Income, Better Jobs, and Gender.

A few highlights from the journey:

  • Together we established the Better Cotton Fast Track Program in 2009, to accelerate the implementation of the Better Cotton Standard
  • We convened front-running apparel brands to form a pre-competitive coalition and create demand for sustainable cotton
  • We transitioned to the Better Cotton Growth & Innovation Fund – mostly funded by brands and retailers to further scale up training to farmers in key cotton-producing countries. IDH managed this Fund from 2016 – 2022 after which it handed over this function to Better Cotton

In just over ten years, these activities have successfully shifted more than 20% of the cotton market towards more sustainable cotton production and improved the livelihoods of over two million cotton farmers globally.

While reaching further scale is still a key ambition (BC 2030 strategy), IDH and Better Cotton are now mainly partnering to further deepen impacts in areas such as climate mitigation and adaptation and smallholder livelihoods, building on IDH’s expertise in landscape approaches, living income, service delivery models, and climate and impact finance.

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