About 10% of all agricultural chemicals used worldwide are processed by the cotton sector. This causes environmental damage, coupled with issues of high costs and low incomes, cotton creates large sustainability issues that produces reputational risks for brands and retailers.
In 2009 IDH convened a group of retailers and brands, CSOs and funds to develop with IDH a strategy to speed up the implementation of Better Cotton. Better Cotton is a scalable model for cotton market transformation and creates tangible impact at scale on reducing pesticide and water use, improving yields and thus on livelihoods of farmers.
Over the years more (fashion) brands and retailers invested in a fund for farmer support programs, and in the procurement of mainstream volumes of Better Cotton. Within 4 years the program reached the milestone of producing 2 Million metric tons BCI cotton, reaching over 1,2 million cotton farmers. The Growth & Innovation Fund now supports Better Cotton projects in more than 20 countries across five regions of the world. It is the largest sustainability program in cotton.
Until 2020 IDH aims to support the production of 5 M metric tons of Better Cotton improving the livelihoods of more than 5 million cotton farmers and reducing water and pesticides use significantly.
Addressing pressing issues
Joint investments in training and capacity building enable brands and retailers to address pressing sustainability issues such as pesticide use, water efficiency and working conditions including child labor, gender inequities and poverty wages. The fund invests in capacity building programs that train smallholder farmers to optimize inputs, use chemicals in a safer manner, increase yields and generate higher profits.
Farmers commit to continuous improvement, which means they are required to develop plans to continuously improve their practices over time. By mobilizing both public and private funds, BCI is striving to mainstream Better Cotton, which is grown in a way that is measurably better for the environment and farming communities.
The Growth & Innovation Funds aims to reach 5 million farmers and apply to 30% of global cotton production by 2020.
Retailer and brand members contribute to the fund in proportion to how much Better Cotton they use in their supply chains. Companies who contribute more than €150,000 per year are invited to join the fund’s governing committees and participate in the development of the fund’s investment strategy, including the annual support program. Current members of these committees include some of the world’s largest cotton buyers, including adidas, H&M, IKEA, Nike, Levi Strauss & Co. and M&S.
Global institutional donors and government agencies are invited to match the fees contributed by the private sector in order to achieve a multiplier effect.
The fund builds connections throughout the supply chain, linking farmers to cotton businesses. Cooperation with international and local civil society, governments and other sustainability initiatives enables mainstream sustainable change. The fund’s public and private partners help maximise results by combining investments, knowledge and networks.
Group-based learning processes allow lead farmers to demonstrate the positive effects of new techniques, which spurs collaboration and knowledge exchange as well as widespread application. Best practices are made available to foster innovation in global agriculture.
Watch the video about the Growth & Innovation Fund
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals
Despite challenges for cotton farmers across the country caused by unpredictable weather conditions BCI farmers achieved 15% higher yields and 6% less pesticides input, resulting in 16% higher profits
True Price and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, have released a series of reports on the True Price of commodities in an area of production. The investigation compares external costs between sectors, allowing for stakeholders to identify interventions that could potentially reduce external costs.
A global project portfolio managed with with businesses, civil society and governments
|Service Delivery Models: Insights for continuous improvement and farm impact||Learning Study||2016|
|Growth&Innovation Fund Prospectus||Article||2016|
|End of Year Report||Impact Study||2016|
|From Smallholder to Small Business||Learning Study||2016|
|The IKEA experience moving towards Better Cotton||Case Study||2014|
|Show all 6 resources|
Better for the cotton farmers, better for the environment better for the future of the sector