Better Cotton Initiative

Certification for sustainable cotton production, promoting better farming practices and improving the livelihoods of cotton farmers.

Overall Score:


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Better Cotton Initiative






The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) aims to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it and the environment it grows in. It is often considered more accessible for smallholder farmers compared to organic certifications. However, it has faced criticism for its non-binding principles and for not being fully traceable, which raises questions about its impact on the entire supply chain.

Key Features

  • BCI focuses on seven principles ranging from crop protection and water conservation to decent work conditions.

  • More accessible for smallholder farmers compared to organic certifications.

  • Allows the use of GMO cotton, pesticides, and fertilizers. Although producers must have a plan to phase out certain harmful chemicals, there's no fixed timeline.


BCI has faced criticism for driving down sustainability standards in the cotton industry. Its principles are non-binding, and some of its members include fast fashion giants known for unsustainable practices. This has led to questions about the initiative's commitment to truly sustainable and ethical cotton production.

Duration and Renewal

BCI operates on a continuous improvement model, providing a roadmap for farmers to progress from baseline performance to long-term improvement goals. There is no specified duration or renewal process, but ongoing improvement is encouraged.

Impact and Significance

While BCI cotton usually requires less water and energy than conventional cotton, it is not as sustainable as organic cotton. The initiative provides a more accessible option for smallholder farmers but has been linked to forced labor and is not fully traceable. This makes it difficult to confirm if best practices are consistently employed, thereby affecting its overall impact and significance.