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LONDON – The Better Cotton Initiative has told Apparel Insider it has no plans to conduct a global Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Better Cotton production impacts. “LCAs of that kind are extremely costly and do not lend themselves to reliable comparison between identity cottons and conventional cotton,” Kendra Pasztor, BCI monitoring & evaluation manager told us in an op-ed for the forthcoming edition of the magazine. The leading cotton standard has scaled rapidly over the past decade and is now being implemented in 21 countries.

There have been calls in some quarters of the industry for better data relating to the BCI standard in terms of farmer and environmental impacts, calls which were reiterated in our recent in-depth investigation on the issue. The BCI also said that for data to be correctly interpreted, “it must be accompanied by context and background” – an assertion we fully support.

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The op-ed continues: “Nor would a global LCA of BCI provide much learning for cotton farmers to deepen impact. BCI does, however, value the science-based approach of LCA and will increasingly use the raw data collected each season to monitor trends in environmental indicators commonly measured by the LCA approach: climate change being one of the most urgently needed along with more sophisticated measures of water use and quality, among others.

“This indicates a step-change for BCI’s impact measurement and will strengthen the cotton sector’s monitoring of progress made against the Sustainable Development Goals. But, for data to be correctly interpreted, it must be accompanied by context and background. Data alone does not automatically reveal insight into the extent of impact. By ‘impact,’ BCI means the positive or negative long-term effects resulting from implementation of the Better Cotton Standard. Data alone may not reveal the reasons for success or failure.”

BCI has also announced the publication of an independent impact evaluation published on the ISEAL Alliance’s new impacts website, Evidensia. The study evaluated a BCI project in India over three seasons, using the scientific Randomised Control Trial (RCT) method, which enabled attribution of impact to the BCI project which, says BCI, is “something approaches like LCA are not able to do.”

The op-ed continues: “One notable finding was that despite increased pest pressure, the proportion of BCI Farmers using risky pesticide mixtures dropped from 51 per cent to just 8 per cent in three years. Economic and especially social changes achieved during the three-year period were more mixed, however, highlighting how long-term engagement is often necessary for material changes to occur. The study also identified numerous challenges in the context that extend beyond the farm – from gender inequality to a lack of collective farmer organisation, meaning missed opportunities for lower input costs and a better sales position for smallholders. The BCI secretariat, in collaboration with its members, is examining how to better address those structural barriers to more sustainable cotton production.”

The full article will appear in our next magazine, out later in July.

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