Cotton is a major world commodity, accounting for almost half of textile production. The crop accounts for 10 per cent of global pesticide use and is grown in about 80 countries around the world. Cotton also needs a lot of water. However, through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) started by Ikea and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2005, farmers are reducing their pesticide, artificial fertilizer and water use.
Both are founding members of the BCI and the purpose of the initiative is to develop sustainable cotton production methods. BCI started with just 500 farmers, but now has 43,000 farmers in India and Pakistan alone using more sustainable cotton farming techniques, as the latest BCI report shows. Project farmers in Pakistan were the first in the world to produce licensed Better Cotton.
Several case studies have proved that working with BCI helps farmers. The BCI report predicts that Better Cotton, cotton produced and licensed according to BCI criteria, could become a “mainstream global commodity before 2020.” The goal is to make Better Cotton 30 per cent of global cotton production by 2020, which would mean working with five million farmers around the world. In order to achieve that goal, much more quantities of Better Cotton will need to be produced in China, the biggest producer and consumer of cotton, the report concludes. The US will also need to ramp up production, as it is the biggest exporter of cotton.
Ikea’s goal is for 100 per cent of the cotton it uses to come from more sustainable sources by the end of 2015. In 2013, more than two-thirds (72 per cent or 79,000 tons) of the predicted total cotton need for Ikea products came from more sustainable sources. As of March 15, 2014, almost 57,000 tons of licensed Better Cotton lint, mostly from Pakistan and Africa, had been purchased or 50 per cent of the estimated need for 2013.