BCI: Endorsing a claim for Better Cotton
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), founded in 2009 and initiated by some visionary organisations, including adidas, H&M, IKEA, Oxfam and WWF, aims to improve the livelihood and economic development in cotton producing areas, reduce the environmental impact of cotton production and secure the future of the sector. For example, it challenges damaging crop protection practices, water abuse, diminishing soil fertility and unhealthy practices such as child or forced labour.
To reach this goal, BCI defines what a better, more sustainable way of growing cotton looks like, and, through a network of partners, trains and supports farmers to adapt to the corresponding techniques. In 2013, 680,000 farmers produced 905,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton. The goal is to increase these numbers to 5 million and 8.2 million respectively by 2020. An important prerequisite for that is the uptake of Better Cotton by the supply chain.
The figure below shows a typical supply chain for Better Cotton. Farmers bring their yield to a cotton gin, where cotton fibres are separated from their seeds and then processed into cotton bales. These bales are traded or directly sold to spinners that in turn supply fabric mills with yarn. The fabric is sold and further processed into consumer products, like clothes, which are then delivered to retailers.
Traceability in cotton supply chains
To make certain that retailers and brands can be confident in making claims about Better Cotton, BCI introduced Chain of Custody requirements for the supply chain and developed a tracking and tracing system based on ChainPoint, called Better Cotton Tracer. At the moment this system comprises the supply chain from the ginner to the retailer. It is a mixture of mass-balance administration and the tracing of so-called “Better Cotton Claim Units” (BCCUs).
In a mass-balance system, not the physical sustainable product itself is tracked, but the volumes of sustainable product. From the ginners to the yarn spinners this is done by administration in ChainPoint. The Better Cotton Tracer ensures for example that a trader cannot sell more Better Cotton to yarn spinners or other traders than he himself has acquired from Better Cotton ginners or traders.
At the yarn spinner, each kilo of Better Cotton is then swapped into a BCCU. Once the Better Cotton continues its journey through the supply chain as yarn, cloth and finally a supply of consumer products it is accompanied by these BCCUs. At the end, a retailer can trace the BCCUs back to the yarn spinner that issued them, by using the Better Cotton Tracer. View this video from BCI, explaining the segregation, mass-balance and BCCU system.
Cotton to Counter Solution Paper
Textile supply chains face many challenges. The responsibility to solve these challenges continuously moves towards the end of the chain, thereby
mostly affecting brand owners and retailers. For them, the question is how to identify and resolve the hotspots in their supply chain and how to monitor and improve the effectiveness of all supply chain actors. As a reference, we have created a solution paper highlighting key challenges and possible solutions. Please download the report using the button below.