How WWF is making cotton ‘better’ | WWF

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) strives to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in, and better for the sector’s future.

The Initiative aims to reduce the water and chemicals used to grow cotton – and to improve the lives and livelihoods of cotton farmers worldwide.

Established with the support of WWF in 2005, BCI certifies cotton grown sustainably, known as “Better Cotton”.

Better Cotton farmers:
  1. Minimize the harmful impact of pesticides and other crop protection practices
  2. Use water efficiently
  3. Care for the health of the soil
  4. Conserve natural habitats
  5. Care for and preserve the quality of the fibre
  6. Promote decent labour practices 
Better Cotton Initiative members are involved in producing and selling cotton from the field to the clothes shop. They include companies such as Adidas, Gap, H&M, ICCO, IFAP, IFC, IKEA, Organic Exchange as well as NGO´s such as Oxfam, Pesticide Action Network UK and WWF.

As part of the Initiative, WWF works to promote sustainable cotton production, reduce damage to fresh water systems, and encourage the use of advanced irrigation technology and more ecologically sound growing methods.

We work with farmers, government agencies, buyers and investors at key stages of the market chain—from the field to the clothes shop—in a joint effort to promote more ecologically and ethically sound cotton. 


WWF Targets

2020: 25% of cotton produced for the global market meets Better Cotton Initiative principles and criteria


12,5% of global cotton is from Better Cotton Initiative/Organic (August 2016)

The Better Cotton Initiative has been well adopted in many countries, including Pakistan, where some 40,000 farmers are now producing 'Better Cotton'.


A number of credible, third-party certification schemes, such as the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) can help companies prevent environmental degradation and drive the key industries toward better and more responsible performance. Find out more ►

Better Management Practices

Better Management Practices (BMP's) are innovative measures implemented by industry to protect the environment through measurably reducing major impacts of commodities on the planet's water, air, soil and biological diversity. They also help producers to make profit in a sustainable way. Find out more ►

Tangible impacts

Comparing cotton prodution between farmers involved with BCI and others who are not, in 2012: 
  • BCI farmers in Pakistan enjoyed a 14% higher yield
  • there was 19% less water use in China
  • 22% increase in use of organic fertilizer in Mali
  • 14% less pesticide use for large farms in Brazil
  • 32% higher profitability for Better Cotton farmers in India.Independent case studies in India and Pakistan confirmed those trends.

CASE STUDY: Better farm practices in Pakistan

In Pakistan, WWF is working with partners on small-scale field projects to conserve irrigation water in cotton by promoting the 'bed and furrow' irrigation method.

WWF - Better Production for a Living Planet (2012) © WWF
This is being done together with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques in order to reduce the use of toxic pesticides.

Farmer Field Schools have been established in South Punjab to undertake these activities in collaboration with the Punjab Agriculture Department and international partners such as CABI-Bioscience.

Initial results show that using these practices farmers can maintain or increase their output while reducing their water use by 20% and suffering a lower intensity of pest attacks.

Be part of the solution

► If you are a cotton producer, supplier, manufacturer, retailer or brand, then the Better Cotton Initiative can help you support a more sustainable cotton industry: Find out more here

► If you are concerned about the environmental and social impact of the cotton products that you buy—that’s clothes and linen among other—contact your favourite clothing companies and ask them if they’re part of the Better Cotton Initiative.