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  • Writer's pictureDavid Connolly

What Does Our Logo Mean? Better Cotton Initiative

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

What is BCI?

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a not-for-profit organisation that exists 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. Through BCI and its Partners, farmers receive training on how to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals and apply decent work principles. BCI Farmers implementing this system are licensed to sell Better Cotton.

You may have seen the BCI logo used on websites, in stores and in sustainability reports. Members invest in BCI and are, in turn, able to use the BCI logo in their marketing.

What does the BCI logo mean on product packaging?

BCI Members have the option to use product packaging as a channel to communicate to consumers about their commitment to more sustainable cotton production. When you see the BCI logo or ‘On-Product Mark’ on packaging, it does not mean the product is made of physically traceable Better Cotton. It means that you’re buying a majority cotton product, from a retailer or brand that is committed to sourcing Better Cotton and investing in BCI Farmers.

Who can use the BCI logo on product packaging?

Only committed BCI Members can use the BCI On-Product Mark. A Member must be sourcing at least 10% of their cotton as Better Cotton in order to start using the mark, with a plan to be sourcing at least 50% of their cotton as Better Cotton within five years. BCI monitors this progress and works closely with its Members to make sure claims made in association with the BCI logo reflect their engagement with the programme, and are transparent and credible.

What is ‘Mass-Balance’?

Mass-Balance is a term used to describe a supply chain methodology. Simply put, it means what comes out must balance with what went in. For example, if a retailer places an order for finished garments, like T-shirts, and requests one metric tonne of Better Cotton be associated with this order, a cotton farmer somewhere must produce one metric tonne of cotton to the Better Cotton Standard. This is then registered on BCI’s supply chain system, and credits for the order are passed through the supply chain for that same weight in cotton, from one factory to the next. What comes out is the equivalent amount of cotton that the farmer produced as Better Cotton, but it has been mixed in with conventional cotton in its journey from field to product.

If Better Cotton isn’t traceable, how can it be sourced?

As cotton moves through the supply chain and is converted into different products (for example, yarn, fabric and garments), credits are also passed along the supply chain. These credits represent volumes of Better Cotton a BCI Retailer or Brand Member has ordered. We define this as ‘sourcing’ Better Cotton. Sourcing volumes are tracked by BCI’s online sourcing platform. Physically traceable Better Cotton does not end up in the hands of the retailer that placed the order, however, the farmer benefits from the demand for Better Cotton in equivalent volumes to that ‘sourced’.

Why doesn’t BCI make Better Cotton physically traceable?

The cotton supply chain is complex. From field to store, there are often 12 or more stages in the supply chain. Physically tracing Better Cotton through the supply chain is time consuming and expensive, but more importantly, it is not necessary for us to meet our primary objectives. Ultimately, BCI is focused on making cotton production better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. Knowing where the Better Cotton ends up does not benefit BCI Farmers.

What are the benefits of ‘Mass-Balance’?

By using a system of Mass-Balance, BCI is able to reach more farmers, meaning more sustainable practices are being implemented around the world. Retailers pay a fee to BCI dependant on the volume of cotton they source as Better Cotton. BCI is then able to channel that money directly back into field level activities, such as training, assurance and reaching more cotton farmers. There are challenges in cotton production that need addressing today, and unblocking barriers to the demand of Better Cotton will enable BCI to reach our next milestone: 5 million farmers by 2020.

Read more about our funding model, the ‘Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund’ here.

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