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Sustainable Sourcing Series – Better Cotton Initiative 


Richard Haworth are proud members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). We’re also committed to sourcing a minimum of 25% of our cotton as Better Cotton by 2023. But what is the Better Cotton Initiative and what does that really mean?

What is the Better Cotton Initiative?


The Better Cotton Initiative is a not for profit organisation that aims to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. They are the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world.

The BCI works with a range of organisations across the world and together we are all committed to improve cotton farming globally. The Better Cotton Initiative trains farmers to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals and respect the rights and wellbeing of workers.

In 2017/18, 2 million licenced BCI farmers in 21 countries produced more than five million metric tonnes of Better Cotton which accounts for around 19% of the world’s global cotton production.

Here’s what a BCI licensed farmer from Pakistan had to say about the programme, “Now my farm is like a business to manage, while before I was simply doing routine activities. My records are like the meter of a car; they guide me in my activities.” – Aijaz Ahmad, BCI Farmer in Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan

We support BCI’s goal to train five million farmers worldwide on more sustainable agricultural practices and have Better Cotton account for 30% of global cotton production by 2020.


How does it work?


The cotton supply chain is complex, and it is very difficult to trace cotton physically on its journey from field to product. When Better Cotton is harvested, it is physically segregated from the farm to the gin (where cotton fibres are separated from their seeds). This ensures that all Better Cotton bales produced by participating gins are 100% Better Cotton and can be traced back to licensed BCI Farmers These 100% Better Cotton and conventional cotton bales are bought by traders and spinners and, from this point onwards, Better Cotton can be substituted or mixed with conventional cotton and spun. A volume tracking chain of custody system, called Mass Balance, ensures that the quantity of physical cotton sold with a Better Cotton claim cannot exceed the quantity of cotton purchased with a Better Cotton claim.


So, is Better Cotton physically in Richard Haworth products?


As BCI works using a mass balance chain of custody model, our products don’t necessarily contain physical Better Cotton. However, that isn’t the purpose of BCI. Although Better Cotton isn’t physically traceable to end products, BCI Farmers still benefit from the demand for Better Cotton in equivalent volumes to those we source. The more demand we create, the greater the impact.

What are we doing to help?

We became members of the BCI in January 2018 to continue our journey of ethical and sustainable trade. The textile industry is one of the biggest users of cotton and relies on cotton production for its very existence. Our industry is further behind in terms of sustainability compared to the clothing and garment sector, but Richard Haworth hopes that in the years to come, our industry will be at the same level in the quest to become more sustainable. We’re authorised by the BCI to use an On-Product Mark to help share BCI’s message and aims.

We’re publicly committing to sourcing a minimum of 25% of our cotton as Better Cotton by 2023.

By choosing cotton products from Richard Haworth, you’re supporting responsible cotton production through the BCI.


Together, we can make a difference.


To learn more about the Better Cotton Initiative head to their website at