CottonConnect Impact Report Shows Benefits in Safety and Sustainability – Sourcing Journal

CottonConnect’s first impact report outlines the results of its programs in the 2021-2022 cotton production year across Pakistan, China, India and Bangladesh.

“True accountability lies in a commitment not only to the activities and outcomes of interventions designed to improve sustainability, but also to the impact,” the organization said in a statement. “CottonConnect monitors the results of our farm education programs and reports on how activities and results positively impact the environment, climate and livelihoods in our first impact report.”

The report details the results of programs such as the REEL Cotton Program, the Organic Cotton Growers Training Program, Women in Cotton, and Health and Safety for Gins. The REEL program (Responsible Environment Enhanced Livelihood, Cotton Program) collected data from all programs in 2021-22 and found that participating farmers experienced increases in profits (18.1 percent) and yields (6.6 percent) and at the same time the input costs increased by 11.4 percent compared to a control group.

The program, which promotes sustainable agricultural practices, reduced the environmental impact of cotton growing by reducing the use of chemicals (16.6 percent), chemical fertilizers (20.4 percent) and water use (11.4 percent).

In addition to regular program data measurements, CottonConnect’s LCA study on REEL Cotton, to better understand how the results of REEL practices translate into environmental and climate impacts, showed significant improvement on most indicators.

For brands, the results illustrate that investing in sustainable cotton programs delivers results, improves farmer livelihoods, mitigates the environmental impact of cotton production, and contributes to sustainable sourcing and ESG goals. For the cotton industry, the impact results and the LCA study show that smarter farming practices are good for the environment, climate and livelihoods.

“Our focus has always been on making a positive, measurable impact – for the smallholder farmers who participate in our sustainable agriculture programs, for their communities and for the environment. By bringing sustainably produced cotton directly into brands’ supply chains, we play a role in improving sustainable choices for consumers,” said Alison Ward, CEO of CottonConnect. “We are pleased to report in our first impact report that our core programs have achieved positive impact results in all environmental and social areas that we measure.”

women in cotton

Women are a crucial but often neglected player in global cotton production. In many farming communities, women play critical roles in planting and harvesting, which determine the quantity, quality, and sustainability of cotton cultivation. However, because their contributions are not recognized, they do not receive the same training or support as men.

CottonConnect research found that without specific outreach, only 4 percent of women participate in a training program that can support them in their role as farmers. In addition, low levels of literacy, health and rights skills reduce productivity and undermine family well-being. CottonConnect’s Women in Cotton program has identified ways to improve past welfare and livelihoods, and to advance sustainable and efficient cotton production. The program builds knowledge, strengthens livelihoods and connects markets. It provides the background in literacy, numeracy, rights and health to enable women to pursue better livelihood opportunities, both in cotton and through additional income running their own businesses.

The program trained women in clean picking techniques to ensure a contamination-free cotton harvest and improve health and safety during the process. After the training, 93 percent of the women used cotton fabrics to pick cotton to avoid fiber contamination, 91 percent adopted the practice of picking the cotton seed from the bottom up to minimize dirt and debris contamination, and 100 percent picked cotton during a morning window with dew has evaporated, but no moisture has yet entered.

Health and safety for gins

One of the most critical challenges facing the cotton industry, particularly in cotton ginning, is the need for standardized or mandated health and safety measures and practices. This leads to occupational hazards, including serious accidents that can result in permanent disability through loss of limbs and can even be life-threatening. Lung and pulmonary diseases such as byssinosis are also common among gin workers.

“Ginning is often a forgotten step in the cotton supply chain, yet it needs to be viewed critically,” Ward said. “We looked at the supply chain holistically, paying attention to the links that need support the most. With the introduction of the Ginner program, we want to contribute to improving the living and working conditions as well as the general health of cotton ginning workers.”

In 2019-2020, CottonConnect’s pilot program in Madhya Pradesh, India included dedicated ginning machine training. The pilot program demonstrated the benefits of HSSE or Healthy Safety, Security and Environment, training in Gin to increase awareness and change behavior towards a safer work environment. Aggregated results of all HSSE gin programs in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China in 2021-2022 show improved health and safety indicators. Safety compliance increased from 67.3 percent to 88.7 percent, precautionary adoption increased from 51 percent to 100 percent, PPE use by gin workers increased from 36.2 percent to 93.3 percent, and availability adequate washing facilities for gin workers rose from 95 percent to 97.6 percent.

“We are pleased to see CottonConnect programs reducing the negative impact of cotton production on the environment and also promoting practices to improve soil health, water, biodiversity, climate and communities,” La Rhea Pepper, Catalyst and co-founder of the Textile Exchange, said. “This supports Textile Exchange’s ultimate goal of scaling a global cotton production system that not only reduces negative impacts, but also capitalizes on the co-benefits that cotton can bring to people and the environment.”

CottonConnect is a company with a social purpose to reshape cotton supply chains and help textile producers and farmers find better livelihoods. It helps brands access more sustainable cotton and other natural fibers to create transparent, traceable and resilient supply chains for raw materials. CottonConnect Impact Report Shows Benefits in Safety and Sustainability – Sourcing Journal

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