Australia / Turkey – A delegation of Australian cotton industry representatives has just returned from Istanbul, Turkey, after participating in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) annual Members’ Meeting, and a number of other high-level events to promote Australian cotton with major international brands and retailers.
The Australian delegation’s clear purpose of the trip was to network with the end users of our product and look for opportunities to tell the Australian story. The group was comprised of Goondiwindi grower and Cotton Australia Deputy Chair – Simon Corish, St George grower and Cotton Australia Board member – Hamish McIntyre, Cotton Australia Cotton to Market Project Lead – Brooke Summers, and Auscott (a member of BCI) Marketing Manager, Arthur Spellson.
The BCI Members’ Meeting, held from June 9-10, 2015, brings together participants from all sectors of the cotton supply chain – producing countries, brands and retailers, spinners and manufacturers as well as civil society groups. One of the main topics discussed at the meeting was increasing demand for BCI cotton at brand and retailer level, and ensuring that this signal is heard back through the supply chain to the farm/grower level.
Mr McIntyre says that one of the take home messages for Australia’s cotton growers is that demand for BCI cotton from Australia exists now, and is coming in an even bigger way in the future.
“Many international brands have been sourcing from countries like India and Pakistan because they’ve converted their lower-end products to BCI first. The next step in the journey is to convert the higher-value products to BCI cotton, and that means sourcing BCI from Australia, the US and Brazil,” Mr McIntyre says.
Cotton Australia hosted a function at the Australian Consulate in Istanbul to discuss this issue, and in the process presented the Australian cotton story to a number of the world’s leading major brands and their decision-makers, including Nike, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, C&A, VF (brands include Lee, Wrangler, Timberland, The North Face, Vans, Nautica), Adidas, IKEA and Levi Strauss. Together, these companies consume more than 5 times the volume of the average Australian cotton crop, every year.
Recently, Cotton Australia secured a seat on the BCI Council (its global overseeing Board), and is represented by Goondiwindi grower and Cotton Australia Deputy Chair, Simon Corish. Mr Corish and Mr McIntyre attended a BCI Council meeting in Turkey to help set strategic direction for the global initiative, giving Australian growers a crucial seat the table.
Mr Corish says that having brands and retailers, civil society groups and cotton growing countries sitting around the BCI Council table is enormously powerful for our industry.
“These opportunities allow us to understand the multitude of issues facing global cotton from all angles. The organisation is focussed on making BCI cotton a mainstream commodity – representing 30% of world production by 2020. This year we’ll see almost 11% of the world’s cotton sold as BCI, and the organisation is on track to achieving this goal,” Mr Corish says.
“This means those growers in the Australian cotton industry’s myBMP program have an opportunity to get to full certification and be part of this market.”
“Any grower who’s been through the myBMP process, and I’m one of them, will tell you that it’s not as onerous as they thought. And there’s a market there right now for BCI cotton, so it’s a great time to get on board,” Mr Corish says.
Cotton Australia signed a formal partnership agreement with BCI on behalf of Australia’s cotton industry in June 2014 that allows myBMP certified and BCI registered growers to sell their cotton as BCI cotton.
Brooke Summers also attended a BCI Communications Focus Group to discuss opportunities for better promoting BCI to industry, and through the members network.
Ms Summers says there is a great opportunity to leverage Australia’s membership of BCI to further promote the Australian cotton story – both overseas and at home.
“Australia is now a part of a global network working towards improving cotton’s reputation globally. Our growers are an important part of that story,” Ms Summers says.
“Not only can we contribute in terms of linking the BCI story back to the farm and our myBMP program, the Australian cotton industry can also learn directly from those at the other end of the supply chain about what their businesses and consumers expect from cotton produced in sustainable and ethical ways.”
Cotton Australia’s membership of BCI is part of the organisation’s larger Cotton to Market strategy, with the purpose of positioning Australian cotton in the future textile supply chain while providing value back to growers.
Source: Cotton Australia