Better Cotton & greenwashing

What is Better Cotton?
Better Cotton is a non-profit organization whose work aims to improve the world's cotton production. Better Cotton works to promote better standards in global cotton farming, taking into account the individual farmer and the environment.

Buying clothes with a Better Cotton logo on them means that the garment is made from cotton from Better Cotton farmers. However, there is no guarantee that the garment is sustainably and organically produced, as Better Cotton is often mixed with conventionally grown cotton. Better Cotton is purchased through a system known as mass balance, where Better Cotton can be substituted and/or blended with conventionally grown cotton. It receives the Better Cotton stamp as long as there's an equal amount of Better Cotton as of other materials. The cotton itself is not physically traceable, which means that it is not possible to know with certainty whether the cotton in the garment is organically grown or not.

The Problem with Better Cotton
In addition to the fact that the cotton is not traceable, some Better Cotton is also grown with pesticides and GMO seeds, which is prohibited in organic cotton farming. The explanation given by the organization is that the consequences of using pesticides outweigh the benefits, as farmers will suffer major financial consequences if their crops are destroyed. That it would somehow outweigh the benefit is something worth questioning – and criticizing – as the farmers could just as easily lose their crops without using pesticides or growing with GMO seeds. After a certain time, GMO seeds stop protecting against diseases and pests, the insects in the soil become immune to it, and pesticides dry out the soil, requiring much more water than is needed in healthy soils. In addition, the water that is then used to grow food, for drinking and that flows into surrounding rivers and streams is polluted.

Better Cotton and greenwashing
Many companies market Better Cotton products as both organic and sustainable – something they cannot know because the cotton is not traceable. All those companies and brands that market themselves or their products as "organic" and "sustainable", in terms of using Better Cotton, are classic examples of greenwashing. Greenwashing means that you try to present yourself as more environmentally friendly than you are. Important to remember is that only things that are actually organically produced and that can be traced are organic, nothing else.

A good intention
You can't really complain about the very purpose of Better Cotton, as all initiatives to try to improve the world's cotton farms are positive. The problem with Better Cotton is how it is marketed and received by consumers. Many consumers equate Better Cotton with organic cotton, even though they differ enormously in terms of requirements, standards, and environmental impact. The requirements for Better Cotton are sometimes no higher than that they respect national laws, regular checks are made based on minimum requirements and no continuous improvements are needed.
This only applies at the agricultural level, which means that no requirements are placed on other production steps such as dyeing (which requires large amounts of chemicals).

Read more:
Organic Cotton – Everything you need to know about organic cotton