March, 2022|Sustainability

Framework helps Australia lead in sustainable cotton

The Australian cotton industry has developed the PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. sustainability framework to coordinate work that will make Australia a global
leader in sustainable cotton production.

Sustainability in the Australian cotton industry is about understanding, managing and being accountable for what’s important to the people on whom the Australian cotton industry relies: customers, growers and everyone who impacts how the industry operates. For the cotton industry, sustainability means:

  • improving industry performance while creating social, economic and environmental value
  • engaging those who influence and impact the production of Australian cotton
  • identifying, prioritising and managing the most important sustainability topics, and
  • being accountable for impacts.

PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. is based on an internationally recognised framework to improve long- term performance. It recognises that sustainability is integral to the industry’s future, and it provides a path for the entire industry to stay in business. It is currently targeted at on-farm cotton production.

An important part of PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. is setting targets and coordinating a whole-of-industry strategy to achieve them. Draft targets and indicators of progress have been developed for each of the core focus areas under the framework:

  • PLANET: water, carbon footprint, biodiversity, pesticides, soil health
  • PEOPLE: workplace, wellbeing; and
  • PADDOCK: productivity, profitability.

In a consultation process during July and August 2020, 356 stakeholders inside and outside the cotton industry gave feedback on these draft indicators and targets developed by growers, scientists and industry experts to validate their level of ambition, to test whether they are the ‘right’ ones to use, and to elicit suggestions for partnerships and solutions to achieve targets. Stakeholder feedback helped refine some targets and indicators to ensure they meet stakeholder expectations and are still achievable and consistent with the industry’s ambition to be a global leader in sustainable cotton production.

Importantly, PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. is not a compulsory standard or brand and it does not add a new layer to existing industry structures and programs. It will be delivered through CottonInfo, the world- leading myBMP cotton certification standard, and focused R&D investments. These existing channels will continue to drive continuous improvement of the industry right across farm operations, and they will remain the pathways for researchers to connect with growers to adopt change.

For some PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. sustainability topics, such as carbon footprint, biodiversity and soil health, common metrics and data collection methods don’t yet exist, and need to be agreed before targets can be set for the industry. Because these are complex areas involving several industries, this work is taking time to get right. Targets will be launched when this work is finalised, which is still several months away.

The Sustainability Working Group was established by the Australian cotton industry to coordinate its work to become a global leader of sustainable cotton production. Growers, Cotton Australia, Cotton Research and Development Corporation, myBMP, CottonInfo and the Australian Cotton Shippers Association are represented on the Working Group.