Sustained allegations of forced labour and other human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China have contributed to an increasingly untenable operating environment, and BCI has, therefore, taken the decision to cease all field-level activities in the region effective immediately, including capacity building and data monitoring and reporting.
In March 2020, BCI suspended licensing and assurance activities in the XUAR, and as a result, there is no new licensed Better Cotton coming from the region. Until circumstances change, we will focus our efforts in China in the eastern provinces where BCI has existing programmes: Hubei, Hebei, Shandong and Gansu.
BCI has, for the past eight years, trained Chinese farmers, including Uyghur and Han farmers in the XUAR, on practices that cover our seven core principles on more sustainable cotton production. These include minimising the harmful impact of pesticides and crop protection practices, promoting water stewardship, caring for health of soil, using land responsibly, preserving cotton fibre quality and promoting decent work.
“We look forward to the day when we can again deliver the BCI mission by providing capacity building for all farmers,” commented Alan McClay, BCI CEO. “We will re-evaluate our engagement in the XUAR when the operating environment permits.”
Among a variety of factors that contribute to a challenging operating environment is the recent sanctions order issued by the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) banning transactions with the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) and its majority-owned subsidiaries. In the past, XPCC had been a BCI Member and Implementing Partner, however, this relationship was terminated in January, prior to the U.S. sanctions. BCI has taken additional actions and due diligence to comply with the OFAC sanctions. While the latest decision from the BCI Council means that field-level activities of all types have ceased effective immediately, Chinese companies from or affiliated with the province that are not blocked by current OFAC sanctions can remain BCI Members and users of the Better Cotton Platform.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) — a global not-for-profit organisation — is the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. Together with our partners we provide training on more sustainable farming practices to more than 2.3 million cotton farmers in 23 countries. In the 2018-19 cotton season, licensed BCI Farmers produced more than 5.6 million metric tonnes of ‘Better Cotton’ – that accounts for around 22% of global cotton production!