Improving the ability of the Australian cotton industry to report its sustainability performance

Australian cotton industry sustainability reporting

Project overview

A ‘healthy’ agroecosystem provides economic, environmental, and social benefits. As production intensifies to meet demand, there is concern that environmental and social benefits, such as family owned farms or water quality, may decrease; potentially diminishing the overall agroecosystem health. This is especially important in areas with strong competition for natural resources (i.e. water in the Murray-Darling Basin) or public concern for sensitive ecosystems (i.e. Great Barrier Reef). Consumer and customer focus on sustainable production are also increasing and are expected to be the driving forces for change in the national and global textile market in the next decade (e.g. BCI, Cotton Leads, Sustainable Apparel Coalition). Although high-profile corporations sign these global-scale initiatives, significant challenges exist in relation to implementation; specifically how to demonstrate sustainability in an effective and cost efficient manner so that the industry can rapidly respond to emerging issues.

In this project we will work closely with the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) and undertake a review to identify who the most important stakeholders are for cotton (e.g. government, community, NGOs, the supply chain, and other customers); what sustainability issues the industry should be reporting on; and how multiple aspects of sustainability can be effectively reported to stakeholders. We will value-add to the current methods used for sustainability performance reporting where possible, and make practical recommendations for additional improvements where needed.

Real-world impacts

The main outcome of this project will be an improvement in the CRDC’s ability to report on sustainability performance. This will be operationalised via a sustainability repository that can be interrogated by the CRDC for different sustainability reporting needs, as well as visualisation tools that can be used to communicate the results to stakeholders. This will enable the cotton industry to show leadership in the proactive management of natural and human resources and demonstrate global leadership in sustainable agriculture; providing a competitive advantage over other cotton producers and a robust estimate of sustainability.

Funding / Grants

  • Funded by Cotton Research and Development Corporation

  • Dr Nancy Schellhorn
  • Zoe Mellick
  • Brendan Doohan
  • Dr Elisabeth Zeitler