Minutes and Presentation



51st Meeting of the Expert Panel on Social, Environmental and Economic Performance of Cotton Production - SEEP 

Sunday, December 1, 2019 

Brisbane – Australia 



Mr. Allan Williams, CRDC (Chair) 

Mr. Bruno Bachelier, CIRAD (Vice-Chair) 

Mr. Kater Hake, USA 

Ms. Elke Hortmeyer, EU 

Mr. Jean Paul Guinko, Burkina Faso 

Mr. Alan McClay, EU 

Mr. Ta Dolphin Yu, Taiwan 


Ms. Francesca Mancini, Delta Project Consultant 

Mr. Wolfgang Bertenbreiter, GIZ 

Ms. Belinda Edmonds, African Cotton Foundation-AFC 

Mr. Jean Paul Gourlot, CIRAD 

Mr. Steven Chen, Taiwan 

Mr. João Luis Pessa, ABRAPA 

Mr. Patrick Packnett, USDA 

Ms. Susan Maas, CRDC 

Mr. Peter Wakefield, WIS 

Mr. Neal Gillen, Representative of the ICAC Secretariat 

Mr. Michel Fok, CIRAD 

Mr. Damien Sanfilippo, BCI (by Teleconference) 


Mr. Kai Hughes, ICAC Executive Director 

Mr. Keshav Kranthi, Head of TIS 

Ms. Lihan Wei, Statistician 

Ms. Lorena Ruiz, Economist 

1. Adoption of the Agenda

 Allan Williams, Chair of the SEEP panel opened the meeting by welcoming the delegates and observers present and asked all attendees to present themselves. Mr. Williams noted that the focus of the meeting was to review and endorse the field testing of a set of impact indicators developed by the Delta Project (Annex 1 – Delta Project brief).

2. The DELTA Project Overview

Delta Project Presentation

Delta Project Presentation video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4l15-1AKfE

Dr. Francesca Mancini, sustainability consultant to the Delta Project, started her presentation by noting that the Delta Project is a cross-commodity project, including cotton and coffee, aiming to align sustainability measurement and reporting at farm level. The project is a collaboration between the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) and the International Coffee Association (ICO). The three-year project (2019-2021) is funded by the ISEAL Innovation Fund.

The value proposition of the project is to foster a common understanding of what is sustainability in the cotton and coffee sectors, measuring sustainability through a common set of environmental, social, and economic indicators, and providing feedback of the analysis of the data to farmers to ensure better decision making, improved services and access to finance.

The project has three components:

  • Develop a sustainability framework: impact indicators, guiding principles and data standardization.
  • Link sustainability performance to business actors and governments: method and guidance.
  • Add value to producers: pilot test in two countries with farmers and extension officers. (South Africa for cotton and Vietnam for coffee).

Dr. Mancini noted that the development of a common set of cross-commodity output and outcome indicators should consider the following components: it has to be at the farm-level, it needs to show the impact/outcome/output on sustainability, the number of indicators should be manageable (limited to 10-15), and they need to be relevant in terms of measuring the sustainability progress and adaptable to other sectors. It also requires the development of guidelines that support claims from the sustainability information generated through the common set of indicators and how to communicate sustainability information to customers and end-consumers.

The project is using four different sources to identify the final set of indicators:

  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators
  • ISEAL Common core indicators
  • ICAC/SEEP/FAO indicators for cotton as published in 2015
  • Global Coffee Data Standard developed by the Global Coffee Platform (GCP) for coffee

Dr. Mancini mentioned that the pilot (field) testing of the indicators in the first two countries will be led by BCI and the GCP respectively in 2020. After the field testing, the indicators will be refined.

Consultation with various cotton standards and retailers (CmiA, Fairtrade, Textile Exchange, Cotton Connect, OCA, C&A Foundation, my BMP, Cotton Australia, Cotton 2040), UN Agencies (FAO, ILO, WHO), and public and research organizations members of SEEP among other stakeholders, has taken place or is planned.

Fifteen major sustainability impact areas for cotton and coffee have been defined, as well as 38 sub-areas. Dr. Mancini pointed out that the mapping helped the cotton 20401 initiative to define common broad sustainability goals for the cotton sector.

3. Refining and finalization the draft Core Set of Indicators

The Chair solicited the panel’s feedback after the presentation of each proposed indicator to keep the discussion ongoing within the timeframe of the meeting. Dr. Mancini provided a printed copy to all participants and proceeded to read them one by one.

1. Indicator #1. Use of highly hazardous pesticides-HHPs: The unit for this indicator is kilograms of active ingredient of each highly hazardous pesticide per hectare.

Comments from Participants

- Francesca Mancini: mentioned that all the cotton sustainability standards fully support this indicator. The next step would be developing a list of HHPs not recommended for use on cotton. She also noted that the FAO and the WHO have published the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management and eight defined criteria and guidelines on HHPs.

- Kater Hake: asked if a national authority of a country could have the ability to remove a product from the HHPs list. He provided the example of glyphosate which has strong support in the U.S but does not in some other countries. Dr. Mancini answered that as of today, glyphosate is not GHS 1A/1B as per the criteria defined by the FAO/WHO, but there are indications that it might be in the future because of the issue around carcinogenicity. She also noted that FAO has not developed a global list of HHPs. Nevertheless, other international organizations such as the Pesticide Action Network-PAN and CropLife have developed their HHPs list.

- Allan Williams: noted that at this stage of the project, reporting on HHPs doesn’t mean setting a target of zero use and it is part of a different discussion.

- Francesca Mancini: proposed to create an open list of HHPs products for cotton based on FAO/WHO criteria.

- Joao Luis Pessa: noted that in order to reduce the adverse effects of pesticide use in cotton farming, farmers should have access to safer alternatives. Singling out or banning one product won’t solve the problem for the cotton farmer.

It was agreed that a working group to revise, define and propose a list of HHPs based on FAO/WHO criteria for this indicator will be formed. It is also important to provide guidance on the methodology to collect information on pesticide active ingredient. The members of the working group are:

  • Francesca Mancini, Sustainability consultant
  • Susan Maas, CRDC
  • Marcelo Paytas, INTA
  • Keshav Kranthi/Lorena Ruiz, ICAC
  • Alexandre Pedro Schenkel, AMPA
  • Jean-Pierre Guinko, Burkina Faso
  • Damien Sanfilippo, BCI

2. Indicator #2. Pesticide riskbased indicator

Comments from Participants

- Francesca Mancini: noted that currently there are two risk assessment indicators in use by the Delta Project partners - the Environmental Toxic Load and the Toxic Load Indicator. Pesticide use by type remains the default indicator until a decision on the riskbased indicator is reached.

- Allan Williams: commented that traditionally pesticide use has been reported on by providing the amount of kg of the active ingredient used, but it doesn’t give any information on the impact of that use. He noted that the challenge faced by the panel is that the closer you want to get to assessing the actual risk, the more difficult the data collection becomes. Designing a good indicator could be possible in theory but in practice, it could be unworkable, as it would require so many data points that getting the data to actually populate the indicator won't be feasible.

- Damien Sanfilippo: mentioned that BCI can provide further documentation and clarification on the use of the Toxic Load Indicator (TLI). This indicator was developed in conjunction with CmiA, and it fits best with the purpose and context of both organizations. He noted the TLI is very simple to use. It is an open source system as it only relies on parameters that are universally available. The maintenance of the system is also very easy and fully transparent.

- Kater Hake: pointed out that risk issues are really important one to include because that gives you impact. Risk is equal to toxicity times exposure. Farmers have put some practices in place to minimize their exposure and reduce the risk. If a risk indicator is going to be added the panel should consider that the risk is to humans and not another target species.

- Keshav Kranthi: stated that in the U.S, there are more than 20,000 cases that have been registered in courts against the use of glyphosate. Currently, in at least three cases, the juries have found  Roundup (glyphosate-based weed killer) to be carcinogenic. Dr. Kranthi noted that despite the U.S doesn’t consider glyphosate a risk to public health when used in accordance with its current label, all these cases have been filed within the country and not in countries like India, Pakistan or African Countries. He also said that the problem is not how farmers use or handle HHP, but the danger of the products per se.

The panel agreed that the concept of a composite risk indicator is important. The actual focus of the indicator - humans and/or bees - needs further discussion and considerations. The working group on HHPs will discuss and revise the best option for this indicator as well.

3. Indicator #3. Water use or water use efficiency

Comments from Participants

- Francesca Mancini: noted that considering the challenges in calculating water use in small holdings, there is a need to make a final decision on the most suitable water indicator for farms that do not keep regular water use records. There are currently three indicators available – Water efficiency for irrigated farms (%), quantity of water used for irrigation (m3/ha), and water crop productivity (WCP) for irrigated farms (m3/kg lint). Dr. Mancini pointed out that water indicators are highly context-dependent as they are not very meaningful unless more information about how and where the water is being applied is provided.

- Allan Williams: mentioned that both quantity and water crop productivity have been widely supported by the Cotton 2040 initiative.

- Keshav Kranthi: asked if water crop productivity includes blue water, grey water and green water. Mr. Williams answered that water efficiency is determine by the amount of water that reaches the plant once it is extracted from underground, dam or river. While water productivity is how much cotton is produced per unit of water delivered to the plant. Dr. Kranthi pointed out that it is always better to focus on irrigation water because that is where farmers can have a handle. Adding rainfed water to the analysis may confuse people and it could lead to a misinterpretation of the data collected. Mr. Williams replied by saying that the panel should consider the opportunity for looking at water productivity in a rainfed system as well.

- Kater Hake: mentioned that the metrics for intercrop water productivity is the water used by the crop versus productivity of the crop. Dr. Hake said this is a very important metric because allow farmers to get maximum yield value from the limited water they have available.

The panel agreed that water management in rainfed systems needs further discussion and it cannot reach an agreement on this matter at this point. The current indicators that are part of the discussion are:

  • Total water use
  • Water use efficiency
  • Crop productivity for irrigated farms
  • And one indicator on water stewardship

4. Indicator #5. Topsoil carbon content and moisture content

Comments from Participants

- Allan Williams: asked for a clarification for these two terms. Dr. Mancini replied by saying that the terminology was proposed by the coffee organization.

The panel agreed that topsoil carbon content should be measured every year using a visual assessment and every 5/6 years in the laboratory, and that the adoption of good soil management practices should be monitored regularly. The panel recommended that the guidelines for data collection from the Global Soil Partnership be used as a reference.

5. Indicator #6. Fertiliser use or fertiliser use efficiency

Comments from Participants

- Kater Hake: mentioned that since we have two metrics – the productivity or yield of seed cotton and fertiliser use, it is extremely easy to put those metrics together by calculating nutrient extraction versus supply.

- Keshav Kranthi: supported the idea and noted that it is better to focus on fertilizer use efficiency rather than application.

The panel agreed that fertilizer use will be included as indicator, and that this indicator will be replaced in future by fertilizer use efficiency.

6. Indicator #7. Forest converted for cotton production

Comments from Participants

- Francesca Mancini: mentioned that based on the consultation with all the stakeholders, forest, wetland and grassland conversation should be included. However, there is a need to define the cut-off date. Is it going to be retrospective or not?

- Allan Williams: commented that it is important to understand how other organizations deal with this issue in order to provide recommendations to the project.

- Lorena Ruiz: asked what the methods of data collection were. Mr. Sanfilippo replied that BCI works with the producers that are participating with the program and conducts a survey where the farmer has to inform if there is planning to do any land conversion and if they do then there is a process implemented to monitor it.

The Panel recommended not to set a cut-off day but looks forward to mitigate any possible risk where High Conservation Value Areas (HCVA) are converted for the purpose of growing cotton. Francesca Mancini will distribute further information to the panel on this matter.

7. Indicator #8. Green House Gas emission: kg CO2e / kg cotton lint

Comments from Participants

- Francesca Mancini: initiated the discussion on a common methodology to assess emissions. She pointed out for the need to develop appropriate guidance to annex to the Delta framework. Common protocol for sources of emissions, system boundary, and emission factors have to be discussed by the panel.

- Keshav Kranthi: asked if the idea was to measure the carbon footprint or the carbon emissions. If it is about addressing the issue of carbon emission, then it is essentially a matter of balance of input and output. Allan Williams replied that in Australia the initial mission was to measure emissions but then it was decided to included sequestration as well. However, it hasn’t been decided what would be the best methodology to measure it. Keshav Kranthi asked if there were any study that provides

the net emission of CO2 by cotton. Mr. Hake responded that the global life cycle assessment of cotton shows that up until the bale, cotton is a net absorber of CO2.  

The panel agreed that the indicator will focus on measuring emissions in the cotton production process until ginning, i.e. to the bale of lint. It was also agreed that a working group will be formed to gather information on the CO2eq calculation tools currently in use in the countries or standards.

8. Indicator, #9, #10, #11 and #12: Average yields, net income, living income, price at farmgate.

Comments from Participants

- Keshav Kranthi/Lorena Ruiz: noted that there is a difference between cost of cultivation and cost of production. The first one goes until the seed cotton and it reflects the cost per hectare. The cost of production refers to the lint and includes the cost of ginning, land rent and taxes. The gross income refers to the income of a farmer including lint and seed, and net returns is equal to gross income minus the cost of cultivation.

The panel agreed that the cost of cultivation (up to the seed cotton) should be collected in local currencies. The unit where cost of cultivation would be reported would be U.S dollars so comparisons can be made. The frequency for reporting on economic indicators could be every three years, following the recommendations from the SDGs. ICAC will share their methodology for data collection on cost of production.

9. Indicator #13. Child labour: Incidence of the worst forms of child labour and forced labour

Comments from Participants

- Francesca Mancini: mentioned that there is a shared concern on how monitoring and reporting child labour is done.

- Kai Hughes: noted that any child labor in a cotton system should be considered not sustainable at all.

- Alan McClay: indicated that BCI classifies the cases into two categories – systemic and incidental. For social indicators there should be an agreement between principles and standards. A probable way to move forward is to measure what it is seen in the field.

- All Participants: members noted that there should be a more active role from countries that allows the discussion and set targets to curve the use of HHPs, child and force labour, and guarantee minimum wages in cotton producing countries.

The panel agreed that definitions and guidance from the International Labour Organization (ILO) should be used to address the issue of child and forced labour.

10. Indicator #15. Gender: Women in managerial/leadership roles and other relevant decision-making influence

Comments from Participants

- Francesca Mancini: noted that there is a need to further define the indicator and proposal to adopt and modify the gender index developed by IFPRI which has 15 gender dimensions, 6 out of which are very relevant to cotton production.

- Alan McClay: commented that BCI undertook research on gender dynamics in cotton production and the organization is putting together a plan to roll out a global gender strategy for cotton production.

Definition of units across the indicators

  • Harvested land
  • Lint Yield
  • Cost of cultivation per hectare and cost of production per kilogram of seed-cotton
  • Local currencies vs USD
  • Harvest year

4. Draft report statement to report to plenary meeting

A statement on SEEP’s recommendations to endorse the indicator set for testing in 2020 will be drafted by Allan Williams and Francesca Mancini and sent out to members for revision and approval.

5. Cotton 2040

The chairman noted that the Cotton2040 initiative asked that the SEEP panel should consider their comments on the set of indicators. In order to do provide a proper answer, he suggested that Francesca Mancini provides a document that summarizes and incorporates all the observations given by the panel. This document will be distributed among members along with the minutes from the meeting. The chair will formally reply to the cotton 2040 initiative and acknowledge their work.

6. Other matters

The Chair thanked delegates and observers for their presence and declared the meeting closed.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.