Australian cotton growers have been quietly and collaboratively working to improve their sustainability performance for decades. In 1991 cotton became the first Australian agricultural industry to benchmark its environmental performance, and more recently we have been working towards developing sustainability targets.
1991: First Independent Environmental Audit. Recommendations made to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.
2003: Second Independent Environment Audit. Found all 44 recommendations from the First Audit had been implemented, and provided new recommendations.
2012: Third Independent Environmental Assessment. Six recommendations for improvement, including more regular reporting on environmental impacts.
2020: Fourth Independent Environmental Assessment due to be commissioned.
Sustainability reports and developing targets:
2014: First Sustainability Report provided data on 45 social, economic and environmental indicators.
- 2016: Sustainability Working Group (SWG) formed to oversee the industry’s ongoing commitment to sustainability reporting and implementation.
2016-2019: Priority sustainability topics developed by the SWG through technical advice, research, stakeholder consultation, and validation. In 2016, 35 internal and external stakeholders attended a Cotton Sustainability Stakeholder Forum to provide guidance and feedback to the Australian cotton industry on sustainability issues, draft targets, indicators and reporting. Other stakeholders were contacted directly. Feedback from this Forum was used to refine targets and release a Background Reference Paper later in 2016 that outlined eight sustainability topics and associated indicators, and provided rationale for their selection. In 2018, feedback was sought on draft sustainability targets from stakeholders representing customers and retailers, suppliers and service providers, interest groups, agriculture RDCs, all levels of government, community groups, employment representatives, cotton industry representatives, the Cotton Innovation Network and the research community.
2019: Second Sustainability Report for the five years to June 2019 provided data on the eight priority social, economic and environmental topics. Data gathered report allowed us to compare our performance in priority topics from 2014 to 2019. This highlighted we are on track in some topics, and in other topics we can do better.
2020-21: Sustainability targets being finalised. Small expert groups reviewed data from 2014 and 2019 Sustainability Reports. This process has resulted in draft targets for several priority topics. It has also shown other priority topics need more time to develop indicators or targets, especially those that have a high degree of crossover with other Australian agriculture sectors. Having consistency with other agriculture sustainability frameworks is very important to the cotton industry. Stakeholder consultation on draft targets was undertaken from mid-2020, as outlined by this summary report. Work continues on the finalisation of the targets.
Achieving sustainability targets:
A Sustainability Strategy developed by the Sustainability Working Group coordinates industry work to achieve the targets. Engagement with stakeholders on sustainability will be ongoing and integrated into how we operate and respond to sustainability issues.
Our sustainabilty framework:
PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. is the Australian cotton industry’s sustainability framework. It recognises sustainability is integral to the industry’s future and provides a path for the entire industry to stay in business. Through a process of stakeholder consultation and review, eight environmental, economic and social sustainability topics have been assessed as being most important to cotton growers and stakeholders inside and outside the industry.
PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. guides the industry’s work to:
- Set ambitious industry-wide Australian cotton sustainability targets for these areas
- Coordinate existing work and new investments to achieve these targets
- Engage effectively with stakeholders on actions and progress, and
- Provide a united vision for further positive change.
PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. is currently targeted at on-farm cotton production. It is not a compulsory standard or a brand: it will be delivered through existing industry structures and programs.
Our alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals:
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are widely recognised as providing a global pathway to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we all face. The SDGs provide goals and targets for every individual, business, industry and nation to work towards. This document provides a summary of the most relevant SDGs to the Australian cotton industry, and how we are working to do our share to contribute to them.