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We are working to improve sustainability in 9 key areas

Workplace: continuing to create safe, inclusive and skilled workplaces

 

Why this is a priority?

Farms are made up of natural resources, but it is human resources – people – that turn these natural assets into some of the world’s finest and most efficiently-grown cotton. People are the difference between an industry that is average, and an industry that is the high-performing, dynamic and innovative one which Australia’s cotton growers, researchers and other input providers have created.

To be competitive with other fibres, the cotton industry needs to continue to attract and retain the right people, support them with the skills and knowledge needed to continually improve farming practices, and keep them safe.

 

What is our ultimate goal?

Our goal is to make cotton an employer of choice, with injury-free cotton farms, skills for innovative and modern agriculture, and a diverse workforce that is treated fairly and ethically.

By doing this, we will also play our part in helping Australian agriculture more broadly to develop the workforce needed to excel in the 21st century.

 

What is the context?

Safety: From 2014 to 2019, the agricultural sector had one of the highest rates of fatalities and serious injury in Australia. During this period, 399 people lost their lives on an Australian farm, including six on cotton farms. On average, 38 people per year also had a serious injury in the same period on a cotton farm. Much work is being done to make cotton farms safer, but more needs to be done. 

Skills: Cotton growers and ginners have some of the highest formal education levels in Australian agriculture, with 43% having post-school qualifications according to the 2016 Census. The industry also invests heavily in “continual professional development” on-farm and industry training, like the University of New England Cotton Production Course and the AgSkilled vocational training partnership. With rapid advances in technology transforming the way we farm and climate variability and natural capital constraints testing the resilience of our farming systems, the need for people to be able to adapt to change is increasingly important.

Diversity: Many agriculture industries around the world have relatively little diversity. However, a workplace that actively seeks diversity will have a wider pool of people to choose from for jobs and to stimulate innovation. Embracing diversity in age (young and old), maximising the participation of women in cotton, and providing opportunities and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are the industry’s three focus areas. Underpinning this diversity is acknowledging the need – and opportunity – to treat all cotton industry employees ethically and provide labour conditions that meet the expectations of customers and consumers around the world.

 

What is our draft target?

Safety: Zero fatalities, and a 30% reduction in serious injuries. Ultimately, the industry wants to see injury-free cotton farms; a challenging aspiration given the many hazards on farms, but a goal everyone in the industry should be working to.

Skills and diversity: The cotton industry’s Workforce Strategy is being revised and will be released in 2021. This Strategy will inform targets for diversity and skills. The Strategy will, in turn, be informed by a National Agriculture Workforce Strategy, released by the Federal Government in March 2021 and with a strong focus on lifelong learning.

 

 

    Target indicators: Safety

2014

2019

Baseline

2024

Draft Target

2029

Draft Target

Fatalities (total in five year period)

5

6

0

0

Serious injuries (mean annual serious injuries in five year period)

44

38

27

19

Context indicators: skills

% post-school qualifications

39%

43%

n/a

Context indicators: diversity

% age <29

27.6

22.1

n/a

% age 30-49

42.0

40.6

% age 50+

30.2

37.3

% female

21.4

23.0

% Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin

5.2

5.5

 


Sustainability: managing what matters

The PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. sustainability framework is focused on the topics most important to the industry and its stakeholders. Through a process involving a technical review, industry input and external stakeholder consultations nine topics have been identified across our environmental (PLANET), social (PEOPLE) and economic (PADDOCK) impacts.

The industry is working to set targets for these nine topics. In achieving these sustainability targets, the industry aims to run profitable and efficient businesses while creating environmental, economic and social value.

 

This blog is part of a year long program from CottonInfo, with the themes aligned with the 2021 CottonInfo cotton calendar and the cotton industry’s PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK sustainability framework.