Sustainability is about staying in business

Sustainability helps us manage what matters on our farms, and what matters to the people who buy our cotton products.

‘Sustainability’ is something that means different things to different people.

So let’s be clear up front why the Australian cotton industry is taking sustainability so seriously.

One of the reasons is that customers and other stakeholders are increasingly asking for evidence of sustainability performance. It makes sense to respond to that demand by showing the industry has a good story in many areas, and is working hard to improve in others.

But sustainability is not just about responding to customer needs. Done well, it’s a licence to grow – now, and for future generations.

Sustainability for the Australian cotton industry means running profitable and efficient businesses while creating environmental, economic and social value. It also means being accountable to stakeholders for the industry’s actions and impacts.

‘Sustainability’ is not a feel-good exercise. Every company and every industry anywhere in the world that manages sustainability well, uses it as a central part of their work to stay in business.

Most of them use the same internationally-recognised framework the Australian cotton industry uses. This framework guides industry to understand, prioritise, manage and measure what’s important to the people the Australian cotton industry impacts, or who can impact the industry. Customers, growers, workers, government, communities, input providers and interest groups are just some of these people.

At the heart of sustainability is continually and transparently talking to all these stakeholders about what impact the industry is having, and what it is doing to reduce negative impacts and boost positive impacts.

It follows that if the industry shows it is managing what’s important to the people it relies on to be successful, it is more likely to be successful. It is more likely to keep that licence to grow.

  • Sustainability can help the industry grow by reducing risk. By continually talking to a broad range of stakeholders the industry is more alert to risks (and opportunities), can take actions to reduce operational risk, and can form stronger relationships to reduce reputational risk.
  • Sustainability can help the industry grow by increasing productivity. More efficient input use, less injury time, more innovation and a more attractive workplace are just some of the ways productivity and profitability can be improved.
  • And sustainability can help the industry grow by gaining or keeping customers who want that evidence of sustainability performance.

Increasingly, customers don’t want to pay for ‘sustainability’, they just expect it to be done. Which is why the Australian cotton industry’s sustainability framework is designed to show the performance of the whole industry without putting additional time or cost on growers.

We will explain how this is done next month.

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.