8 min read

Better Cotton Initiative, Explained

Written by:

Christi Farrell, RA, Leed GA


November 8, 2022

Image source:

Studio Marlowe

Interior design has transcended aesthetics, with a growing emphasis on sustainability and health.

One initiative contributing to this evolution is the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).

Let's delve deeper into how BCI is influencing the sphere of healthy home interiors.

What is the Better Cotton Initiative?

The Better Cotton Initiative is a global non-profit organization and the largest cotton sustainability program in the world.

BCI aims to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in, and better for the sector's future.

Relevance in Healthy Interior Design

Interior design's relevance often focuses on comfort and visual appeal.

However, the implications of material choices on health and sustainability have brought initiatives like BCI to the forefront.

In the realm of healthy interior design, choosing materials that are responsibly sourced is critical.

BCI's efforts in transforming cotton production have a direct impact on creating healthier home environments, as it ensures that cotton products are produced under fair, safe, and environmentally-conscious conditions.

Companies Participating in the BCI Program

Numerous companies have committed to sourcing more sustainable cotton through the BCI.

Notably, brands like West Elm and Pottery Barn are shining examples of BCI partners, both having made substantial pledges towards using 100% sustainably sourced cotton in their products.

West Elm's Commitment

West Elm, a frontrunner in sustainable interior design, prides itself on using organic cotton and has publicly supported the Better Cotton Initiative.

West Elm's partnership with BCI reinforces the brand's commitment to reducing its ecological footprint and promoting healthier living spaces.

Pottery Barn's Endeavors

Similar to West Elm, Pottery Barn has also established itself as a BCI advocate.

The company aims to strengthen ethical practices and environmental stewardship and has been actively increasing its percentage of BCI-sourced cotton in its product line.

FAQ on Better Cotton Initiative

What exactly does BCI do?

BCI collaborates with a diverse range of stakeholders across the cotton production and supply chain to improve cotton farming practices globally.

This includes promoting more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable methods.

How does cotton certified by BCI contribute to healthier homes?

BCI-certified cotton is produced using methods that minimize the negative impact on the environment, reducing the exposure to harmful pesticides in the home.

This translates to cleaner interior textiles and a healthier indoor atmosphere.

Can consumers easily identify BCI-sourced products?

While there’s no specific consumer label for BCI cotton, participating brands and retailers often communicate their commitment to sourcing Better Cotton, making it easier for conscious consumers to make informed decisions.

The Importance of Sustainable Materials in Interior Design

Designers and homeowners increasingly recognize the importance of materials that not only create an aesthetically pleasing space but also prioritize health and sustainability.

Decreasing Chemical Exposure

The BCI's farming standards restrict the use of harmful chemicals, aiming to reduce synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use.

This approach aligns with a core tenet of healthy interior design: minimizing occupants' exposure to potentially harmful substances.

Boosting Indoor Air Quality

Textiles treated with fewer chemicals contribute to better indoor air quality, a key aspect of a healthy home.

BCI's stance on chemical management plays a role in fostering environments that promote wellbeing.

Endorsing Social Responsibility

A healthy home also encompasses ethical considerations. BCI's focus on improving the livelihoods and wellbeing of cotton farmers supports communities and contributes to the overall narrative of a responsibly designed home.

Investigating BCI's Impact on Cotton Production

Environmental Outcomes

BCI's environmental criteria focus on water use, soil health, natural habitats, and fiber quality.

Their strategies for sustainable water management, for example, have positive implications for the environment and produce higher quality cotton for home textiles.

Economic Benefits for Farmers

Through the BCI initiative, farmers are trained to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals and apply decent work principles.

As a result, BCI reports that licensed farmers produce cotton more sustainably, while often achieving higher yields and profits.

Challenges and Critiques

While BCI's work has been transformative, it has not been without challenges.

Critics of BCI sometimes question the scalability and monitoring of such large-scale operations.

However, the initiative continues to refine its approach and address such concerns.

The Future of BCI and Healthy Home Interiors

Looking ahead, the integration of BCI's principles is poised to become even more significant in the world of interior design.

Technology and Innovation

Advancements in traceability and the use of blockchain may soon provide greater transparency, allowing consumers to track the journey of their home textiles from cotton field to finished product.

Expanding Influence

As global awareness increases, expect to see a rise in not only BCI’s influence but also the demand for certified sustainable materials in interior design.

Partnership Growth

BCI's continued partnership with companies like West Elm and Pottery Barn potentially paves the way for more industry giants to follow suit, catalyzing a movement towards universal responsible cotton sourcing.


The Better Cotton Initiative plays a critical role in redefining what it means to design healthy homes.

By advocating for sustainable and responsible cotton production, BCI enables more conscious choices in home textiles—choices that affect not just aesthetic and comfort, but also the well-being of people and the planet.

West Elm and Pottery Barn are examples of how companies can align themselves with these values, setting an industry standard for healthy and sustainable interior design practices.

As consumers become more educated and concerned about these issues, the demand for Better Cotton and healthier homes will undoubtedly rise, guiding the interior design industry towards a more sustainable future.

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Christi Farrell

Christi is a licensed architect and interior designer specializing in sustainability. She enjoys teaching design and bringing transparency to the impact that furniture has on our planet.

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