The Better Cotton Imitative (BCI), the world's largest multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI) for sustainable cotton production, is a prime example of a hybrid “cooperation-compliance” model used by some MSIs to engage farmers and on-farm workers in the global South. Using a mixed methods approach, we investigate the impacts of this hybrid model on economic, environmental, and labor conditions of farmers and on-farm workers on irrigated cotton farms in Pakistan and India. In one of few cross-national comparisons of BCI impacts, we find evidence that farmers participating in BCI's “cooperation-compliance” model report (a) higher gross incomes and (b) lower input costs than comparison farmers. However, (c) BCI had no positive impacts upon labor conditions on cotton farms, as compared to conventional peers. Finally, (d) BCI's impacts are mediated by institutional and geographic differences across the study sites. We conclude that effects of MSIs are hard to generalize but can most meaningfully be understood within particular institutional designs, value chains, specific time periods, and institutional contexts.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 17 December 2021.
- Global value chains
- Multi-stakeholder initiatives
- Better Cotton Initiative