Third Australian Cotton Industry Environmental Assessment

by | Oct 17, 2012

Client: Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC)

CRDC is an Australian Government Statutory Authority that works as a partnership between the Australian cotton industry and the Australian Government. It provides leadership and investment in research, innovation, knowledge creation and transfer and the adoption of research results by industry. Its vision is a globally competitive and responsible cotton industry.

Client comments on Inovact’s work
“Inovact prompted us to think differently about how to assess our industry’s environmental performance. They conducted a comprehensive assessment and were responsive to our feedback on how best to interpret their findings. They have provided timely and valuable counsel to an industry that strives for continuous improvement in its environmental stewardship.”

Key issues prevailing at commencement
• The Australian Cotton Industry Second Environmental Audit reported in 2003 and recommended a further environmental audit be conducted in five years. The impact of severe drought on the industry necessitated a delay in the next audit which was eventually commissioned in January 2012.

• The industry’s location in the riverine areas of the Murray Darling and Fitzroy Basins means that its interactions with rivers, floodplains, wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef (in the case of the Fitzroy Basin) places it under ongoing public and government scrutiny in terms water use and environmental stewardship.

• Previous environmental audits were undertaken at a time when the industry faced significant issues with the impact of pesticide and water use on the environment. Transformational changes in cotton growing have occurred in the past decade and the industry required an independent assessment to document the changes made and establish evidence of improved environmental performance.

• The emerging drivers for further improvements in the environmental performance of cotton growing over the next decade are centering around: the influence of public environmental policy and programs; the requirement for flexible and adaptive farming systems to meet productivity and natural resource management challenges; international retailer, consumer and value chain market demands for environmental sustainability; and Australian public opinion that requests good environmental and social stewardship by agriculture.

Key services provided by Inovact
• Provided a strategic environmental assessment framework that addressed environmental performance across the cotton growing sector.

• Compiled and reviewed an extensive bibliography of Australian and international literature relating to the environmental performance of cotton growing.

• Designed and undertook a CATI survey (Computer Aided Telephone Surveys) with 150 cotton growers responding.

• Designed and undertook an online survey of cotton industry stakeholders – those with a stake in the industry or an interest in its performance.

• Undertook a number of farm visits to ground-truth survey results.

• Undertook depth interviews with key executives in the cotton value chain as influencers of change.

• Synthesized desktop analysis and research results into a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment report for the industry.

Outcomes and value to date
• The industry has a comprehensive strategic assessment of its environmental performance since 2003 that confirms substantial improvements in water, chemical and natural resource management, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation and abatement.

• The industry’s environmental assessments now extend over a 21-year time frame and provide benchmarks for assessing ongoing improvements.

• Evidence of continual improvement over this time period can be used to assure markets, governments and the community of the industry’s commitment to its environmental credentials.

• The grower and stakeholder survey results provide baseline data regarding perceptions of environmental performance that can be measured and compared over time.

• Recommendations made by the study provide direction for the industry to continually improve its environmental credentials.

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