Knowledge for a sustainable world

The ‘Evaluation for Transformational Change’ is a biennial award that recognises outstanding evaluations of development interventions that promote or result in transformational change and are explicitly linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An evaluation led by NRI, which assessed the impact of sustainability standards in the cotton sector, has been awarded a runner-up prize in the 2019 Competition.

Entitled ‘Evidence from an evaluation of the early impacts of the Better Cotton Initiative on smallholder cotton producers in Kurnool district, India’, the evaluation was led by NRI’s Ravinder Kumar, Valerie Nelson and Adrienne Martin in collaboration with partners from India.

The award is instituted by the Independent Office of Evaluation of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank Group, and the International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS) which was created to meet the need for a global professional association for international development evaluators.

When announcing the award, the judging panel stated that the NRI-led evaluation “stood out for aptly combining a rigorous and sophisticated use of mixed methods with a proactive orientation towards learning, usability and effective communication of findings. The result was a rigorous, credible and pertinent report”.

The NRI team, together with research collaborators from the Gujarat Institute of Development Research, the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Pragmatix and Catalyst Management Services in India, recently completed the 3-year evaluative research, with support from the ISEAL Alliance as part of their Demonstrating and Improving Poverty Impact (DIPI) project.

The evaluation was conducted on three dimensions of sustainability – economic (SDGs 1 and 2), social (SDGs 3, 5 and 8) and environmental (SDGs 12 and 13). Each dimension connected with an SDG was studied through 34 rigorously defined indicators. Using Randomised Control Trials, nested within a theory of change, the evaluation assessed the impact of sustainability standards in the cotton sector. The research findings were analysed on a detailed theory of change of how voluntary sustainability standards (in this case, the Better Cotton Initiative) contribute to social and economic well-being while improving environmental variables.

This has been a pioneering evaluation in the ‘Better Cotton’ sector. Evidence from the study has provided considerable insights to Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) on its strategic direction to scale up its work globally. The research team is now involved in supporting ISEAL alliance and BCI teams in wider dissemination and uptake. A series of workshops in India and in the Hague have been recently completed. In the workshop in India, participants came from cotton sector initiatives, including private sector companies working in the cotton value chain. More details about the workshop can be accessed here. The research team also presented and discussed research findings in the Global Sustainability Symposium in the Hague.

To find out more about:

The final evaluation report

ISEAL Alliance Evidensia report

BCI Management Response to the evaluation

NRI’s Sustainable Trade and Responsible Business Programme

Professor Ravinder Kumar

Professor Adrienne Martin

Professor Valerie Nelson


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