The LCA has been carried out following the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 guidelines by modelling the LCI for each of the three different scenarios of cotton cultivation.
The goal of the study was to quantify the environmental benefits associated with production of organic seed cotton and BCI seed cotton compared to conventional seed cotton production, and also to identify the environmental hotspots over a range of environmental impacts categories. The audience of the study was internal management of Arvind Limited and critical review was not carried out. As such, Arvind Limited does not challenge the results.
2.2 Scope of the Study
The typical system under consideration is a cradle-to-gate Life Cycle Inventory including the cultivation of the cotton plant until farm gate. Figure 1 shows the system boundaries considered for the three farming practices under study.
Cotton cultivation includes four main tasks: field preparation, planting, field operations, and harvesting. Under the collective term field operations: irrigation, weed and pest control, and fertilization are included. These tasks consume energy (electricity and fuel), require inputs (seeds, fertilizers, water etc.) and produce wastes and emissions—all part of the present system.
2.3 Functional Unit
The functional unit for this study was 1 ton of seed cotton at the farm gate, for all the three systems, i.e. conventional cotton, BCI cotton and organic cotton production.
2.4 Data Collection
Primary data for BCI, organic and conventional cotton cultivation was provided by Arvind Limited for ten representative farming sites. Specifically adapted questionnaires were used to collect inventory data for agricultural systems. These questionnaires were filled in by representatives of producer groups and the data provided were subjected to quality check considering literature references and were compared to other primary cultivation data sources in order to ensure reliable results. The data from each cultivation site were modelled into ten different site specific LCI models and weighted average of those sites were used to create an LCI profile for BCI, Organic and conventional cotton production respectively. Table 1 shows the questionnaires that were used to collect primary inventory data for all three farming practices.
During cotton production, two valuable co-products are produced, cotton fibres and cottonseed. Thus, the environmental burden is allocated to both the fibres and the seed. It has been determined that mass-based allocation is the most suitable method to use for this study.
2.6 Inclusion and Exclusion
Included in the study are all material and energy flows required for the cultivation phase, as well as all associated wastes and emissions. The study is not limited to fertilizer and pesticide production but also includes field emissions (e.g. N2O), electricity for pumps and all transports (fertilizer to the field). The provision of infrastructure is not included. The impact of provision of other capital goods such as buildings is also expected to be low, as for example storage takes place at producer groups, so that the scaling effect will result in very low impacts per kg final product.
2.7 Software and Database
The LCA model was created using the GaBi 6.4 Software system for life cycle engineering, developed by thinkstep AG. The associated Gabi database provided the background LCI data in order to characterise several of the raw materials and processes involved in the background system.
2.8 Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA)
The following impacts categories were considered of high relevance: GWP, PED, Acidification Potential (AP), Eutrophication Potential (EP) and Water Consumption (WC). The CML impact assessment methodology was used (Institute of Environmental Sciences of the University of Leiden framework, CML2001, 2013). The impact categories identified above are also considered by Cotton Inc.  and Textile Exchange .