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Businesses pushed to convert to Fairtrade cotton 18.02.10

Mamouna Keita
cotton farmer, Mali
©Simon Rawles

Following the success of Fairtrade cotton in the UK market over the past five years, the Fairtrade Foundation is now rolling out a strategy to target public procurement and the business world to open up new market opportunities for marginalized cotton farmers in the developing world.

The Fairtrade Foundation is hoping that British groups will follow the example of the Dorint Hotel at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which has set up entire rooms using towels, bed linen, toiletries and bathrobes made from Fairtrade cotton. Lilli Design Limited in the UK will launch the first hotel linen made from Fairtrade cotton over the coming months and already has interest from a major hotel chain.

Public services including the NHS, the Post Office, railway networks and supermarkets are being approached to discuss opportunities for using uniforms incorporating Fairtrade cotton. This follows the lead of 460 councils around the UK who have made Fairtrade a part of their sustainability agenda through the Fairtrade Towns campaign, by passing resolutions to serve Fairtrade beverages in meetings. The next logical step is to extend the commitment to Fairtrade cotton products, including uniforms, to deepen their sustainability agendas. Already the strategy has proved fruitful, with interest from a number of key sectors.

Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation says: ‘Sourcing Fairtrade products is a good way of bringing sustainability into public procurement. The FAIRTRADE Mark is the only guarantee that can instantly assure you that the farmers are being treated fairly. Cotton farmers from India to West Africa have faced a tough year with increased food prices and severe economic crisis, so this strategy is of great significance and shows the Fairtrade movement continuing to grow in strength.’

Lamb continues: ‘The recession has had a big impact on farmers. Without cotton sales, farmers may have to go back to selling cotton for whatever price they can get, which means families get into debt with many repercussions on health, education, food and water. I hope that the fact that we are now coming out of recession combined with sales of Fairtrade cotton generated by the business world will help provide farmers with significant new markets and a stable income. Cotton on to Fairtrade!’

Peter Shield

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