Fair Trade Clothing – The Pros and Cons

A guest post by Michael Williams
Fair trade clothing is a growing niche within a larger offering of ethical clothing. As a concept, the primary focus is on equality and fairness for the people involved in production.

Although this article focuses on Fairtrade, there are other factors that buyers of ethical products need to consider, these include organic clothing, second hand clothing, recycled clothing, and clothing that protects factory workers, such as those accredited to the Fairwear Foundation standards. It is important not to automatically assume that because a clothing product is Fairtrade certified, it is also organic, sustainable, and ethical in ways outside the remit of the Fairtrade Foundation.

What is Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is a global movement that has been in existence for a number of decades, with the aim of improving the conditions for workers of raw materials in less developed nations. It also looks to provide better pay and more opportunities for these people. It does this by using a minimum price that the raw materials must be bought for, with a “social premium” added on top to help fund schools, and other projects that improve the lives of those in the local community.

Fairtrade is governed by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and its network of “fair trade organisations” in different countries. In the UK, this job is given to the Fairtrade Foundation, who provides certification (the labels you see on Fairtrade certified products).

Fairtrade’s remit focuses mainly on the working conditions of producers of raw materials, like cotton, rather than environmental standards or working conditions in factories. Fairtrade also prevents the use of some pesticides, which has a secondary environmental benefit, but the primary motivation for this is to protect the workers’ health. It’s important to be aware that when you see a Fairtrade label on a cotton t-shirt, for example, it will only be the raw material fibre that is certified Fairtrade, not necessarily the whole garment (i.e. not the manufacturing process).

What isn’t Fairtrade?
Fairtrade isn’t a magic label that solves all of the world’s problems. It is a great tool to work towards that goal, but shouldn’t be considered in isolation. When considering ethical/sustainable clothing, you should also consider these factors:
• Is it Organic?
• Is it produced in factories that have good environmental records (eg. do they use renewable energy/minimise their pollution)?
• Are the factory workers protected?

When you buy a Fairtrade product, don’t assume these 3 things are protected too. The Fairtrade label only covers the workers that produce the raw material, although it would be nice to think that it’s probably more likely at least something is being done within the supply chain for these other elements.

What makes clothing “Fairtrade”?
Fairtrade clothing is made from materials that are Fairtrade certified, nearly always this means cotton. However, it doesn’t mean that it contains only 100% Fairtrade cotton, for example many clothing products are made blends such as 80% cotton, 20% polyester. Given that synthetic materials can’t be grown on a Fairtrade certified farm, this means that only the cotton will be Fairtrade.

The Pros
• The Fairtrade brand is one of the most well known ethical labels in the world, so you can be sure it’s genuine.
• Fairtrade clothing is usually of a higher quality (to match the higher price).
• This higher quality often feels and fits better.
• Fairtrade clothing can be useful for businesses to help them be more socially responsible.
• Some environmental benefits from less pesticide use.
• You get a warm fuzzy feeling when you buy it.*

The Cons
• Fairtrade clothing usually costs more (but you might be ok with that).
• Despite its growing demand, the supply is still lacking. You will have to look a bit harder to find Fairtrade clothing.
• Fairtrade isn’t a magic pill; you need to look at other ethical factors too.
• The minimum price for raw materials is often below market values, making it redundant (the farmers will get the market rate if it’s higher).
• You get a warm fuzzy feeling when you buy it.*

*The Warm Fuzzy Feeling
When you buy ethical products, including Fairtrade clothing you get a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling inside, knowing that your purchase has done some good in the world. Except consumer purchasing doesn’t necessarily make a big impact. Sushil Mohan discussed the limited impacts of a single consumer purchase in his book: Fair Trade Without the Froth.

Conclusion
Fairtrade is a great way to improve the imbalance within the global supply chains, by no means is it a magic pill, and it should be considered within the wider group of ethical accreditations. It costs a little more, but if you’re looking for ethical products then this difference probably doesn’t matter to you. Whilst it’s not perfect, it is definitely better than nothing.

About the author
Michael Williams is a writer and marketing professional with a keen interest in sustainability and the environment. This work often sees him writing bids for organisations, particularly assisting with their social value offerings.

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New Tastier GEOBARs with Myanmar Fairtrade Rice

GEOBAR Fairtrade
GEOBARs have been around for 15 years so it’s likely you’ve happily munched your way through them before. Tasty, wholesome and made with Fairtrade ingredients, they offer triple whammy goodness. Produced by Traidcraft, GEOBAR was the first product made from several Fairtrade ingredients to be certified with the Fairtrade Mark in 1999. To date they have sold over 200 million bars, working in partnership with, and supporting, farmers from Ghana to Guatemala.

To coincide with Fairtrade Fortnight last February, Traidcraft launched a range of new and improved cereal bars using the very first yields of Fairtrade rice from Myanmar. The bars are less sweet than they were before and come in three new flavours; wild apricot, mixed berries and chocolate. Having taste tested them all I can say that mixed berries is my fave. The natural fruit flavours make the wild apricot and mixed berry bars taste much sweeter than the chocolate, which only has a mild cocoa flavour.

GEOBAR Fairtrade snack

Fairtrade honey is a vital ingredient that goes into every Chewy and Crunchy Granola GEOBAR. The honey comes from co-operatives in Chile and Guatemala. In Guatemala the number of beekeepers has risen from 22 to 132 in 15 years, supporting around 660 people. The more GEOBARS sold, the more honey that will be needed, creating more happy farmers and happy bees.

The bars retail at £2 for a box of 5 from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, health food shops, Traidcraft stockists and ethical superstore.

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Discover Ethical Products Every Month by Subscription

Subscription boxes are definitely hot right now. It’s not unusual to have a regular veg box delivered to your door, but you can also get monthly deliveries of tea, razors and socks. These aren’t particularly fun things though are they? (although I do love tea and socks).

May contents of This Good Box

May contents of This Good Box

I had a very nice delivery recently, a small box of ethical goodies from This Good Box. This Good Box makes it easy to discover fantastic ethical or natural products as you sign up to have a small selection posted to you (or a friend) every month. You can also buy individual boxes without subscribing, and each month is focused on a theme.

May = CREATE. And this was the box I received recently through my letter box.

The box exceeded my expectations – at first I wasn’t sure whether a regular supply of more ‘stuff’ sat comfortably with the slow consumption cause but looking through the contents I soon realised it offered so much more than just stuff. Founder, Lianne Howard-Dace, wanted to encourage the contents to be shared. As part of my ‘Create’ box I had some yummy Fairtrade organic chocolate from Chocolate and Love, a natural cuticle butter by Filbert of Dorset, a felt brooch making set, Sarah Corbett’s ‘A Little Book of Craftivism’ (worth checking out) and fabric pens to decorate my own plain bag. A note inside provides suggestions of ways to share the contents and spread the word, by sharing the chocolate with someone I haven’t spoken to before, or making the brooch to pass to a friend. At the moment it’s aimed at women but they hope to launch a men’s box in the future.

Craftivism and fabric pens from this good box
Chocolate and love Fairtrade
This Good Box

I hadn’t heard about the chocolate company before, so it’s a great way to promote small brands and ethical products. Keen to speak to Lianne about This Good Box, she happily answered my eager questions (and offered an exclusive discount code, see the end of the post!) –

1. Where did the idea for This Good Box come from?

It came from something in my own life really. I wanted to live in a better way and learn where to find great ethical products – at the same time I was enjoying receiving several subscription boxes and had the idea to bring the two things together. I just had to see if anyone else would want to buy it as well and it looks like they do!

2. How do you source the products each month?

Sometimes I’ll think of a useful item that works for the month’s theme and set out to find an ethical version which is easier with some products than others! Other times I’ll discover a brand and know I need to get it in the box or a social enterprise might contact me and we’ll see how they might fit with future boxes. Everything has to be able to fit through the letterbox as well so it’s a big challenge but one of my favourite parts of running This Good Box.

3. The box offers ideas of ways to share it’s contents, why do you think this is important?

From the offset I wanted a random acts of kindness vibe to run through what we’re doing and the products are so shareable it really lends itself to that. I can be quite introverted by nature but I really believe that connectivity with the people around us is so important; we can’t solve the problems facing our world without each other. Community is really important in my life so I want to find little ways for people to build a sense of it in their own lives. Sometimes getting out of our comfort zone is incredibly rewarding!

*DISCOUNT* This Good Box have kindly offered a promo code for any readers of my blog to get £10 off your first box. Use EMMAGOODBOX1 to get £10 off a one-off purchase and EMMAGOODBOX to get £10 off any subscription plan. That equates to a box of ethical goodies for just £7.50 + P&P! Get yours from www.thisgoodbox.co.uk

Filberts of Dorset natural beauty

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Spring Beauty: The Story of the Daffodil

"Narcisa 0012" by Martinas Angel

“Narcisa 0012” by Martinas Angel

Signs of spring are starting to shine through. On the way to work today I passed lots of daffodils. Daffodils are my favourite flower! They are a sure sign of spring, a bright yellow beacon of life emerging from the (wet) ground. I love how they ‘spring’ up all over the place – at the side of the road, on roundabouts, outside your window. When people plant daffodils they provide pleasure year after year.

Daffodils have quite a history. They are more than just a sign of spring, they have other symbolism attached to them. Daffodils are officially known as by the name ‘Narcissus’ and native to Europe, North Africa and West Asia, traditionally appearing in woodlands. Narcissus is a figure from Greek mythology who drowned whilst gazing at his own reflection in water. It’s not known if the two are actually related but certainly in the West the daffodil is seen to symbolise vanity and egotism. In popular culture the two are often associated, for example in the Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali. The oil painting depicts Narcissus sitting in a pool, gazing down. Not far away there is a decaying stone figure which corresponds closely to him but is perceived quite differently; as a hand holding up a bulb or egg from which a daffodil is growing. Could a story of such gloom be related to a flower of such life?

In modern times, the daffodil is used as a symbol of Easter and iconic for Mother’s Day. It’s also the national flower of Wales, chosen because it is in bloom for St David’s Day on March 1st. From the sixteenth century, the daffodil was given fun synonyms such as ‘Daffadown Dilly’ and ‘Daffydowndilly’. Narcissus has had various uses from ancient times. Romans used narcissus ointment to create a fragrance called Narcissinum. Arabs used it in their perfumery, as well as to cure baldness. In India, the oil of narcissus, as well as fragrant oils of sandal, jasmine, and rose, is applied to body before prayer. In France it was used for treating epilepsy and hysteria. The scent of the oil is strong and rich, and is used in some famous perfumes although you probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Personally I think the best use for daffodils is to leave them be. Even with their dark mythology, I still see them as happy, playful flowers and a sure sign of the changing seasons. Their beautiful yellow hue brightens up the dullest of settings. They grow easily here in the UK so you can snip off your garden surplus and bring them into the house, carbon footprint free!

With Mother’s Day coming up, Marks and Spencer have the most beautiful bouquet of 80 sunny daffodils and 20 purple tulips, currently on offer for £25.

Daffodil bouquet, M&S

Daffodil bouquet, M&S

You can also check out my recent post for Fairtrade Fortnight on Ethical High Street where I look at Fairtrade cut flowers and why such certification is necessary in an industry we rarely consider past the beauty of the blooms. Fairtrade flowers are available from a number of places including Marks and Spencer and online at Arena Flowers who offer free delivery 7 days a week, perfect for Mother’s Day.

Arena Flowers are currently offering 15% off all products. Click here to browse and enter MUM15 at the checkout to apply the discount, until 15th March.

I’m currently writing about a different Fairtrade product each day for Fairtrade Fortnight, see them all at ethicalhighstreet.co.uk

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Brand Watch: Nomads Clothing Fairtrade Since 1989

Nomads Clothing began with a beautiful story. Founded by a pair who met whilst backpacking around India in the 1980s, they snapped up £200 worth of ethnic clothing and headed back to sell it in the UK. Returning to India with the profits they made they decided to start Nomads Clothing, inspired by the Indian culture and gorgeous fabrics and artisan crafts they came across. Nomads continue to travel to India several times a year to develop their collections, which make use of print and detail to create contemporary, covetable pieces.

There is plenty of information online about Nomads fair trade policies. Supporting handicraft artisan skills, you will find traditional methods such as patchwork and block printing in their collections. Equality of pay for male and female workers is guaranteed, as is no child labour. Keen to protect the environment too, Nomads continue to increase their use of organic cotton.

You can pick up a wide range of womenswear from Nomads – dresses, tunics, trousers, coats, tops and blouses. Pictured here you can see me in the Jasmine Print Cowl Neck Dress (now on sale at £42 from £60) which I absolutely love! Made from organic cotton with an easy side zip fastening and just the right amount of stretch, it’s the perfect go-to dress for any occasion. The print is quite Christmassy too!

Nomads fair trade organic dress

Alongside all the great prints they have plain basics including quality long-sleeved t-shirts and shirts. Jewellery, bags, scarves and gloves can be found in their accessories collection including cashmere fingerless gloves for just £20. You can find a stockist list online and head to your local fair trade retailer, or else, now is the time to check out their collections online where they have 30% off many products www.nomadsclothing.com.

Nomads have been trading for 15 years and have refined a business model to support workers, protect the environment wherever possible and offer lovely, and affordable clothing for conscious consumers. They should be a staple in any women’s wardrobe.
Nomads fair trade ethical clothing

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