17 February 2010 | Jake Kanter
The UK public sector has been urged to source Fairtrade cotton to guarantee reasonable conditions for supply chain workers.
Public services including the NHS, the Post Office and railway networks have been approached by the Fairtrade Foundation to discuss purchasing sustainable cotton for uniforms.
Businesses such as supermarkets have also been in talks with the organisation regarding responsible cotton sourcing ahead of Fairtrade Fortnight, which starts next week.
Around 460 councils have already become “Fairtrade towns”, agreeing to promote these products and organise campaigns and workshops on the issue. A commitment to Fairtrade cotton would add weight to sustainability agendas, the foundation said.
“The Fairtrade mark is the only guarantee that can instantly assure you that the farmers are being treated fairly,” said Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation.
She said the recession has had a big impact on farmers and, without a steady flow of cotton sales, farmers may have to go back to selling cotton for whatever price they can get. This means “families get into debt with many repercussions on health, education, food and water”, she said.
In 2008, Wal-Mart stopped using cotton suppliers in Uzbekistan in a bid to force the country’s government to tackle the use of child labour in the industry after campaigners and trade groups appealed to Uzbek president Islam Karimov to act.