Blog: Leonie BarrieFairtrade for a fortnight

Leonie Barrie | 2 March 2006

Monday 6 March sees the start of what’s being billed as Fairtrade Fortnight here in the UK, with many retailers signing up to run special promotions to introduce consumers to the benefits of shopping with a social conscience. Of course the Fairtrade hallmark is best known for products like coffee and chocolate, but in recent weeks it has taken on a new momentum in the clothing industry, with leading high street names such as M&S, Topshop, and Oasis all signing up to do their bit on the eco-friendly clothing front. Even Gap has joined in with a T-shirt carrying the ‘Product Red’ brand, launched by rock star Bono.

It’s great to see consumers becoming more and more sensitive to ethical issues such as sourcing policies – I for one always gravitate towards a Freetrade food product if it’s available, and am an avid buyer of organic and locally-produced items, stopping at roadside stalls and browsing farmers’ markets at the weekend – so it would be fantastic if others, too, were to translate their concerns into purchasing habits.

But I do wonder whether fair-trade fashion will take off on the scale that these retailers are obviously anticipating. I’ve read that after many years of campaigning, the Fairtrade mark appears on just one-fifth of ground coffee and just one-twentieth of the instant coffee market in the UK – a paltry figure when you think how easy it should be to persuade consumers to fork out slightly more for a jar of coffee. How they’ll feel about a £20 T-shirt remains to be seen.

Fairtrade cotton


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