Blog: Leonie BarrieSeeing Red

Leonie Barrie | 31 January 2006

Consumers with a conscious are going to be spoilt for choice over the next couple of months as two new guilt-free initiatives get off the ground. The first to hit the street is a new worldwide brand – Product Red – fronted by Bono and supported by companies such as Gap, Converse and Armani – which aims to raise funds to fight HIV/Aids in Africa. Some of the products already announced include Gap T-shirts made in Lesotho and Converse trainers made with African cloth, both of which will donate a percentage of their sales to the campaign.The second scheme is the launch, by Marks & Spencer, of a Fairtrade cotton clothing range as part of a new ‘Look Behind The Label’ campaign to tell shoppers about the way the retailer sources its products.

There’s no doubt that consumers in the UK and elsewhere are showing an increasing appetite for so-called fair trade products – you only have to look at the rise of Fairtrade coffee and chocolate for example. And M&S says a survey it commissioned showed almost a third of shoppers had put clothes back on the rails amid concerns about their origins. It also found 78% of shoppers wanted to know more about the way clothes were made, including use of chemicals and conditions in factories producing the goods.

Apart from the obvious comment that M&S used to shout about its sourcing policies when 90% of its clothing came from the UK, and has since gone very quiet as it’s steadily moved to producers offshore, there’s a lot to be said in favour of new initiatives that not only benefit good causes but also make shoppers feel good about themselves in the process. There’s also no doubt that both the Red and Fairtrade campaigns are very good marketing ruses – and that they successfully tap into potentially new consumer markets.

But, does this really matter? The bottom line is that money that probably wouldn’t be released otherwise will now be raised for good causes. And as the chief executive of Product Red explained, if companies don’t see it as a money-making venture they won’t want to invest. 

UK: M&S to launch Fairtrade clothing


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