This is England

24.03.16

  • Britain buys more Fairtrade produce, £1.5billion worth, than any other nation.
  • There are over 4500 Fairtrade products for British consumers to choose from.
  • Fairtrade purchasing is very important – some 280,000 Indian cotton farmers have committed suicide over the last 20 years due to stress from their dependency on the volatility of international cotton prices.

These are all things that I learnt, along with nearly 300 year 7 pupils at a local Hampshire school, from a school assembly presentation given by Kool Skools, a locally based Fairtrade school uniform supplier. Kool Skools were explaining why making ethical consumer choices was so important – and could be so simple. And, as Pamela, a Mauritian machinist now employed in a Fairtrade factory which makes up Kool Skools’s orders, succinctly said “When you buy fair trade, you are saving lives”. Before working in a Fairtrade factory, Pamela worked in a different type of factory where she had to machine collars onto 1000 shirts a day to claim her meagre wages of £60 per month. This might take her until 11pm.

Yet despite the impact that buying Fairtrade can have and the range of Fairtrade products available on the shelves – chocolate, bananas and many more – apparently less than 1% of cotton clothing sold in the UK is Fairtrade. Surprisingly, when schools are offered a Fairtrade choice, even at roughly the same price as non-Fairtrade uniform, many choose not to supply it. So, I suppose it comes back to making individual consumer choices – asking if your child’s school can provide a Fairtrade option, whether supermarkets match the goods purchased by their customers for local foodbanks and whether the tip on our restaurant bill is really going to the staff that served us, are all simple things we can do to influence suppliers.

As the inspirational Pamela said “there is a human story behind everything that you buy”.