A school student campaign for fairer schoolwear has led to supermarket chain Tesco doubling the number of Fairtrade cotton school uniforms they stock.
The student campaigning group People & Planet has called this a dramatic success for their new 'Wear Fair' campaign, which aims for all UK schools to have Fairtrade cotton uniforms by 2015.
The number of Fairtrade lines offered by Tesco will be increased by over 50%, while the volume of sales is projected to grow by 85% in 2010/11. This will make them the UK's leading retailer for Fairtrade cotton school uniforms, pushing them ahead of rivals Marks & Spencer.
At a time of severe economic crisis for cotton growers in places like India and West Africa, this announcement is of great significance and shows the Fairtrade movement continuing to grow in strength.
Research commissioned by People & Planet showed that nearly 70% of school and college students want their uniforms to be made from Fairtrade cotton. Students in the campaigning group then launched a nationwide campaign last September to make this happen. Malek Araki, a student at Ealing College says: "I’ve realised how big Fairtrade is and what great things it does for farmers".
There is also a growing concern amongst parents that the school uniforms they are buying are contributing to the hunger and hardship faced by cotton producers. Anna Heywood, a mother of two from Newcastle said: "I want to ensure that no one has been exploited in making my children's school uniform but like most parents I haven't got the time or knowledge to start investigating the supply chain of my daughter's school jumper or all the different ethical schemes that the High street stores and supermarkets claim to sign up to. The Fairtrade label is the only guarantee that can instantly assure me that the producers are being treated fairly."
Students from the campaigning organisation are now collecting 6000 photos of support demanding increased sales of Fairtrade cotton school uniforms. They plan to deliver them to their next target, Asda, a supermarket that, students claim, has failed to make any progress on Fairtrade cotton school uniforms. Their aim, they say, is for all major retailers and independent uniform stores to follow Tescos' lead in fighting the exploitation in the cotton trade.