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Fairtrade Cotton – what are the aims and prime purpose of the fairtrade cotton label


Fairtrade Cotton

by Mike Holly*
on behalf of Andrew Parrini

More and more clothes on the high street are carrying the label for Fairtrade
Cotton but how much do people actually know about it? What are its aims? What is it and equally important what is it not?

Prime purpose: 

This has to be the elimination of poverty through sustainable farming. That’s it pure and simple:-

1. Poverty is the key
. You don’t see this for the big cotton producers in America.

2. Sustainable. Whatever the solution is it must be sustainable. Poverty can be conquered if you can plan safely for the future with a stable guaranteed income.

3. It benefits the
. Not the spinners or factory workers who could be equally poor. Just the farmers.

cotton plant

What does it do?

It guarantees them a sustainable cotton price to cover the full costs of growing cotton as well as allowing them to invest in the future. It also helps put money into community projects by paying a small premium over the true farm gate cost.

Is this the same as Organic cotton?

No, not necessarily. The two are often related but they are independent of each other.

The cotton industry is huge…so surely the farmers must make a profit?

No, this is a common misconception. Cotton which costs 30 cents from the farm can end up as a $20

Do they still grow cotton in America?

Yes, the farms are automated and the American government erects tariffs and provides subsidies to protect their farmers. Foreign governments generally do not do enough for their own farmers.

I have seen Fair trade Coffee. Is that the same?

It’s the same idea, but for Coffee. 

Will I pay more for goods with the Fair Trade

It depends. Ideally you will pay the same price as we believe that the Fair Trade
label is a positive selling point and traders who use it will recoup the extra cost by selling more.

How can I find out more?

Well there are plenty of references on the internet. For instance:-

boy and girl in cotton T-shirts
Fairtrade Foundation, the campaigning and certification organisation behind

Wikipedia on the Fairtrade movement


M&S launch there own Fair Trade


10 Principles of Fair Trade

World Fair Trade Organisation