News & Views

The Price of Cheap Clothes?

A report by Anti-Slavery International claims that Indian textile firms which supply some of our biggest high street retailers, are operating near slave labour conditions.

 It says that nine well-known stores, including Tesco, Mothercare and Marks and Spencer have bought garments from one such manufacturer.  The organisation informed nine big retailers at the end of 2010 that some young women in their supply chains are working excessive hours, sometimes for less than £1.50 a day.  It says that many were not allowed to return home to their families for weeks at a time.

The three retailers mentioned above insist that their own investigations have found these claims against one particular Indian supplier to be completely unfounded.  But, according to Anti-Slavery International and the Dutch campaign group SOMO, who between have interviewed more than 200 current or former Indian textile workers, widespread exploitation is common across the industry.

In the light of these claims, Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Mothercare have all agreed to work with several other big retailers, NGOs and the Ethical Trading Initiative to back efforts to persuade the Indian government to reform their apprenticeship system. The aim is to reduce the length of time textile workers can be employed as lower paid apprentices from three years to six months.

To listen to Mike Thomson reporting for the BBC from Tamil Nadu click here.

Fairtrade Sales Still Holding Up

Fairtrade sales have not been hit by the recession because the movement chimes with current calls for more responsible capitalism, according to a trade chief.

Fairtrade Fortnight is expected to show another increase in sales, after a 40% jump in 2010, under the scheme which aims to pay producers decent prices for crops and guarantees a premium payment for community projects.

With the failings of capitalism never more obvious, according to Fairtrade Foundation Executive Director Harriet Lamb, the scheme is the prime example of how we can do business more responsibly.  She said that now people have less money and are more insecure about the future, they are thinking more about how they spend their cash.

The system of fair trade is now increasingly in the mainstream, although Ms Lamb said she does not think it has become so mainstream that people see it as part of the broken economic system, insisting that the movement has maintained its local, community links.


Take a Step for Fairtrade in 2012!


Starting in Fairtrade Fortnight (27 February – 11 March 2012), the Fairtrade Foundation is challenging the public to take a step in the right direction by thinking about what they can do every day, every week or every month throughout 2012 to make a difference to the lives of farmers in the developing world who produce the products they buy – whether that be choosing to buy a Fairtrade coffee on the way to work, or making sure their weekly shopping baskets contain one or two more Fairtrade products like Fairtrade tea or bananas, or encouraging their friends and family to switch to Fairtrade.