Ikea extolled the virtue of ‘Chucking out our Chintz’ and have been replacing it with Cotton, most of which was sourced from unsustainable sources until last year. Each year they purchase around 110,000 tonnes of Cotton, yet in 2012 only 34% of this was sourced from sustainable sources. Last year this doubled to 72% which is clearly a big leap forward, something they should be commended for. There is no information in this article to determine what proportion of this is fairly traded cotton. However it is nevertheless a significant step forward. At the same time their use of Forest Stewardship Council produced timber has increased from 22.6% in 2012 to 32.4% in 2013. These changes are significant, but point to the challenges of sourcing ethically produced goods. The Fairtrade group that I belong to has been discussing the possibility of offering a fairtrade option for the school uniforms offered to students in Brighton & Hove. Talking to some of the Fairtrade businesses in the City such as FAIR and Love That Stuff it is clear that one of the barriers to obtaining large volume supplies of Fairtrade goods for a small supplier, is that there are less fairtrade materials available in the world than the demand. This means if a business such as IKEA discovers a sustainable, possibly fairtrade supplier for 42,000 tonnes of their cotton needs, there may well be a challenge for a t shirt manufacturer to source suitable cotton for a school uniform option in places such as Brighton & Hove.
In an ideal world all material would be produced in a sustainable and fairly traded manner, and this is an ideal which we need to continue to fight for. However the move from seeing Fairtrade and sustainable materials being limited to coffee, bananas and chocolate, to extending to our home furnishings and school uniforms, let alone our fashion demands our choices, but also an understanding that Fairtrade is not a tap that can be turned on or off at will. On 24th February, Fairtrade Fortnight will begin. Across the country many events will take place and it would be fantastic for all of us to support these events. Just like the cotton supplies, there are limited resources to run such events when we can all learn more about the prospects for changing our lifestyles a little, but potentially to change the lifestyles of farmers and foresters across the earth quite a lot. The Fairtrade Fortnight website is available here where you can learn about Foncho and why he wants us all to pay a bit more for our Bananas. With three weeks to go, its not too late to register with the Fairtrade Fortnight website and hold an event where you live or work!