The Fairtrade Foundation wants Britain’s schoolchildren to stand up for fair-trade cotton. The nonprofit’s “Step Back to School in Fair-Trade Cotton” campaign is encouraging kids and their parents to trade their uniform for one that supports living wages. Because 82 percent of schools in the United Kingdom require a uniform, Britons spend an average of £1 million ($1.5 million) every year to outfit their offspring. Yet only a small percentage of those uniforms guarantees cotton farmers a fair price for their crop, according to the group.


For developing communities such as West Africa and India, where cotton-farming is the primary source of income for many, a fair-trade uniform represents tangible benefits such as schools, books, clean drinking water, and health clinics.

Participating schools are being asked to design the “school uniform of the future” using fair-trade cotton.

One of the Fairtrade Foundation’s goals is to educate schoolchildren about unfair trade in cotton production, including roadblocks such as U.S. and EU subsidies that prevent farmers from escaping the cycle of poverty.

Teachers can download a mixed-media animated film, activity sheets, and cotton-themed crafts and games from the campaign’s website. The organization is also asking participating schools to design the “school uniform of the future” using fair-trade cotton. The winning design will be manufactured by a leading retailer.

Fair-trade uniforms can currently be purchased at Marks & Spencer, Tesco, and from dedicated uniform suppliers. “But if you can’t find what you are looking for in your local store, speak to the store manager and ask them to order it in,” a spokeswoman says.

+ Step Back to School in Fair-Trade Cotton

+ Fairtrade Foundation