A common checklist for planning an event or promoting a new project:
Think up a name [CHECK]
Design a logo and brand [CHECK]
Find someone to print t-shirts with the logo on [CHECK]
Check that the t-shirts are made with fairtrade cotton……. um, check?
When I started campaigning for Oxford University to only sell ethically traded clothing back in 2003, we had to dig around and research a lot to find out how to source ethical clothing. The FAIRTRADE Mark for cotton didn't exist then – and choosing ethical clothes meant a six-week lead time and a lot of extra cost.
Things are different now. You can get ethically sourced and FAIRTRADE t-shirts printed for minimal extra cost – easily arranged and quickly delivered through any number of suppliers. And yet – and many events I go to – even those organised by 'ethical' organisations – I find I'm handed a t-shirt made by 'Fruits of the Loom'.
I was planning to use this blog post to share research I did three years ago on where to source ethical and FAIRTRADE t-shirts, as I thought it must still be tricky to find the right suppliers. But, looking at that document I realised a) that it's out of date, and b) a quick search for fairtrade t-shirt printers turns up almost all you need to know.
Top of the list right now, T-Shirt and Sons, certainly come recomended as I've been nothing but happy with service from them in the past, but chances are you can also find a local supplier near you now offering Fairtrade garments. In fact, I was pleasantly suprised to find Shirt Works in Oxford now also offer Fair Trade options – eliminating the final excuse of Sports Clubs and Societies in Oxford who formerly claimed it was too complex to opt for ethical when getting team tees printed.
And even if you find yourself with a complex purchasing need for a large number of ethical goods – there are people around to help. Salta Sustainable (formerly Fair Trade First) are, in my experience, certainly really helpful in supporting ethical procurement.
So, next time you're at a project meeting where someone says 'We need t-shirts' – just make sure you CHECK that they will come with the FAIRTRADE Mark…
P.S. If you're wondering why this is important, you can do worse than to start by looking at the Clean Clothes website here.