Fairtrade Facts – A Better Deal For Farmers

Fairtrade Facts – A Better Deal For Farmers

We’ve said it before: we’re doing things differently. Well this is where it begins – with Fairtrade cotton. When we first investigated supply chains in the textile world, we knew it wouldn’t work for us. Child labour is real. The impact on the world’s poorest of ‘throwaway’ fast fashion and other textiles is real. So we decided to build something better and commit to fair trade practices: to treat others how we want to be treated.

At Square Flower, we insist on Fairtrade cotton to make our organic sheets with. That’s because we know how important sleep is: it’s nature’s reboot, the time our bodies and minds need to recharge, dream big, and get ready for what the new day brings.
And because we believe everyone deserves a great night’s sleep – you, our factory workers, and crucially, our cotton farmers and their families – we’ve done our homework to make sure everyone involved gets a fair deal.

All our Square Flower bedding is only ever made with Fairtrade certified cotton. This is our pledge to you – our guarantee, if you like – that your beautiful organic cotton sheets have a happy backstory. We really do love sleep!

What is Fair Trade?

Firstly, what it is not: it’s not charity.

Fairtrade provides a model for ethical, responsible and sustainable trade.

Put simply, let’s pay a fair wage, provide safe work conditions, guarantee no child labour, and put a stop to age, gender or faith discrimination.

By aiming to deliver economic empowerment and independence for some of the world’s most deprived rural communities, Fairtrade supports the creation of sustainable livelihoods, and helps people reinvest in their future. Essentially, it gives them back the chance to shape their own lives.

Where does Fair Trade Cotton come from?

The Fairtrade Cotton initiative focuses on developing countries. Our cotton comes from small-scale family farms in the Indian state of Odisha. Each farm is part of the wider organic farming co-operative Chetna Organic, which supports marginalised farmers and was Fairtrade certified in 2005.

Rural villages like these in the rainfed cotton-farming regions of India are among the most impoverished in the world. Unpredictable weather, climate change, the expense and environmental cost of hardy GMO seeds, and the debt cycles triggered by failed harvests were pushing farming families to their limits.

Chetna works with the Fairtrade Association to set the price of cotton annually, ensuring it’s aligned with the local living wage. Fairtrade also shines a light on the entire supply chain, to make sure everyone involved is getting a fair deal, and to stamp out exploitation.

That all sounds very worthy, but how does it work?

Nonprofit organisations around the world, such as the Fairtrade Foundation (the UK’s most active certifier), work to set and uphold ‘fair’ standards – standards that protect fundamental human rights and ensure decent working conditions.

All of the farmers, workers and companies behind a Fairtrade product are independently audited to check they meet the Fairtrade Standards, which not only cover minimum wages and economic independence, but also environmental stewardship, democracy and discrimination-free treatment. If you don’t meet the standards, you don’t get certification.

Of course, in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to check that people are being fair to one another – but the truth is, cotton farming is in crisis. From the use of harmful chemicals to inexcusable child labour and worker exploitation, the industry is rife with ruthless cost-cutting practices – usually at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable farmers and families. That’s why, for us, Fairtrade isn’t a marketing ploy, or greenwashing: it’s a non-negotiable.

Is this really making an impact? Does my purchase matter?

Thankfully, for our cotton farmers, this story has a happy ending. Not only has Fairtrade given them economic stability, and a clean, safe place to live and work, it also ensures their farms are safeguarded long-term, and their communities are better prepared for the future.

In addition to getting a fair wage, the smallholders selling our Fairtrade cotton receive a small additional amount – the Fairtrade Premium. This is goes into Community Development Funds that local farming communities reinvest in projects of their choosing, from better local infrastructure to education and healthcare services.

So far, for the farmers we work with in the Chetna co-operative, these funds have:

  • built deep-drop lavatories to improve sanitation
  • provided ‘seed kits’ for farmers in the critical growing season, supplying vital non-GM cotton seeds and nursery plants, as well as vegetable varieties for home kitchen gardens
  • bought a bio-fertiliser unit, nursery, tractor and other essential kit
  • built safe storage warehouses, so farmers can sell their cotton when prices are more profitable
  • set up an educational eco centre for research and training farmers in best organic practice

You’ll notice that most of these initiatives just give people in our farming communities a better chance to stand on their own two feet. It’s not rocket science; it’s just fair.

Who’s the fairest of them all?

Well, we think you are.

By buying Square Flower bedding or snuggling up under one of our Fairtrade blankets, you guarantee a better night’s rest for everyone – and you can sleep soundly, knowing that you’ve made a good choice and helped us keep a promise to protect real people and the planet we all share.

Sweet dreams...

fair trade cotton sewing

"Since the fair trade program started here, the factory has improved overall. I like that by working to make a good product, we are also able to help our families and each other."

Mohammad Zunaid Alam, sewing machine operator at Rajlakshmi Cotton