SCOTTISH parents are leading a fairtrade revolution by choosing ethical school uniforms, guaranteed to be made without child or forced labour, in factories that provide safe conditions and decent pay for workers, according to campaigners.

The Fairtrade Foundation, which is currently marking Fairtrade Fortnight, said an increasing number of parents were concerned about the lack of transparency in the manufacture of school clothing. High profile investigations have shown problems with supply chains can mean school age children are employed by textile factories in developing countries. Other issues include poverty wages, insecure contracts and dangerous working environments. The Fairtrade mark ensure this does not happen.

Andrew Ashcroft, a former British diplomat who set up the UK's only fairtrade school clothing company Koolskools with business partner Mike Trood in 2011, said that Scotland was the company's fastest growing market, claiming Edinburgh school pupils were leading the pack. In total the company is providing directly to over 40 schools from Orkney and Ullapool to Glasgow and the Scottish Borders while additional orders are received online.

Ashcroft, who formerly worked in trade development, was inspired by personal experience of family members struggling to find ethical school clothes and claims that the range offers good quality for the midrange market. Though the company is based in Southampton he claimed that Scotland dominated the company's order book. "For the last three or four years Scotland has been the fastest growing market," he said. "I reckon Edinburgh now has more schools where pupils are wearing fairtrade school uniforms than anywhere else in the UK." Schools are able to order in bulk and sell to parents, or encourage parents to buy direct from the website. In addition Koolskools will visit and deliver fairtrade assemblies and workshops to help pupils understand why buying fairtrade matters.

Though 70 percent of clothes are made from cotton just one percent carry the Fairtrade mark according to Ashcroft, who hopes to inspire the big brands to follow suit. "What we are trying to do is show the wider clothing industry that it's possible not only to to sell fairtrade cotton but to also use fairtrade licensed factories and still run a business that makes profit," he added.

Emma White, who has two children at Thomas Muir Primary in Bishopbriggs, where she is on the parent council contacted Koolskools last month after struggling to find ethical options for uniform. "I use the Good Shopping Guide and I try to find ethical choices for all my food and other products," she said. "I especially dislike the idea of children making clothes for other children. That really bothers me."

After meeting with Ashcroft and receiving samples the school has now decided to offer parents polo shirts made by the company as an ethical alternative to the supermarket choice on offer. Parental response, White claims, has been positive although the shirts are two pounds more expensive. She added: "I think our experience with this shows that everyone can make a difference."


Football might be known as the universal language, a way of demonstrating that there is more to connect us than there is to divide us. But according to Angus Coull, marketing director at Bala Sport in Glasgow, not all footballs are the same.

Bala Sport, which is the only UK supplier of certified fairtrade footballs, netballs, rugby and volleyballs, sells products designed in Scotland and made in fairtrade factories in Pakistan where good conditions and pay are guaranteed. "The 10 percent premium [paid on all fairtrade products] goes direct to workers who decide what to do with it," he said. "They have used it for eye tests, to subsidise glasses, school books for their kids and water purification plants that can be used by anyone in the area."

In 2016 Bala footballs were used in the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow. The annual tournament, which sees homeless men and women from round the world complete, has continued to use them in its games. "It's a different story with the top end of the game," adds Coull. "It seems to be accepted that they will use the big brands. The sector did clean up its act in the 1990 and get rid of child labour but we'd like to see it go further. Why should players make so much when the person who makes the ball earns hardly anything? They deserve a fair wage."


FAIRTRADE isn't just about coffee, tea, bananas, sugar and chocolate. Other products include:

1. Lipstick: Check out the ingredients on your lippie and look for fairtrade shea butter, a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree. Odylique's range of colours have no chemicals, no synthetic dyes, the lipstick case is recyclable and the box is compostable.

2. Marshmallows: Look for marshmallows made with fairtrade sugar ensuring sugar cane workers get a fair deal. Bonny Confectionery make chocolate and strawberry ones that are also gluten free.

3. Cola: Ethically sourced cola nut from Sierra Leone has been blended with vanilla beans to create Karma Cola. It is claimed it's making a big difference to small villages and cooperatives where the ingredients are grown.

4. Flowers: Fairtrade workers in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Uganda and Tanzania get a premium of 10 percent for every stem sold, which can then be invested in healthcare, education and other social benefits.

5. Gold: Jewellery with the Fairtrade "gold stamp" is extra special. Buying it means you know the small-scale and artisanal miners were paid a fair price, allowing them to support both their families and communities.


The fairtrade movement has its roots in 1950s America though many countries had parallel developments. Now the Fairtrade mark, administered by the Fairtrade Foundation and found on products such as bananas, coffee, tea and sugar, is used in over 50 countries. Independent checks are made on supply chains, conditions and ingredients to ensure credentials.

Martin Rhodes, director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, said: "In recent years, there has been a growth in interest in the textile industry. One area that has been raised has been around school uniforms. Parents and carers have been asking questions about the ethical standards in the production of the uniforms they buy for children. This has been of interest to local Fair Trade Groups here in Scotland and many of them have been campaigning about Fairtrade cotton in school uniforms. It's about giving parents and carers options, so they can make informed choices."

But he admitted that rising inflation, stagnant wages and less disposable household income were challenges to those selling fair trade products which tend to be more expensive than the cheapest brands. "The changing environment challenges us but also gives us a platform to make the arguments for a fairer trade system globally," he added. "More and more people are asking questions about where products come from and the conditions under which they produced."