Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Supporting women - Victoria's Secret, Marks and Spencer

Cotton prices have been declining for years. Over the last 10 years this decline has been the direct result of rich nations protecting their own cotton industries. The value of subsidies granted to US cotton producers is greater than the total national income of Burkina Faso. The farmers in developing countries have no subsidies and cannot produce cotton at a competitive price.

One way to combat this is to produce cotton that has some added value. Helvetas, a Swiss development organisation has one project designed to assist the development of the organic cotton industry in Burkina Faso. Since 2004 they have supported a programme to produce cotton which can both be labelled organic and comply with Fairtrade regulations, so commanding a premium above the usual price.

In this time the number of organic cotton producers has increased from 72 to over 1000, and the proportion of women producers has risen from 21% to 42%

The Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture gives some details of other organic cotton initiatives. And here are some reasons you might want to buy clothes made from organic cotton.

Under a recent agreement , one of the buyers of the organic cotton will be the Sri Lankan company, MAS Holdings who are suppliers to, amongst others, Marks and Spencer and Victoria’s Secret.

In Sri Lanka women make up 85% of the textile workforce, and are often exploited. However, as reported in Compact Quarterly,

In November 2003, a program called “MAS Women Go Beyond” was launched to empower employees and impact communities by championing the cause of women’s empowerment in society. The program also focuses on ensuring employees’ career advancement, strengthening their work-life balance and rewarding excellence.
Last year MAS partnered with GAP Inc to launch the GAP Go Beyond program which focuses on providing sustainable development education to students and women in the local community.
So it looks as though, if you buy the right sort of underwear from Marks and Spencer, or Victoria’s Secrets, you could be supporting women in several different ways.

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