Is the conventional (non-organic) cotton that you use ever genetically- modified (GM or GMO) cotton?
Clare Nally-People Tree’s Fair Trade & Sustainable supply chain coordinator replies:
Our Bangladeshi producers who make somewhat less than 30% of our range, buy their cotton from the conventional cotton market, so it is not certified. We are working hard to get to a place where all our cotton range is 100% organic and Fair Trade. This has to be done very carefully to protect jobs in areas where alternative work is often precarious and badly paid.
Our Bangladeshi producers are Fair Trade organisations, set up to bring employment to rurally- based marginalised people, namely craft producers, who are really suffering the effects of fast fashion and globalisation. Our primary focus up until now has been to help these businesses get up and running successfully and to create employment in their communities.
These producers give employment to hand weavers; hand embroiderers and hand block printers, all specialised local skills. In rural Bangladesh hand weaving is the second largest provider of work after agriculture. Over 1.5 million people are involved with the sector directly or indirectly. However, weaving units are rapidly disappearing with 0.2 million units out of nearly 0.5 million handloom units in Bangladesh shutting in recent years. And so initially, as a Fair Trade company our goal is to create employment opportunities that protect family cohesion, and give people a safe working environment with fair pay.
We are, however, working on sourcing organic cotton and full Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) certified supply chain in Bangladesh. This will really be a big milestone for us, and gradually 100% of our cotton will be GOTS certified organic. We are running into a few barriers however, because of our small size, we are still looking at how to avoid the cotton adding up to £20 on the retail price of the garments -which would be detrimental to their sales. This would have a severe impact on our producers if we have to lower our orders: they would have to let staff go; so we have to be very careful how we introduce this. These garments are already a higher price range, due to the detail of the handiwork.
As most high street retailers use less than 10% organic cotton in their collections, we are really proud to have 70% of our whole cotton collection made from organic cotton. We are really excited to be working on introducing organic and Fair Trade cotton to our Bangladeshi collections hopefully for SS16!
 Badrul Ahsan (2014) ‘Handloom industry in dire straits for lack of govt’s policy support’, The Financial Express Bangladesh, 09 Aug 2014, [Online] Available at: http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/08/09/49415 (Accessed: 22 January 2015).
 This is taken from a range of high street sustainability reports