Cotton bags go organic and Fairtrade

All new promotional cotton bags offered by Print Services will be Fairtrade and totally organic, ensuring that both cotton farmers and the environment get a fairer deal.

The University’s Fairtrade Group, led by Sustainability, and Print Services have worked together to reach this milestone on the way to achieving official NUS Fairtrade University status. All cotton promotional tote bags‌ ordered from Print Services will now be organic and Fairtrade, see the BIDBI Eco Ethical Pack 2019 (PDF, 1,694kB)  this has been achievable with only a marginal change in retail price – from £1.75 to £1.80 – emphasising that sustainable decisions can often be easy and inexpensive. 

This builds on our ongoing efforts toward Fairtrade status, exemplified by the recent award of three silver awards at the South West Fairtrade Business Awards ceremony, including the Best Fairtrade University or College category. Fairtrade certification ensures that the cotton farmers at the end of a long and complex supply chain are paid the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium, which enters a communal fund for workers and farmers to use to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. 

Organic cotton also helps in the battle against climate change. Without synthetic fertilizer and potentially toxic pesticides (up to 25% of the world’s pesticide usage is for cotton), organic farmers are able to build soil fertility and lock in CO2. This is particularly important as the University recently highlighted the urgency of mitigating climate change by becoming the first UK University to declare climate emergency. In 2015 alone organic cotton farming saved the equivalent CO2 of driving a car around the world 13,572 times, and that benefit continues to grow. 

Not only is organic cotton important for the environment, it must also meet social criteria based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, including minimum wages and working hours for factory workers. So, by purchasing organic and Fairtrade working conditions are improved throughout the cotton supply chain. 

With concern about the environment in the UK reaching record levels, our all-encompassing approach to sustainability becomes more and more relevant. Sustainable procurement is one of 14 key areas in which the University’s wide-ranging sustainability policy is delivered, embedding sustainability and life-cycle considerations into all purchasing decisions. Sustainable procurement decisions also set a positive example to students, forming an important part of the informal curriculum. For promotional materials, like branded cotton bags, the effect of a leading university making a sustainable purchasing decision can be even more profound. 

Further information

You can find out more about sustainable promotional materials by contacting Print Services. To see more of our achievements in making our University more sustainable visit the Green Achievements web page.

An example of the new cotton tote bags.
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