Lidl GB has announced that it will be the first major UK retailer to convert all its cotton staff uniforms to Fairtrade.

The new uniform range is being rolled out across all its shops, with a commitment to buy 330,000 shirts, trousers, polo tops and chinos which will be worn by its 22,000 store employees.

This equates to 175 metric tonnes of Fairtrade-certified cotton, benefiting farmers in India. Fairtrade is the independent third-party certification that partners farmers and workers to negotiate better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal overall.

Lidl GB’s head of responsible sourcing and ethical trade, Amali Bunter, said: “We’re delighted to be the first UK retailer to convert all of our store team uniforms to Fairtrade cotton, opening up a valuable market for Fairtrade cotton farmers around the world.

“Not only will this move significantly benefit the farmers who grow the cotton in our uniforms, but it will mean that our store colleagues will have access to uniforms made from high-quality, sustainably sourced fabric which they can wear with great pride.

“This new development builds on our long-standing commitment to Fairtrade which sees Lidl GB sell over 100 different types of Fairtrade-certified products every year, as well as being the UK’s largest retailer of Fairtrade cocoa – with 22% of the Fairtrade cocoa sold in the UK coming from Lidl GB.”

The announcement coincides with the annual Fairtrade Fortnight which is running from 21 February to 6 March, promoting fair trade and celebrating the farmers and workers who grow the world’s food and raw materials.

The Fairtrade Foundation works with cotton farmers to stop or reduce the usage of agrochemicals and supports them to adapt to changing climate patterns. Fairtrade cotton fields are rain-fed, reducing the region’s water footprint.

Fairtrade standards protect cotton farmers’ health and safety and ban genetically modified cotton seeds. It encourages and empowers producers to protect the natural environment as an integral part of their farm management.

Anna Barker, head of responsible business at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Lidl’s uniform conversion means so much to cotton farmers who are finding themselves on the frontlines of the climate crisis and have suffered so much as a result of the global pandemic.

“To be able to sell their cotton on Fairtrade terms will help build farmers’ resilience and mean better prices plus a bit extra to invest in community projects.”

This year marks the second anniversary of Fairtrade’s climate campaign Choose the World You Want asking the British public to get behind Fairtrade so that farmers in low-income countries can benefit from fairer prices, trading practices and the resources needed to tackle climate change.

Lidl uniform

Lidl employee in Italy wearing the retailer’s new Fairtrade cotton uniform