Call for tenders by public authorities in the EU

Case studies including Fair Trade Cotton


Selection of examples of Fair Trade cotton procurement in France

#1 City of Paris 

#2 La Poste

#3 Brittany region

#4 Pays de Loire region

#5 Ministère de la Defense


Ghent-Fair Trade T-shirts


Kreis Wesel-Fair Trade cotton bags


Bus company Córdoba-Uniforms in respect of ILO COnventions

Environment Ministry-Uniforms in respect of ILO COnventions

General Fair Trade products


Mary Immaculate College, Limerick-Fairtrade canteen meals

Irish Rail-On-board Fairtrade catering services

Irish Rail Go Fairtrade - Press Pic







United Kingdom

Universities joining the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC)


Sheffield experience in the Workers Rights Consortium

University of East London

The University of the East of London (UEL) spent £34,759 on garments in 2012, however only minimal amounts were spent on Fair Trade (FT) cotton products. UEL Environment team has purchased FT cotton tea towels, printed with energy saving tips for students in halls of residence. Since 2011 when they started this initiative they have ordered 1300 tea towels.
UEL started purchasing FT tea towels as it wanted to widen the range of FT categories it was purchasing, moving beyond beverages which were it's sole category at the time.

They also looked at purchasing FT clothing for the Students Union and catering uniforms, however the main barrier was price, and catering has now been outsourced. Another barrier to purchasing more FT was awareness of FT suppliers across a wide range of products.

UEL doesn't currently have a policy that specifically refers to ethical procurement, and currently doesn't have any stipulations in its contracts with suppliers, that they must adhere to basic International Labour Organisation workers rights standards, or require suppliers of garments or other goods to disclose their factory locations.

Sheffield University

The University of Sheffield doesn't currently hold records of the total amount of garments it purchases. Although there are currently minimal purchases of Fair Trade cotton made by the university they were the first to affiliate to the Workers Rights Consortium  (WRC) in the UK.

The WRC is an independent monitoring organisation that supports workers in the garment industry in defending their workplace rights. Rather than relying on infrequent checks by an outsider with a clipboard, workers themselves are trained in labour rights, and can lodge a confidential complaint if they believe that there is a violation in their workplace. The WRC then conducts an independent in-depth investigation and makes the results public.

Since affiliating to the WRC in 2011 Sheffield University has developed a code of conduct for suppliers which sets out what the university requires of suppliers in terms of labour rights for their workers. This code is the minimum that the university expects of its suppliers, and if as disclosed in WRC factory reports university suppliers are breaking this code, then the university engages with the supplier in question to make sure that they meet these minimum requirements.

After talking to students who expressed Fairtrade garments was an important issue, the Students Union has been leading the way on Fairtrade cotton uniforms for staff. Formalising the switch to Fairtrade cotton uniforms through in policy and embedding this in operational procedures. In 2012 ten percent of all staff uniforms were changed over to Fairtrade cotton and in September 2013 this will increase to around fifty percent of all uniforms. This yearly expenditure of around £7,500 marks a significant cultural shift.

Durham University

Durham university started buying FT cotton polo shirts and t-shirt over three years ago. They are purchased when departments request their garment orders to be 'fairly traded'. Barriers they have found to increasing the amount of FT cotton are price, volume and EU legislation.

Durham University has a Departmental Corporate and Social Responsibility Policy in Procurement which it uses to guide the ethical purchasing of goods and services.

The university doesn't have any stipulations in its contracts with suppliers that they must adhere to basic International Labour Organisation workers rights standards, but does require that suppliers of garments or other goods disclose their factory locations, even if they are in different countries.

National Unions of Students (NUS) Services Ltd

As the purchasing consortium working on behalf of students’ unions across the UK, NUS Services is firmly committed to the ethical sourcing of products. Fairtrade certified cotton has played an important part in helping protect the workers producing their garments and thanks to growing interest from consumers and an improved product range, the volume of Fairtrade clothing purchased through NUS Services has increased 137% since 2008/09.

They continue to strive for high standards for workers and have recently committed to affiliating the Workers Rights' Consortium in order to protect workers further. They also continue to increase awareness amongst consumers, in order to see both the ethical standards of their clothing increase and the volumes of Fairtrade certified clothing purchased continue to grow.


Legal framework

Case studies


National Resources