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L i c e n s i n g
Opinion
Smileyworld’s Nicolas Loufrani makes a powerful case for why brand owners and licensees
should take notice of fair trade, and shows that it isn’t so dif_f_i cult to set a positive example.
“I
have recently discovered
“As an
world may have died because which cotton is produced entirely y
the issues surrounding of pesticides during the last 20 free of chemical pesticides. It is an
cotton production and
entrepreneur I am
years (all crops involved). There alternative farming system within
decided that as a brand
using the interest
is evidence that during just two which natural predator populations
dealing in fashion I had the seasons in one cotton producing are nurtured within cotton
opportunity to make choices that
I generate in
area in Benin, 577 poisoning production zones.
would improve the life of others. incidents occurred with 97 fatalities. Organic cotton accounts for
My fi rst contact with the concept
the media to
Cotton also commands a very less than one per cent of the
of fair trade was three years ago low market price so many cotton world’s cotton production. Organic
when we started the Smiley World
promote organic
farmers in the developing world cotton is a little bit more expensive
Association. The charity we are part cannot survive from their production. than normal cotton so it enables
of had created a fair trade shop in
cotton and a more
While West African cotton producers producers to make a better living -
France and, after many discussions
ethical way of
are losing hundreds of millions of they receive organic premiums as
with its management, I decided to dollars, American cotton farmers well as prompt cash payments. It
enquire about the problems cotton
doing business.
receive two billion dollars each year is somehow a bridge between fair
producers were facing. in subsidies from their government. trade and regular cotton and this
As a human being I cannot
As a brand Smiley
America always promotes free is why we have chosen to make all
accept that people might die trade worldwide except when it Smiley Collection clothing, shoes
because of my T-shirt, as a
is looking for
comes to its own interests, in this and home textiles using organic
Westerner cannot accept that
partners who
case its intervention creates trouble cotton.
people cannot make a decent living for others by making the world Our fi rst step has been to use
when they grow the raw material
have the same
market prices drop. In 2003 US organic cotton for the collection we
needed to make that T-shirt. To put cotton was sold at an average of 47 create with our subsidiary, Smiley
that into perspective: for a T-shirt
vision.”
per cent below cost of production. Industries. Now, we have also
which is sold for between $20 and Cotton supports over 1.5 million convinced Intermedium, our shoe
$200 at retail, depending on the families in West Africa (10 million licensee, and Nef Nef, our home
brand, the value of the raw material people) while there are only 25,000 textile licensee, to switch to organic
is around six cents. To make a cotton producers in America. cotton. Our efforts also include the
decent living the farmer would need This is how fair trade was born, use of bio or recycled plastics and
just two or three cents more. in order to help farmers. By working fair trade rubber with our shoes.
I want to use the power of with fair trade associations farmers We are now imposing the use of
my brand and the interest I am are guaranteed a minimum price organic cotton on our mass market
generating from the media to make set above the world market level, licensees so we are able to provide
people aware of what is going on as well as a fair trade premium. it to our childrenswear retailers such
and how we can improve things. Middlemen are not involved and as C&A, Tammy, etc.
Cotton, as a crop, represents two producers can obtain a higher As an entrepreneur I am using the
per cent of worldwide agricultural income on their cotton, allowing interest I generate in the media to
production, yet it uses 16 per cent them to invest in social and promote organic cotton and a more
of all pesticides. It is responsible for communal projects. Fair trade also ethical way of doing business. As a
the release of $2,000,000,000 worth deals with coffee, rubber, sugar and brand Smiley is looking for partners
of chemical pesticides each year. many commodities facing the same who have the same vision and
Most cotton farmers live and fi nancial issues. are willing to make efforts in every
work in the developing world, and But fair trade doesn’t tackle industry to make this world a better
between one per cent and three per the issue of pesticides, which is place to live.
cent of agricultural workers suffer a serious matter of life and death As an industry, we should take a
from acute pesticide poisoning about which we can do something more responsible approach to how
with at least a million requiring now. The only way we can is by our products are made and ensure
hospitalisation each year. Some helping cotton producers to switch that none of us are wearing licensed
NGOs claim that as many as one to organic production. Organic clothing whose production has
million people in the developing cotton is the only farming system by caused poverty, illness, or worse.
Nicolas Loufrani is founder and managing director of Smileyworld Ltd,
which uses organic cotton bought under fair trade conditions as an
88 Last Word
important piece of the company’s philosophy and action.
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