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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 08:20 GMT
M&S set to launch Fairtrade range
Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose
Mr Rose says customers are thinking more about ethical issues
Marks and Spencer is set to join the ethical trading drive with the launch of a Fairtrade cotton clothing range.

The move is part of a new "Look Behind The Label" campaign which aims to inform shoppers of the way the group sources its products.

Adverts will also highlight moves to cut salt and fat in M&S foods, recycle packaging and protect animal welfare.

The move comes as UK consumers are showing an increasing appetite for so-called fair trade products.

Last year, figures released by the Fairtrade Foundation showed sales of ethical products grew by more than 50% during 2004.

Shopper conscience

Meanwhile, a survey commissioned by M&S showed almost a third of shoppers had put clothes back on the rails amid concerns about their origins.

We'll see how it goes, it's a bit like the introduction of organic foods some years ago - let's test the market
Stuart Rose, M&S

It also found 78% of shoppers wanted to know more about the way clothes were made, including use of chemicals and conditions in factories producing the goods.

On the food front, one in five shoppers had left goods on the shelves as a result of concerns about where they had come from or how it was made, the poll discovered.

"Customers want good value, but they care more than ever how food and clothing products are made," said M&S chief executive Stuart Rose.

"Launching Fairtrade cotton builds on our innovative work in areas such as sustainable fishing, reducing fats, salts and additives in our food and banning harmful chemicals from children's clothing."

Supply constraints

Limited stock of Fairtrade cotton means that initially the new M&S range will only consist of men's and women's T-shirts and socks and be stocked at just 40 stores.

However, Mr Rose vowed to extend the number of stores carrying the clothing line when more supplies of Fairtrade cotton became available - if there was sufficient demand.

"We'll see how it goes, it's a bit like the introduction of organic foods some years ago - let's test the market," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The cotton comes from farmers in the Gujarat region of India who are given a stable price for their cotton, plus a Fairtrade premium that should enable them to improve their working and living conditions.

While M&S will become the "first major retailer" to sell a Fairtrade clothing range when the goods go on sale in March, Mr Rose added that it was "unlikely" that the chain's whole clothing range would become Fairtrade.

However, he vowed to extend the selection of goods available and the number of stores carrying them when more Fairtrade cotton becomes available.

See some ethically-produced clothing collections

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