Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 13:23 UK

Vicar sells ethical clergy shirts

Simon Butler
Simon Butler models his Fairtrade clergy shirt

A Nottinghamshire vicar is entering the world of business by selling Fairtrade clergy shirts.

Simon Butler, curate at St Giles Church in West Bridgford, said he came up with the idea after chatting to like-minded colleagues about Fairtrade products.

Mr Butler is selling long-sleeved men's and women's shirts with a tunnel collar on a pre-order basis, with 80% of the first batch already sold.

A percentage of the profits will be donated to ethical organisations.

Mr Butler said: "Very few clergymen and women would dispute the importance of fair trade in guaranteeing producers from developing countries a fair price for their goods and labour.

"Until now, however, buying a Fairtrade clerical shirt has not been an option."

It seemed ridiculous that clergy didn't have the option to buy according to conscience
Simon Butler

In order to be granted Fairtrade status, companies must ensure that all those involved in the production process, at every stage, receive a fair price for their labours.

The cotton for the shirts, which are currently only available in black - although the range is to be extended to dark blue, light blue, grey and white - is grown is Africa and the shirts themselves are made in Mauritius.

"Almost all of my colleagues seem to be committed to fair trade as an essential aspect of living the Gospel message and so it seemed ridiculous that clergy didn't have the option to buy according to conscience when it came to our own uniform," said Mr Butler.

He has set up the business with his father Richard.

Although business overheads will have to be paid out from any profits generated, the Butlers hope to plough money back into fair trade groups or projects to help children in Malawi.

He estimates there are about 25,000 Anglican, Methodist and Catholic clergy in the UK.

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