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Mission to save Africa employs 'trade, not aid'

University students partner with U2's Bono to buy shirts from the continent, then ship some of the profits back.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published January 26, 2007


OXFORD, Ohio - A clothing company founded by Irish rocker and humanitarian Bono and his wife has partnered with Ohio college students on a business project they expect to roll out to other campuses around the world.

Students at Miami University's Center for Social Entrepreneurship buy blank cotton T-shirts made in Africa and resell the shirts to other organizations. The students make some profit and provide a market to help build trade and employment in Africa.

Bono, the frontman for the rock band U2, has become known for his efforts to assist developing countries, especially in Africa. He and his wife, Ali Hewson, founded Edun Apparel Ltd. in 2005 to produce clothing in developing countries, providing increased trade and jobs to those areas. The company stresses that its message is "trade, not aid."

Final details are being worked out for the expansion of Miami's business model to other campuses, said Christine Driscoll, business development manager for edun Live, the sub-brand that consists of the T-shirt line. The company hopes edun Live on Campus, the Miami University pilot, will expand to least 40 campuses by 2011.

"We don't just vote and effect change at the ballot box," Hewson told students in a recent visit to Miami, a 14,385-student public university in southwest Ohio. "We can vote and effect change with the dollar in our pocket and how we use it, and you are leading the way."

Similar sentiments have led major companies to try to help developing areas through business solutions and universities to offer courses covering social responsibility. Starbucks Corp. participates with coffee growers in other countries in a fair-trade arrangement paying them prices aimed at providing a decent living and leading to more sustainable farming practices, and Procter & Gamble Co. developed a water-purifying product for developing countries.

The Miami students buy the T-shirts for about $4 each from edun Live, and resell them for around $10 each to campus organizations and other groups.

The core team of about 15 students has sold 2,600 shirts since the venture began in October. The students make a profit of about $1 per shirt that goes to back to the center.

Fast Facts:

 

About Edun Apparel Ltd.

A look at the socially conscious, for-profit clothing company, Edun Apparel Ltd., sometimes referred to as Edun:

- The Dublin, Ireland, company was founded by rock star and humanitarian Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, in 2005 to help increase trade and sustainable employment in developing countries and create a business model that others could use.

- The edun label is the company's high-end collection of men's and women's clothing sold in stores such as Nordstrom and Barneys New York. The clothing is made in developing countries from organic materials grown in those countries.

- The edun Live sub-brand consists of a line of blank cotton T-shirts manufactured in Africa from materials grown there and is aimed at a wider market through higher-volume, business-to-business sales.

- edun Live on Campus is a pilot program started at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The business model is still being refined, but it consists of the sale by a student-run organization of blank edun Live T-shirts that can be screen-printed with custom designs for sale to campus organizations and other groups.

Associated Press