What is fair trade? 12 Fashion Fair Trade certificates
When shopping for food or clothes, what do you tend to think about? Apart from considering the usual – do I want/need this? Is the price good? Does it suit me/the occasion? – have you ever wondered about the story of the item that is to end on your table/in your wardrobe, have you ever wondered about the people who made it, how they made it and what their ordinary days and lives are like and thanks to them, you can enjoy your ordinary days a bit more?
Thanks to free international trade and transport possibilities, it has never been easier to sell products originating in a specific location to customers on the other side of the globe. For many decades now, we – the Western consumers – have been enjoying all the luxuries brought to our doorstep from regions most of us don’t really know (and care) that much about. No doubt the delicious coffees, exotic fruits and clothes so affordable you just buy them even though you might only wear them once a year have come as some of the perks of living in the developed and prospering societies we are today and we surely deserve them all. Or do we?
Imagine that next time you are in a shop and wish to buy a pair of jeans or a T-shirt you know would look really good on you and make you feel good, you could also add the feeling that you helped to make someone else’s life better and their environment a better place to live. And yes, you do have the option. In fact, thanks to the ever-growing economic, social and environmental awareness, you have a few.
You have probably heard about the “fair trade” movement, which provides some alternatives to the ethically conscious consumer. What is it exactly? Put simply, it is a system of trading based on a fair partnership between producers and traders, businesses and consumers, which is beneficial to all the parties involved. The very first efforts to bring some balance to the trade relationships date back to 1988 when Max Havelaar, the first fair trade coffee brand was launched. Today the movement is represented by a number of companies who share the same vision of fair production, environmental protection, good, safe working conditions and public awareness.
How is it done?
Different certifications obviously differ slightly in their focus but generally work along the same paths. A minimum price is set for the products imported from poorer countries of origin to the developed world in order to ensure a living wage for the producers and protect them from market fluctuations. Long-term contracts are provided to these producers to give them stability and resources to develop their communities. There are regular independent audits to check the health and safety standards are met so that the workers are guaranteed safe and clean work environment as well as reasonable working hours. Needless to say, child and bonded labour are strictly banned.
Picture taken in Bangladesh where the clothes we print on are made. (by Stanley & Stella)
Moreover, environmental protection and sustainability are emphasized. Although it has been proven by many companies that low cost, competitive production does not usually go hand in hand with eco-friendly attitudes, the fair trade organizations and members are aware of the real costs suffered by the environment and promote sustainable practices focused on water conservation, restricting certain harmful chemicals, improving waste management and encouraging biodiversity.
In the past I’ve also seen certification institutes run individual programmes or initiatives to help combat an issue in a particular area/factory regarding the environment or social awareness.
Last but not least, making people aware of the situation and the various possibilities how to contribute to the change is an important aspect of fair trade.
And this is where you and I enter the scene. Most of my life, I have always believed I have a say in pretty much everything I do. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many people in this world. I’m not saying that if you buy a Fairtrade T-shirt today, the world will turn into a paradise tomorrow. But you and I, we have a choice and our choices are becoming wider, thanks to the great deal of work that has already been done. And our choice gives the people who make what we love their choice.
Below you will find some of the fair trade certifications/organisations I know of or found. I’ve tried to list certifications that concentrate on human rights, making sure the supply chain is fair and most importantly a positive drive for the people. Soon I’ll go through certifications that concentrate mainly on the textiles and agriculture conditions in another article.
It’s also good to note that the brands that carry these certifications also run their own initiatives and programmes that reach even further into the social and work development in fashion. For example, we get trees planted to make sure we repay the travel costs of our customers’ goods and beyond. Some may differ in beliefs or strategies where we focus on fair trade and the environment equally and believe they come hand in hand.
I hope if you’ve got this far then you wish to check them out, if not, I just hope you try to make more ethical choices in whatever you look for and most importantly, feel good in your clothing for more reasons than one.
FWF, The Fair Wear Foundation
The Fair Wear Foundation is a non-profit organisation that works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and sometimes governments to verify and improve workplace conditions for garment workers in 11 production countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. FWF keeps track of the improvements made by the companies it works with. And through sharing expertise, social dialogue and strengthening industrial relations, FWF increases the effectiveness of the efforts made by companies. FWF’s more than 80 member companies represent over 130 brands, and are based in Europe; member products are sold in over 20,000 retail outlets in more than 80 countries around the world. Our clothing is certified by FWF.
The Fairtrade Mark
Their activities may be a little confusing as they seem to have a few certification types but certainly cover fashion and many other products catering world-wide. Products carrying the Fairtrade help you make the choice to give a fair go to farmers, workers and their communities in some of the world’s poorest countries. At Fair trade they work in partnership with these farmers to provide fairer prices, better terms of trade and additional funds for business and community development such as education, healthcare and environmental sustainability. This leads to better working conditions and enhanced investment in quality.
WTO, World Trade Organisation
The world Trade Organisation may not cater on a small scale that we are trying to focus on here but works more as a multilateral trading system between countries. It stands for non-discrimination between trading partners, dropping barriers, transparency, competition discouraging unfair practices, protecting the environment and supporting less developed countries.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.
WRAP Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production
The WRAP Principles are based on generally accepted international workplace standards, local laws and workplace regulations, and include the spirit or language of relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Principles encompass human resources management, health and safety, environmental practices, and legal compliance including import/export and customs compliance and security standards.
The objective of the WRAP Certification Program is to independently monitor and certify compliance with these standards, to ensure that sewn products are being produced under lawful, humane and ethical conditions. Participating facilities voluntarily commit to ensuring that their manufacturing practices will meet these standards, and further commit to passing along, on their part, the expectation that their contractors and suppliers likewise comply with these standards.
“Fashion Revolution is a global movement that runs all year long.
We celebrate fashion as a positive influence while also scrutinising industry practices and raising awareness of the fashion industry’s most pressing issues. We aim to show that change is possible and encourage those who are on a journey to create a more ethical and sustainable future for fashion.
Fashion Revolution strives to be action-oriented and solution focused. Rather than making people feel guilty, we help them recognise that they have the power to do something to make a positive change.
We often call ourselves “pro-fashion protesters” because we love fashion and want to see it become a force for good.”
WFTO, The European Branch of the World Fair Trade Organization
A new certification. The World Fair Trade Organization-Europe (WFTO-Europe) is the European branch of WFTO (global), the worldwide network of Fair Trade organisations. It is formed by 94 members (as of February 2018), among them Fair Trade organizations, Fair Trade networks and Far Trade support organizations.
On a global level, WFTO aims at enabling producers to improve their livelihoods and communities through Fair Trade. This mission is carried out by delivering market access for its worldwide membership through policy, advocacy, campaigning, marketing and monitoring. In addition to its Global Office, WFTO has four regional networks: WFTO-Africa (formerly COFTA), WFTO-Asia, WFTO-Latin America and WFTO-Europe. North America and the Pacific Rim are only informally organized as a region.
Founded in 1997, Social Accountability International (SAI) is a global non-governmental organization advancing human rights at work. SAI’s vision is of decent work everywhere – sustained by an understanding that socially responsible workplaces benefit business while securing fundamental human rights. SAI empowers workers and managers at all levels of businesses and supply chains, using its multi-industry SA8000® Standard, as well as Social Fingerprint®, TenSquared, and other training and capacity building programs. SAI is a leader in policy and implementation, working together with a diverse group of stakeholders, including brands, suppliers, governments, trade unions, non-profits, and academia.
Ethical Trade Initiative
“Our member companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations work together to tackle the many complex questions about what steps companies should take to trade ethically, and how to make a positive difference to workers’ lives.”
CMiA Cotton Made in Africa
Cotton made in Africa is an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation which Dr. Michael Otto established in 2005 based on the conviction that only by sustainable development the livelihoods of future generations and vital resources can be protected. Its mission is to promote environmental protection and to improve the living conditions in developing countries. Its mission is to promote environmental protection and to improve the living conditions in developing countries.
Textile Exchange is a global non-profit that works closely with members to drive industry transformation in preferred fibres, integrity and standards and responsible supply networks. We identify and share best practices regarding farming, materials, processing, traceability and product end-of-life in order to reduce the textile industry’s impact on the world’s water, soil and air, and the human population.
Incorporated in 2002, Textile Exchange is headquartered in Texax with staff and ambassadors located in 11 countries. Companies and organizations from more than 25 countries have joined as members.
Since the start of the FAIR SHARE project in January 2016, all the workers receive a living wage premium with their monthly wages.
The project so far only takes around 10% of the factory’s production capacity, so for now everyone receives extra 650 rupees. This is not a living wage yet, but if we can extend the project, every worker will get at least the living wage
Fair Trade Certified (US)
“Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, fishermen, consumers, industry, and the earth. We achieve our mission by certifying and promoting Fair Trade products.”
Fair Labor Association
Nordic Swan Eco Label