Experts Advise Fairtrade Way Forward in Textiles

Third Multi-stakeholder Forum on Fairtrade’s Approach to Exploring Standards in the Textiles Supply Chains for Fairtrade Certified Cotton

27 October 2011

After a Fairtrade farmer sells his or her cotton to its first buyer, the cotton passes through the hands of many workers who gin, spin, knit, dye, cut and trim the raw product into a t-shirt, scarf or bed sheet ready for a consumer to buy in their local store.

For the past year and a half, Fairtrade has been exploring how to improve the livelihoods of workers in the supply chain of Fairtrade cotton. Right now textile manufacturers have to show one of eight indicators that they are making efforts to comply with the core international (ILO) labour standards. But Fairtrade wants to do more to protect workers’ rights, build towards a living wage, and make sure workers are free to join an independent union and to collectively bargain.

Last week this vision took concrete form. Sixty people from labour rights organizations, textiles companies, retailers and Fairtrade certified cotton producer organizations met with Fairtrade in Utrecht, Netherlands on 17-18 October at ICCO (the funding partner for Fairtrade’s textile project). Project leads reported the results of five parallel pilots in this project that tested different approaches to better textile workers’ situation. Fairtrade International proposed core elements of a new Standard for the textiles’ supply chain and received expert feedback as attendees discussed and debated the most important ways to ensure textile workers have the work conditions they need to build a better livelihood for themselves.

Fairtrade International staff will incorporate the feedback and make a proposal for a textile strategy to its Board, where the standard will be one “building block” in a set of measures to improve social compliance in textile supply chains.   

“We had some great input from our participants and a good working atmosphere during the meeting. We will continue the consultation and collaboration process with our stakeholders on our journey from the cotton fields to ready made garments,” said Rossitza Krueger, Textile Policy Manager at Fairtrade International.

Fairtrade International also recently revised its standards for seed cotton. Read more here.

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