26 Apr 2017

One Year into the Fairtrade Textile Standard and Programme: An Update

The Fairtrade Textile Standard and Programme were launched one year ago. Although certified products have not yet hit the shelves, Fairtrade and our partners have been working hard behind the scenes to achieve improvements in production processes for textile workers.

A woman sews in a textile factory.
Image © Anand Parmar

Rossitza Krüger, Textiles Manager at Fairtrade International explains why certifying complex textile supply chains takes time: “The Fairtrade Textile Standard has very comprehensive requirements for workers’ rights and environmental protection. But many suppliers have limited resources and therefore can only take one step at a time. We appreciate every step in the right direction and will continue to support factories on their path towards certification.”

In 2016, the first companies – Brands Fashion, 3FREUNDE, and MELAWEAR – partnered with Fairtrade to work towards fairer supply chains. Since then these companies and their suppliers in India have opened up their factories for pre-assessments within the framework of the Fairtrade Textile Programme. Fairtrade staff have conducted orientation training in various factories to assess the needs of each company and its workers. This enables us to tailor future training to their specific situation, and give them the best support possible in working towards meeting the Fairtrade Textile Standard requirements.

Another agreement has very recently been made in the UK: the National Union of Students will be the first British partner for the Textile Standard with fair fashion brand Epona.

Expanding the Fairtrade Textile Programme

The Fairtrade Textile Programme is Fairtrade’s main tool to support textile factories on their path to certification. Independent experts inspect the factories to assess their compliance with labour law, their health and safety requirements, wages, social security measures, environmental protection and productivity. They then recommend steps for improvement. Workers also discuss their ideas for a fairer workplace and make suggestions. Fairtrade staff gather these and support companies on implementing them.

The programme has recently been developed further to also include training on worker representation. One aspect is facilitating democratic elections for committees, as required by the Fairtrade Textile Standard. Employees and management must attend training on how elections should be held, who can be elected, and what the responsibilities of the committee members are. Over the past few months, almost 20 training sessions have taken place in several companies.

Partnerships are key

Fairtrade values the expertise of local partners and believes it is vital to work together. “For true change in the textile sector, multiple stakeholders must make a joint effort.” says Fairtrade International’s Textiles Manager Rossitza Krüger.

Fairtrade and the Fair Wear Foundation exchanged ideas on improving labour rights in the manufacturing sector and have jointly developed training materials. “Over the past few years, the Fair Wear Foundation has supported us enormously with valuable know-how,” explains Rossitza. “We're both multi-stakeholder initiatives and we share the same values. We also have the same understanding of labour rights and specific challenges in the countries where we both operate.”

In future, Fairtrade and the Fair Wear Foundation aim to mutually recognize audits for certain requirements of the respective standards, to avoid duplication. Fairtrade already recognizes the SA 8000 Standard for some requirements of the Textile Standard, so factories don't have to be audited against the same criteria twice.

Additionally, there have been talks with partner organizations such as the Indian NGOs Save and Cividep, Indian union representatives (INTUC), Don Bosco Vocational Schools and the Awaj Foundation in Bangladesh. Fairtrade continues to cooperate with them in order to achieve change in the textile sector.

Living wage determined for Tiruppur, India

Tiruppur is India’s major textile hub. Research on what a living wage would be in the region has recently been concluded. The Global Living Wage Coalition has determined a living wage of INR 14,250 using the Anker methodology. The Fairtrade Textile Standard requires companies to gradually improve wages to living wage level within six years after certification. More living wage benchmarks for other major textile production regions are underway.

What’s next?

Fairtrade invites more fashion brands – large or small – to work with us on making textile production fairer. “We would be especially pleased to work with a vertically integrated company to jointly produce their next brand collection under the ‘Fairtrade Textile Production’ label. We have already created the framework for them to enter the market,” says Rossitza Krüger.