In our article posted on July 1, 2013 we reported the huge (75%) increase in fair trade purchases in the U.S. Now it appears that a breakthrough in the global apparel industry may lead to further increases in fair trade apparel purchases.
Ending global slavery
“Two decades ago it was standard practice for an apparel company to publicly deny any responsibility to workers in its supply chain. After years of worker and consumer activism, the debate has shifted and a number of companies have now developed extensive corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.”
Free2Work’s most recent study on the apparel industry looks at 50 key apparel companies’ performance on issues related to child and forced labor. Results show that apparel companies familiar to the American consumer receive an “A” rating: Adidas, American Eagle, Gap, H&M, Levi’s, and Timberland among others. However there are several manufacturers that ar mosst likely unknown to the average American shopper. The chart below shows the ratings criteria for the selected group of manufacturers. (Click on the chart to enlarge for easier reading.)
Unknown manufacturers emphasizing fair labor standards
When we purchase apparel for ourselves or our children, we should be aware of several unknown labels that investigate the extent to which a company traces its suppliers and sets up systems throughout its supply chain to address modern slavery. We are presenting a brief profile of these manufacturers and their products so that our readers may make informed choices when buying clothing.
With the center of its operations located in the Dominican Republic, Alta Gracia ensures that their workers are paid a fair wage. In fact the average worker receives more than three times the minimum wage for that country. The company also takes care to respect their employees’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace, their need to be treated fairly and humanely, and their right to form a union.
Every Alta Gracia product carries a Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) label that ensures the company’s adherence to the standards of that organization. The WRC monitors the factory frequently to search for human rights violations.
Good & Fair
Founded in 2008 by Shelton Green, Good & Fair was one of the first apparel manufacturers to sell Fair Trade USA certified goods. Shelton says, “My company is part of a pilot program with Fair Trade USA, who is the certifying body for my supply chain. Certifying clothing production on a factory scale is very new, but it’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”
The product line is simple, men’s and women’s basics and neck scarves made of cotton certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The farmers who grew the cotton used in Good & Fair’s garments were paid fairly for their cotton and farmed according to organic standards. The company and its founder are doing their best to avoid global mass-production problems such as “fast fashion.” (See our May 26, 2013 article “International Compassion in Action (Mostly)” that discusses the dangers of producing fast fashion.)
HAE Now stands for Humans, Animals & Environment … NOW! Their stated creed is: ” Every business needs to be profitable. However, we believe that ethics and social responsibility should not be forsaken for profits but seen as a roadmap to lasting success.”
HAE Now’s cotton mill in Kolkata, India employs over 700 workers and ensures that they receive a fair-trade price for their output. This means that mill workers receive wages that are approximately 20-50% above the legal minimum wage, depending on skill level. A fair-trade price also covers the costs of sustainable production, promotes use of safer ecological methods that preserve the environment, and permits paying a 10% annual bonus regardless of profitability.
An additional “fair trade premium” permits investment in community projects that raise the standard of living, including safe drinking water, schooling, and new medical facilities. HAE Now also enrolls workers’ families in a medical insurance plan.