New Fairtrade Textile Standard and Programme aims to protect workers in the textile industry

A cotton farmer
A cotton farmer

Fairtrade’s new Textile Standard and Programme is designed to tackle challenging working conditions by extending the Fairtrade approach to the entire textile supply chain.

This move comes almost three years after the collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh, where more than 1,100 people were killed in April 2013. Little has changed for the workers themselves since the tragedy, with many still having to endure dangerous conditions and low pay.

Martin Hill, interim CEO at Fairtrade International, said: “By committing to Fairtrade, companies can now help improve the social and economic wellbeing of workers across the entire production chain.”

The new standard is based on Fairtrade’s existing Hired Labour Standard and focuses on working conditions, living wages and workers’ rights, and is open to other sustainable fibres as well as cotton.

It’s the first standard to require living wages to be paid within a set time period – six years – and brand owners will also be contractually responsible for fair and long-term purchasing practices – essential for implementing wage increases. Overall, the standard aims to empower factory workers and enable them to negotiate labour conditions independently.

The new standard is the first step towards implementing a comprehensive Fairtrade Textile Programme to change textile supply chains and related business practices. The programme will be similar in concept to the producer services provided to farmers and workers, but will be specific to textile factories. Following an initial assessment, factories will be supported to meet the standard’s requirements.

The programme also offers support in various areas including health and safety, worker empowerment, living wages, and improvements in efficiency and productivity.

FLOCERT, the independent certification body for Fairtrade, will audit the textile companies. Workers in the textile industry participate in these audits through elected representatives who inform the workforce of the results. FLOCERT only uses auditors who are particularly familiar with the complex procedures in the textile production.

Fairtrade is currently negotiating with interested companies and hopes to announce commitments soon. The standard is applicable from June 2016.

Once their entire supply chain has been certified in line with the Fairtrade Textile Standard, products will carry the Fairtrade Textile Production Mark. Product packaging will also indicate the brand’s progress towards achieving living wages in the product supply chain.

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