First partners sign up to collaborate with Fairtrade

The first textile manufacturers to sign up to the new Fairtrade Textile Standard announced their commitment at the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin. The Fairtrade approach is the first of its kind to cover people working throughout the supply chain from seed cotton to finished textile products. In addition, the Textile Programme helps factories and workers to improve their social and environmental impacts, Fairtrade announced on its website.


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The German brands 3Freunde, Shirts for Life and Melawear are the first textiles manufacturers to partner with Fairtrade.

“These first partners take on an important pioneering role and serve as role models”, said Dieter Overath, CEO of Fairtrade Germany.

“Such courageous commitment is precisely what we need to finally drive change in the textile industry.”

UK-based Fairtrade is a social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability.

Raju Ganapathi, head of standards and pricing, textiles and producer services at the producer network NAPP in India, emphasized Fairtrade's unique approach: “No other standard prioritises the inclusion of workers in decision-making and problem-solving processes in a similar way as Fairtrade.”

3Freunde have already been producing t-shirts made from Fairtrade cotton for several years. “Now we want to take the next step and go from certifying our raw materials to also certifying our supply chains against Fairtrade Standards”, said Stefan Niethammer, founder of 3Freunde. “We are a shareholder in a factory in India where we will start implementing the Textile Standard requirements.”

Melawear, another long-term Fairtrade cotton partner, is planning to implement the Textile Programme and has already conducted a first assessment of a production site in India. “The detected issues mostly relate to wages, participation and contract workers,” said Henning Siedentopp, director of Melawear. “Our first goals are to create the necessary framework for easier participation, the incremental rise of wages and the improvement of the precarious employment conditions for contract workers.”

Like Melawear, the brand “Shirts for Life” is already a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles run by the German Development Ministry. “The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles is a great idea, since it gathers various stakeholders around a table”, stated Dr. Ulrich Hofmann, founder of Shirts for Life, “but the Fairtrade Programme is a hands-on tool for improvements on the ground, which is highly important to us. We aim to contribute to a change of consumers' awareness.”

The FairtradeTextile Standard - launched in March - focuses on working conditions, wages, and workers’ rights. It empowers factory workers and enables them to improve their working conditions collectively. It is the first standard in the industry to require living wages to be paid within a set time period. “Wages have to be increased gradually. The living wage level has to be achieved within six years,” explained Dieter Overath. In addition to the requirements for textile factories, the standard also includes requirements for brands: They have to commit to fair and long-term sourcing practices in their contracts in order to make wage increases feasible.

Factories participating in the Fairtrade Textile Programme will receive onsite support by local experts and the Fairtrade producer networks to meet the standard’s requirements “We want the factory management and workers to understand the requirements, and the reasoning behind them. Therefore we offer training on environmental management, health and safety, and freedom of association", explained Ganapathi. "The development levels of the factories differ widely. So it is important to tailor our support to their individual needs."

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 works with auditors who are particularly familiar with the complexity of textile production.

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