We hear a lot about environmentally-friendly manufacturing, Fair Trade principles and our responsibilities as ethical consumers. But what does Fair Trade clothing mean in practice?
To ensure that your clothes are sweatshop-labour free and contributing toward improved labour conditions for textile and factory workers, we recommend suppliers that have partnered with the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF). The partnerships are based on the FWF Code of Labour Practices and include a transparent supply chain with regular independent audits.
The following are the 8 guiding principles of the Code of Labour Practices which make up the criteria for practice and auditing:
- Employment is freely chosen: Workers cannot be forced to work, by example by withholding their salaries or by locking them up
- No discrimination in employment: Most garment workers are women. They often face discrimination and harassment. The FWF works towards better conditions for women an for other vulnerable groups like migrant workers
- No exploitation of child labour: Children should be able to go to school. Once they’re old enough to work, they should be protected from hazardous work or long hours
- Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining: For sustainable change, it’s crucial that workers have a voice in the improvement of their working conditions. The right to form unions and bargain with factories is the first step
- Payment of a living wage: Working for a living – that’s the idea. Wages for a normal working week should be enough to meet the basic needs of workers and their families and to provide some discretionary income.
- Reasonable hours of work: Working six days a week, eight hours a day. That’s what the UN says is the max. Any more than that should be voluntary, paid and not more than twelve hours a week
- Safe and healthy working conditions: Workers have a right to safe and healthy working conditions. That means accessible fire exits and proper safety gear. And if they need to work with hazardous materials or equipment, they need to know how
- A legally binding employment relationship: Workers have legal rights to a contract and certain benefits, like pension payments, social security, insurances and severance pay. Employers need to respect those rights.
We also recommend that consumers choose clothes, certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
The standard includes social criteria based on International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions as well as ecological criteria, so you can rest assured that your clothes will take the principles of fair trade seriously from the farm to processing and manufacturing before they’re on your back.
WHY FAIR TRADE CLOTHING?
We at Sustainable Clothing want to make life easier for Australians. And in essence, making life easier is what fair trade is about as well.
When shopping for ethical clothing in Australia, it can be tricky to find what you want to suit your tastes and needs. Our fair trade fashion is for everyday wear – simple, durable and it looks good. We want to make choosing good, fashionable, ethically-made clothes an easy choice! This is why we hope to make fair trade clothing as close to you as the click of a button.
You probably agree that people should be paid a fair wage for their work, and be treated with respect. But how does that play out in our everyday choices, from buying a bottle of milk to buying a t-shirt? Are we supporting what we agree with? Do we know what has happened behind the scenes, before this shiny new product was placed on the shelf in aisle 3?
Competition for cheap clothing in large quantities has led to exploitative trading practices, which include unfair wages, child labour, unsafe working conditions and excessively long working hours. Demand determines supply, so to change the industry for the better, as buyers we must take on some responsibility and be prepared to purchase ethically-produced clothes.
We wish to have a positive impact on the world and contribute to a growing norm of clothing made in a way that respects workers rights, as well as the local and wider environment.
In places where the clothing industry brings trade and employment, we want to support the growth of fair trade within this employment. (And we want good clothes to wear that tell this story).
With social criteria certification from GOTS (the Global Organic Textile Standard), as well as partnering & reporting done by the Fair Wear Foundation – you can rest easy when freshening up your wardrobe with fair trade clothing!
By choosing ethical clothing, you are supporting fair working conditions which are undergoing continual improvement.
To understand more about barriers to the payment of a living wage, and what the Fair Wear Foundation is doing to try to remove these barriers in its partner’s factories, please see their booklet ‘Living Wages: An Explorer’s Notebook (Piloting Living Wages in Garment Factories)’.