Ethical business organisation Fairtrade International has developed a new standard that aims to improve working conditions in the global textiles supply chain, after finding that little has changed since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh almost three years ago.
The Fairtrade Textile Standard will focus on working conditions, living wages and workers’ rights. Once a brand’s entire supply chain has been certified in line with the standard, it will be able to stamp its products with a Fairtrade Textile Production Mark.
Factory owners within those supply chains will have to commit to ensuring living wages are paid within a set time period of six years. The factories will be audited by Fairtrade’s independent certification body, Flocert.
Brands will also be required to demonstrate to Fairtrade that they employ “fair and long-term purchasing practices”.
Fairtrade will support the factories in meeting the standard’s requirements by improving health and safety, introducing living wages and improving efficiency and productivity.
In the long term, it aims to empower factory workers and enable them to negotiate labour conditions independently.
The standard is the first step towards implementing a Fairtrade Textile Programme, similar in concept to that which exists for farmers and workers. Fairtrade will carry out additional work to improve conditions in the textiles industry, such as offering training.
“Almost three years after the deadly collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh, little has changed for the workers themselves,” the organisation said. “The tragedy, which killed more than 1,100 and injured 2,500, sparked demands for better protection – but many garment workers still have to endure dangerous conditions and low pay.
“Fairtrade’s new textile standard and programme is designed to tackle these challenging working conditions by extending the Fairtrade approach to the entire textile supply chain.”
Martin Hill, interim chief executive of Fairtrade International, added: “By committing to Fairtrade, companies can now help improve the social and economic well-being of workers across the entire production chain.”
Fairtrade is currently negotiating with interested companies and hopes to announce the first names soon. The standard is applicable from June.