Patagonia has announced plans to offer Fair Trade Certified™ apparel, starting with nine styles in the Fall 2014 season.
For every Fair Trade Certified product Patagonia sells, the company says it will pay a premium directly into a special fund for employees. The workers will then decide collectively how to spend this fund, based on what they deem to be their community’s greatest needs: from scholarships and disaster relief funds, to medical care and transportation. Workers can also vote to take the Fair Trade premium dollars as a cash bonus, which can be equivalent to an entire month’s salary or more.
“Offering Fair Trade products is an important new tool for us to help ensure fair wages and workplace safety for the workers in the supply chain who sew Patagonia clothes," says Cara Chacon, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility for Patagonia. “We are also empowering the people purchasing our products.
The company says this effort is part of a larger strategy to raise awareness with its customers on how they can make a difference in the world with their purchasing decisions.
"Patagonia’s groundbreaking commitment to Fair Trade apparel marks a significant turning point for the apparel industry as a whole,” said Paul Rice, President & CEO of Fair Trade USA. “They’re showing the world that style and ethics don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and that transparency, sustainability and good businesses go hand in hand.”
Patagonia’s Fair Trade Certified products will be made in factories monitored and certified by Fair Trade USA under their strict social and environmental standards. Consumers will have independently verified and transparent assurance that the Fair Trade Certified™ products they buy are made under safe working conditions, where workers have a voice and earn a fair wage.
Fair Trade is a market-based approach to poverty alleviation and sustainable development that offers incentives to factories for complying with strict social, economic and environmental criteria. Most widely known as a certification for coffee or chocolate, Fair Trade USA has spent the past three years developing an apparel standard certification program that has the potential to dramatically change the entire manufacturing industry for the better; brands such as Indigenous and Piola have centered their business models around the certification.
Patagonia is a founding member of the Fair Labor Association. In 2007, the company redefined corporate supply chain transparency through their website their Footprint Chronicles® microsite.
It’s been a month of big announcements — and pronouncements — for Patagonia: The company announced its new Responsible Economy campaign, which calls on consumers and businesses alike to rethink disposability for more effective resource allocation. And also this week, Patagonia announced its participation, along with Eileen Fisher, Quiksilver and several other brands and designers, in a joint campaign with Canadian NGO Canopy to bolster protection of ancient forest ecosystems and raise awareness about the fashion industry’s role in endangering them.