Patagonia is set to become one of the first major outdoor clothing companies to offer Fair Trade Certified apparel, starting with nine styles launching for fall next year.
For every Fair Trade Certified product Patagonia sells, the company will pay a premium directly into a special workers’ fund.
The workers will decide collectively how to spend this fund, 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. This effort is part of a larger strategy to raise awareness with our customers on how they can make a difference in the world with their purchasing decisions.”
Paul Rice, president and CEO of Fair Trade USA, believes Patagonia’s “ground breaking” commitment to Fair Trade apparel marks a significant turning point for the apparel industry.
“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 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.
Most widely known as a certification for coffee or chocolate, the Fair Trade approach to poverty alleviation and sustainable development offers incentives to factories for complying with strict social, economic and environmental criteria.
Fair Trade USA has spent the past three years developing its apparel standard certification program.
Patagonia has a long-standing commitment to environmental responsibility, and since 1996 has only used organically grown cotton in its clothing. The company’s entire product line is also recyclable through its Common Threads Partnership.
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