The new Fairtrade Textile Standard aims to improve textile workers’ conditions, rights and wages

The new Fairtrade Textile Standard aims to improve textile workers’ conditions, rights and wages

Fairtrade International released a new Fairtrade Textile Standard on 22 March that aims to improve the working conditions, wages and rights of textile workers across the entire supply chain. Along with the standard, Fairtrade International has introduced a programme to support workers and factories to improve the working conditions.

The new standard and programme comes nearly three years after the collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh, where more than 1,100 people were killed and 2,500 injured, and has been introduced in the hope of tackling “these challenging working conditions”. Martin Hill, interim CEO at Fairtrade International, commented: “By committing to Fairtrade, companies can now help improve the social and economic wellbeing of workers across the entire production chain.”

The new standard is based on the organisation’s existing Hired Labour Standard and focuses on working conditions, living wages and workers’ rights. It is open to other sustainable fibres as well as cotton and it is, said Fairtrade International, “the first standard to require living wages to be paid within a set time period – six years – and brand owners will also be contractually responsible for fair and long-term purchasing practices – essential for implementing wage increases. Overall, the standard aims to empower factory workers and enable them to negotiate labour conditions independently.”

“It is important for factory owners and workers to understand the standard’s content as well as the purpose of Fairtrade. That’s the main challenge when implementing the standard and running local training sessions,” explained Siva Parti, environmental and health and safety expert at Sustainable Textile Solutions. The programme also offers support in various areas including health and safety, worker empowerment, living wages, and improvements in efficiency and productivity.

FLOCERT, the independent certification body for Fairtrade, will audit the textile companies. The standard will be applicable from June 2016. Products whose entire supply chain has been certified in line with the Fairtrade Textile Standard will carry the Fairtrade Textile Production Mark.