Fairtrade has launched a new textile standard to tackle challenging working conditions in factories across the globe, almost three years after the deadly Rana Plaza collapse.
The foundation said that little has changed for the garment workers in Bangladesh since the tragedy killed more than 1100 and sparked demands for better protection, with many employees still having 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.
"By committing to Fairtrade, companies can now help improve the social and economic wellbeing of workers across the entire production chain," said Martin Hill, Interim CEO at Fairtrade International.
The new standard is based on Fairtrade’s existing Hired Labour Standard and focuses on working conditions, living wages and workers’ rights, and is open to other sustainable fibres as well as cotton.
It’s 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.
The new standard is the first step towards implementing a comprehensive Fairtrade Textile Programme to change textile supply chains and related business practices.
The programme will be similar in concept to the producer services provided to farmers and workers, but will be specific to textile factories. Following an initial assessment, factories will be supported to meet the standard’s requirements.
"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," said Siva Parti, Environmental and Health & 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.