Whether or not an item of clothing has been ethically made affects our planet throughout its entire life cycle. So what exactly is fair trade and what does it mean? Fair trade is an organized social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as higher social and environmental standards. What are the benefits of fair trade?
- Employment is freely chosen. Workers cannot be forced to work, for example for withholding their salaries or by locking them up.
- No discrimination in employment. Most garment workers are women. They often face discrimination and harassment. Working towards better conditions for women and for other vulnerable groups like migrant workers.
- No exploitation of child labor. Children should be able to go to school. Once they’re old enough to work, they should be protected from hazardous work or long hours.
- Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. For sustainable change, it’s crucial that workers have a voice in the improvement of their working conditions. The right to form unions and bargain with factories is the first step.
- Payment of a living wage. Working for a living – that’s the idea. Wages for a normal working week should be enough to meet basic needs of workers and their families and to provide some discretionary income.
- Safe and healthy working conditions. Workers have a right to safe and healthy working conditions. That means accessible fire exits and proper safety gear. And if they need to work with hazardous materials or equipment, they need to know how.
- A legally binding employment relationship. Workers have legal rights to contract and certain benefits, like pension payments, social security, insurances and severance pay. Employers need to respect those rights.