As of February 2017, workers have earned an additional $833,000 through our Fair Trade program.
Apparel workers who make Patagonia clothing earned an additional $833,000 from fall 2014 to February 2017 through our participation in the Fair Trade program. Employees at Nature USA in Los Angeles voted to take their share of the money, which equaled up to six days pay, as a cash bonus to pay for such things as healthcare and college tuition for their children. At Hirdaramani in Sri Lanka, workers chose to use theirs to open a daycare center that provides factory workers with free child care, implement a health and sanitation program, and pay for sanitary napkins and undergarments to improve individual hygiene. And workers at MAS Leisureline, also in Sri Lanka, chose store vouchers to buy food, medicine, toiletries and other personal items. (These indirect benefits amounted to two weeks’ pay.)
Fair Trade is one of the first tools we’re using at Patagonia to raise workers’ wages, improve their living standards and move them closer to earning a living wage.
This is how it works: We pay a premium for every Fair Trade Certified™ item that carries our label. That extra money goes directly to the workers at the factory, and they decide how to spend it. But that’s not all. The program also promotes worker health and safety and social and environmental compliance, and encourages dialog between workers and management. As of May 2016, more than 7,000 people working in factories that make Patagonia clothing had benefited from the program.
Because of its popularity among workers, factory owners and progressively minded customers, and its usefulness to us as a first step to raise workers’ wages, Patagonia’s participation in Fair Trade has grown rapidly. In 2014, we began by offering 10 Fair Trade clothing styles made in a single factory. In spring 2017, we’re selling 287 styles made in ten factories—including the world’s first full line of Fair Trade Certified board shorts and bikinis. By fall 2017, we expect to offer customers some 440 Fair Trade styles made in 12 different factories.
Also of note, most Fair Trade apparel factories are in Asia. But ours is the first apparel company to bring the program to factories in Mexico and the United States. We added certified factories in Colombia and Vietnam this spring, and we’ll be adding factories in Thailand and Nicaragua this fall.
“The benefits of the program have exceeded our expectations,” says Thuy Nguyen, manager of social and environmental responsibility who works on the Fair Trade program. “In addition to the premiums raising wages, our factories have reported improved worker morale and engagement. Since workers actively participate in the program, they understand and appreciate what Fair Trade can do. Few social programs have such a sweeping impact.”
Patagonia is one of more than 1,000 companies representing 30 product categories that sell Fair Trade Certified products. Since the program began in 1998, farmers and factory workers have earned some $400 million in premiums.