Patagonia targets Fair Trade certification on 50% of range by next year

Saving the planet is fine, but taking care of the human race who inhabits it is a worthy endeavour too. Patagonia, often referred to as a benchmark for environmental protection, never forgets the women and men who live and work on planet Earth, especially those who do so for the Californian label.

An Asian Fair Trade-certified factory working for Patagonia - Theodore Kaye

In 2014, Patagonia joined the Fair Trade Certified programme, and has been awarded the programme's label for 10 of its products. Patagonia's senior management has indeed given top priority to the programme, and now 38% of the brand's range is Fair Trade-certified, with products coming from 14 factories in 8 different countries.

Manufacturing Fair Trade-certified products means that the salary of the workers who produce them can increase, bringing it as close as possible to a living wage, and allowing the workers and their families to enjoy a decent standard of living. This is crucial in underdeveloped countries, like Bangladesh or Cambodia, where the textile industry is well-established and a worker's salary guarantees an entire family's livelihood. "This is something to be reckoned with," said Nayla Ajaltouni, a supervisor at French collective Éthique sur l’étiquette (ethics on the label).

A brand like Patagonia pays a premium on each Fair Trade product. The money is placed in a shared fund for the workers, who together decide how to spend it. "We have been working with these factories for a long time, well before the programme was set up. They were already different from other manufacturers. Since 2014, representatives of the Fair Trade programme travel to factories and explain the opportunities offered by the shared fund created through the programme: salary increases, training, the setting up of childcare facilities, etc. The programme's specifications are very strict and if the factory's management doesn't adhere to them, we switch production elsewhere. It's already happened," said Cara Chacon, Vice-President, Social & Environmental Responsibility at Patagonia.

Cara Chacon, Vice-President, Social & Environmental Responsibility at Patagonia

From the current autumn/winter season, Patagonia's Better Sweat, Re-Tool and Synchilla fleece ranges feature Fair Trade-certified products only. They join the entire swimming costume and board short lines, which are also Fair Trade-certified since summer 2017. "Within a year, we are planning for 50% of Patagonia's collections to sport the Fair Trade label. As for reaching 100%, this would eventually be the goal but, before then, we want each labourer who works for us to have access to a decent wage," said Cara Chacon.

On the Patagonia website, all the brand's suppliers, both for fabric and finished products, are listed and pinned up on a world map. For each of them there is a fact-sheet, detailing its connection with Patagonia, the number of employees and their women/men ratio. From next summer, Patagonia wants to become even more transparent across its entire supply chain and for all its ethical programmes.

Europe represents 10% of Patagonia's global revenue, and has grown in double figures for the last two years, thanks to the 7 directly owned and 12 partner stores the brand operates in the continent. Altogether, Patagonia is distributed in 1,200 stores worldwide.

In Patagonia's 2016 annual report on its programmes and initiatives for the 2016 fiscal year, available online, the brand stated it made a '1% for the planet' contribution, equal to 1% of its global revenue, worth over $7.1 million, compared to $6.3 million for the fiscal year 2015.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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