The coffee industry was one of the first to commit to the Fair Trade program. Slowly, Fair Trade USA is trying to get other industries beyond food to follow suit. With most of outdoor apparel and footwear now made overseas, the recent announcement that Patagonia will follow Prana in launching a line of Fair Trade clothing is a step in the right direction.
For the Fall/Winter 2014-2015 season, Patagonia has committed to launching an initial line of Fair Trade apparel, with the aim of growing the collection over time. As becoming Fair Trade certified is a fairly laborious process, the company will start with three yoga inspired pieces for women.
To certify a product as Fair Trade, a company must use Fair Trade sourced fabric and manufacture the apparel in Fair Trade certified factories. In these factories, workers are paid at least the minimum wage for the country and owners must demonstrate they are working towards offering an even higher living wage that takes into account such things as food costs.
All Fair Trade factory workers also receive a premium on top of wages, paid by the participating companies as a percentage (1%-10%) of product sold. This extra money goes into a collective workers fund, where the employees vote on how the money should be used to improve living conditions in the area.
Since the launch of their Fair Trade certified T-Shirt in 2011, Prana has been the first outdoor brand to carry Fair Trade product, now selling more than a dozen pieces. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, the company has already paid out $27,000 in Fair Trade premiums over the past couple of years.
As it appears outdoor enthusiasts are more than willing to pay a premium for gear that has been produced both environmentally friendly and ethically, I expect to see more outdoor brands coming on board. This could in turn speed up the conversion of the supply chain for the entire industry.
What do you think- would you pay a premium for outdoor gear that you know was produced by a Fair Trade factory?