More than a dozen FWF brands have joined the FWF Living Wage Incubator. Since January 2017, these leading brands have experimented with cutting-edge approaches to raising wages within their supply chains.
The Incubator is designed to explore various methods for ensuring higher wages for workers. In most garment supply chains, this is not straightforward, since brands often source from dozens of factories, and factories often source to many brands. How can we calculate what any given brand should pay to cover their share of higher wages?
Or: what is the most appropriate living wage benchmark to use in a particular factory or region? How can brands in a shared facility collaborate to raise wages while strictly adhering to competition law? How can we ensure all of the money paid actually reaches workers? And a critical question for all projects is: How can we most effectively integrate trade unions and workers into this process?
FWF’s Incubator will at least generate some initial answers to these questions, with the aim of developing knowledge and expertise that can then be scaled up for use by more brands, and notably for use by regional-level or international projects involving many brands, international trade unions and other industry actors.
Lessons learned from the Incubator will feed into FWF’s joint work with Dutch trade unions FNV and CNV and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Within this Strategic Partnership, the partners are developing new approaches to provide models and evidence to brands, factories, trade unions, governments and civil society organisations as to how a fairer garment industry could work—and benefit—all parties.
Challenge the industry
Just because a brand is participating in the Incubator does not mean this brand is already paying a living wage. However, in applying to join the Incubator, brands commit to partner with one or more strategic factory partner(s) and start taking very concrete steps towards higher wages. As FWF’s Sophie Koers explains, ‘These FWF brands are some of the only companies in the entire industry known to actually be paying more to raise wages.’
‘The Incubator is just the beginning’, says Anne Lally, who forms part of the team guiding FWF’s work on wages. ‘We want to challenge the garment industry as a whole to build on the experiences of FWF Incubator brands, and simply get out there and start trying to pay more.’
FWF provides various tools to help these frontrunner companies execute what can be tricky missions. (See FWF’s Labour Minute Costing and FWF’s Living Wages: An Explorer’s Notebook for more.) The hope is to generate case studies that inspire others to take action. Now.