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- Knowledge sharing
This section offers answers to a selection of frequently asked questions about Fair Wear Foundation and improving working conditions in the garment industry.
Fair Wear Foundation (Fair Wear) is an independent, non-profit organisation that works to improve conditions for workers in garment factories. Fair Wear is active in 15 production countries in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Please find more information about Fair Wear here.
Millions of garment workers around the world face poverty and human rights violations every day. Supply chains are very complicated, and there are still many places where things can go wrong. Most clothing brands don’t own their factories, but they do have a lot of influence over how factories treat workers. Fair Wear works with brands who take their responsibilities seriously, and want to learn how to use their influence to make life better for the people who make their clothing.
Companies do not have to be ‘perfect’ to join Fair Wear. Our process approach meets companies where they are; some have years of experience in CSR; some are just entering the CSR field. Each company uses Fair Wear guidance to identify areas where the changes they make can have the greatest impact.
Fair Wear is piloting a factory membership with a small number of factories who already supply active affiliates of Fair Wear. Factory membership is not open to other factories at this time.
Fair Wear member brands monitor conditions in their supply chains, adapt their management practices to support better working conditions, and resolve problems when they are found. Responsibility for worker welfare is shared between brands and factories, so Fair Wear believes they must work together to achieve sustainable improvements.
Fair Wear focuses on the factories that make fabric into clothing, shoes, bags and other sewn goods: the cut, make, trim (CMT) stage of garment production. This is a very labour-intensive part of the supply chain, and where clothing brands have the most influence. Please see our consumer brochure for more information.
There’s no such thing as 100% fair clothing – yet. But Fair Wear’s member brands are working hard to get there. Supply chains are complicated and international – which means no single factory, brand or government can improve things alone. And this kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. So no, we don’t certify. We report, so you can check on how your favourite Fair Wear member brands are performing.
If problems are found – and every brand will find problems sometimes – Fair Wear requires the brand to work with the factory to resolve the problem. Leaving a factory when problems are found does nothing to improve the situation of workers. Fair Wear only allows brands to leave factories as a last resort. Problems reported via our complaints system are publicly reported.
Not necessarily. Workers’ wages are a very small percentage, often no more than 2-4% of the price of a piece of clothing. Fabric costs, advertising, transport, store rent, etc. are also part of the cost of a garment. Brand pricing policies need to support decent working conditions, however more expensive clothing is not necessarily made under better conditions. For more on the relationship between pricing and labour costs, please see our report Climbing the Ladder.
Fair Wear does not certify products as ‘100% fair’, so we apply strict conditions to the use of our logo on products. Starting from 2013, only member brands that fall into the ‘Leader’ category may use the logo. On our brands page you can see which brands are members of Fair Wear.
The global apparel industry provides jobs and incomes to millions of people in factories around the world. If brands were to stop sourcing from these countries, the impact on workers would be severe.
The question is less about whether clothing should be produced in a particular country; the question is how to improve conditions for workers where they are. Fair Wear believes that in nearly all situations, members have an opportunity and a responsibility to support implementation of the Code of Labour Practices, rather than relocating production.
Fair Wear’s approach is based on the idea that factory conditions are influenced by the behaviour of brands. ‘Responsible’ suppliers can only exist if they have responsible brands as partners.
Fair Wear does not provide lists of suppliers, although we are currently piloting a factory membership with a small number of factories. You can find these factories on Fair Wear’s brands page.
Please contact the brand directly about using the Fair Wear logo. You can find a full overview of Fair Wear members on the brands page.
It is very positive to see that so many students are interested researching human rights issues in the clothing industry. Given our limited resources, however, we are unable to provide individual interviews to students or complete additional questionnaires. You can find a great deal of information on our website, which we hope will help in answering your questions. In particular, consult our about section, resources page and country information.