West Elm Partners with Fair Trade USA to Improve the Lives of 40,000 Factory Workers

Clinton Global Initiative Commitment aims to expand Fair Trade from Farm to Factory

09/30/2015 - 6:02 PM

Fair Trade USA announced this week at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting its commitment to improve working conditions and enable sustainable livelihoods for factory workers, “Fair Trade Farm To Factory: An Ethical Sourcing Model.” Over the next two years, Fair Trade USA will certify 35 new factories, working with 30 new brand partners to improve the lives of 40,000 factory workers, globally. As the first home retailer to offer Fair Trade Certified™ products, West Elm is a lead partner in Fair Trade USA’s commitment, pledging the certification of more than 20 percent of its product assortment by 2017 and 40 percent by 2019. The pledge represents more than $1 million in additional Fair Trade Premiums that will go back into the hands of workers in the next 4 years alone.  

Through the Fair Trade Factory program, Fair Trade USA provides independent, third-party certification for manufacturing facilities to ensure safe, healthy working conditions for workers and artisans. The rigorous Fair Trade USA standards cover areas such as: monitored hours, equal rights for men and women, overtime, grievance policies, and paid leave. Fair Trade is also about worker empowerment, democratic participation, and financial benefit for workers through the Fair Trade Premium—an additional amount of money earned by workers for every Fair Trade product sold. Premiums can be spent on social and community-focused initiatives of the workers’ choice, such as health care or financial education.

“Fair Trade USA is committed to applying our proven agricultural model to the manufacturing industry, extending the progress and best practices we have achieved with farmers to factory workers, who make up 14 percent of the global workforce,” said Paul Rice, president and CEO of Fair Trade USA.  “West Elm and Patagonia were among the first brands to respond to our call to the industry to demand new standards and prevent incidents like the Bangladeshi fires and Pakistani building collapse from ever happening again.”

West Elm is an early adopter of the Fair Trade USA Factory program, and has already made significant investments in company infrastructure to scale its Fair Trade offerings. The brand will feature over 400 Fair Trade Certified products this holiday season, an approximately 180 percent increase over the holiday 2014 collection. 

“West Elm and Fair Trade USA share a market-based approach to social and environmental change,” said Jim Brett, president of West Elm. “At West Elm, everything we do is designed to make an impact. As a company we have a responsibility to provide ethical, transparent and sustainable sourcing and have great hope that our fellow retailers will be inspired to join us. Together, our industry can positively impact millions of workers and communities.”

With the 2015 CGI commitment, Fair Trade USA and its partners will also invest in systems to measure the impact of certification on workers’ lives. Impact indicators are verified on an annual basis through the certification process and additional impact assessments are conducted using real-time mobile technology to communicate directly with workers, along with in-depth community-based studies five to 10 times per year.  This focus on measurement is a key part of the commitment and will help validate the success of Fair Trade certification at the individual worker and community level, informing future goals and supplemental programing like financial services for workers receiving premiums.

09/30/2015 - 6:02 PM
09/30/2015 - 6:02 PM