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US Apparel and Retail Firms Eye Fair Trade Certification After Deadly Fires and Other Disasters Bangladesh

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Several US clothing and retail firms have made significant inquiries regarding Fair Trade USA certification in Bangladesh.

Among the interested companies, reportedly, are Gap Inc., and Wal-Mart, two firms which recently declined to sign a legally-binding contract entailing a joint-effort by business and government to improve worker safety in Bangladesh through the implementation of factory upgrades and renovations, safety and health education of workers, and periodic inspections, among other initiatives.

Both Gap and Wal-Mart said they would institute their own safety programs.

In a news release from Fair Trade USA citing heightened interest in, and inquiries about Fair Trade programs, Heather Franzese of the organization said, “The types of companies we see expressing the interest have a more mainstream presence and more marketing influence.

Ms. Franzese is a director at the group that launched Fair Trade USA’s apparel program.

Names of the firms requesting information were not disclosed pending conclusion of discussions, but Ms. Franzese said they were publicly traded firms.  Commitments made by the companies involved are expected to be formalized within the next two months and their Fair Trade certified products are expected to be available at retailers by fall, 2014.

The apparel certification process takes from 12 to 18 months, from design to availability at retailers, and requires compliance with some 300 standards of benefit to cotton farmers and for the safety of factor workers.

Already participating in a program, according to Fair Trade USA, are 18 small mission-driven brands, including Eastern Mountain Sports, Prana, REI and Zappos.  Bed, Bath & Beyond will soon sell an Under the Canopy Fair Trade Certified robe.

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