Skip to main content

Fair Trade USA Upgrades Factory Production Standards

Fair Trade USA recently unveiled its new Factory Production Standard (FPS), improving its overall certification process. The redesign supports accelerated factory onboarding, expansion into new product categories and countries, affordability and accessibility.

“This new program aims to broaden and scale impact to factory workers around the world,” Larry Ruff, president of Fair Trade USA, said. “These innovations create a more seamless operation as we move to scale and are a vital part of the program’s transformation. We envision a time when sourcing from Fair Trade Certified factories is the norm, and all consumers have access to Fair Trade Certified products.”

The nonprofit worked with stakeholders for almost two years to develop the FPS 2.0. The main goal was to innovate the existing standard to improve its value proposition for everyone involved while ensuring the standard delivers on Fair Trade USA’s organizational strategy for increased impact and growth. The FPS 2.0 also incorporates innovations regarding premium accounting and management, grievance mechanisms, responsible recruitment, living wages, document traceability, the Internal Management System (IMS) and others.

“We applaud Fair Trade USA’s efforts to streamline certification under their Factory Redesign Program with the ultimate goal of increasing funds available to workers,” Wendy Savage, senior director of social impact and transparency at Patagonia, said. “We hope to see more companies adopt Fair Trade to drive the greatest impact.”

Related Stories

Of the 402 compliance criteria checkpoints, 114 are new. Program initiatives include easier entry, which promotes accessibility and ease of access for companies looking to source via Fair Trade Certified (FTC) factories. Faster onboarding is third-party program recognition that enables cost and time efficiencies by reducing excess auditing. Expanding product categories and countries’ program clarifies the scope to allow for more diverse facilities and expansion beyond apparel to include cosmetics, footwear and other industries. A newly simplified pricing model is also available to meet partners’ budgets better and enhance compatibility with industry initiatives, aligning requirements and language with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and various companies’ codes of conduct.

“As a brand who has been working with the program since the first apparel pilot back in 2010, we are excited that these changes can help Fair Trade open new countries quicker and bring more brands into the program,” Ellen Johnson, sustainability and social impact manager at Prana, said.

The FPS is based on four impact areas: empowerment, economic development, social responsibility, and environmental responsibility and management. It’s organized into seven modules addressing different aspects of production and facility management, with each module split into sub-modules by theme. Each sub-module has multiple principle-based objectives, each of which has one or more associated requirements. The newest module, IMS, focuses on identifying risks of non-compliance with the FPS, monitoring risks identified and taking measures to address non-compliances on site included in the certificate. Planning, implementation and record-keeping are fundamental to the success of the IMS.

“It’s been very meaningful to partner with Fair Trade USA to establish the first Fair Trade Certification in the beauty industry,” Tarang Amin, chairman and CEO at E.L.F. Beauty, said. “We look forward to growing consumer awareness and education around fair trade practices to make a difference in communities around the world.”

Launched in 2010, over 100 factories in 13 countries have been certified to date, representing 65 brands. Fair Trade USA plans to scale the program and significantly increase its impact through 2030.

Last month, Fair Trade USA released its 2022 consumer insights report, “An Investment in Trust: Conscious Consumerism Goes Mainstream Despite Economic Headwinds,” which examined consumers’ ethical quest to purchase fair trade products.

Key findings from the report show conscious consumerism moving into the mainstream, with a broader range of consumers intentionally seeking FTC products and seeing this as one of the ways to most impact lives, communities and the environment. Younger generations continue to pay closer attention to the state of the planet and the practices behind the products they buy; 45 percent of millennials pay 20 percent more for an FTC product, while 48 percent of Gen Z say they would pay 20 percent more. Twenty percent of millennials and Gen Z bought FTC products in the past three months, double that of just three years ago.

“This new research shows a positive trend on the rise, as consumer awareness of fair trade products increases,” Paul Rice, founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA, said. “Younger generations continue to lead the charge as they look toward their future, while bringing other generations along with them. They understand the difference that every purchase makes in the lives of workers, farmers and fishers worldwide.”