Patagonia, already the largest supplier of apparel made in Fair Trade certified factories, is working to further scale its program.
The Ventura, California-based outdoor lifestyle brand partnered with Fair Trade USA in 2013 to include 11 styles made in a single Fair Trade factory in its Fall 2014 collection. Today, the program has expanded to six factories and 218 styles and by this time next year, Patagonia expects 300 styles—roughly a third of its products—will be manufactured in Fair Trade certified facilities.
“We live in the age of globalization and factory workers around the world are going to be plugged into the global market in one way or another, and so for me, the question is, are they victims of the global market, or are they being included in the benefits of globalization?” said Paul Rice, president and chief executive officer of Fair Trade USA. “We have to prove the business case for responsible business. If it’s just a philanthropic endeavor…it won’t scale. We have to prove that Fair Trade is good for business.”
As a Fair Trade partner, Patagonia is one of more than 1,000 companies representing 30 product categories that sell Fair Trade Certified products. The brand’s supply chain involves almost 75 factories and more than 100,000 workers worldwide.
For every product made by one of its Fair Trade certified facilities, Patagonia pays an additional premium that bridges the gap between a minimum wage and a living wage and a worker-elected committee votes on how to spend the money—either as a cash bonus or to pay for social, economic and environmental community projects.
As of May 2016, more than 7,000 workers have earned an additional $430,000 through Patagonia’s participation in the Fair Trade program.
“Fair Trade USA’s approach has proven it contributes to a better standard of living, including pay and employee participation in the workplace and community. It also helps create better working-conditions and safeguards against the use of child labor,” said Rose Marcario, Patagonia’s president and CEO. “One last benefit falls not to the workers, the factory or Patagonia as a brand, but to the customer who buys a Fair Trade certified garment: every purchase is a vote, with the pocketbook, for good values, an all too rare opportunity in our global economy.”