TransFair Develops Fair Trade Certification for Apparel

A child in Zanzibar wearing a secondhand dress from…

Recently I met with Tierra Forte of TransFair USA, to discuss the new apparel certification pilot program they’re developing to extend fair trade benefits and protections beyond just the farm, but also for factory workers. I am very excited about this, as one of the main reasons I chose to pursue an MBA in Sustainability was to find a way to help improve labor conditions for apparel industry workers. Having worked in the US apparel industry for over a decade, I’ve witnessed the shift from domestic to foreign to predominantly Chinese manufacturing, and all of the benefits and difficulties that encompassed.

67% of American Consumers Don’t Know Fair Trade

The United States represents 30% of the fair trade market, even though only 33% of American consumers know what “fair trade” means. Have you explained it to your friends and family yet? I didn’t even know how environmentally rigorous the certification is until I dug into TransFair’s website. TransFair teaches and empowers producers to become stewards of their environment, so that Fair Trade Certified products are also environmentally responsible. For example, with apparel, they only approve factories which already meet the legal environmental standards. This is a big deal in countries where many textile mills dump toxic waste into the water supply as part of the dyeing and finishing processes. 58% of TransFair’s commodity products are also certified organic, and this is increasing.

Clothing- Slightly More Complicated Than Coffee

Most people do not realize the amount of time and effort it takes to develop and manufacture a garment, and therefore undervalue clothing. Apparel uses a very complex supply chain which involves a broad range of suppliers.

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