Brands Fashion is a corporate workwear company. As part of an ongoing human rights risk assessment, it identified living wages as a risk issue in its textile supply chains. Together with Fairtrade, the company has addressed this issue and became the first company in the world to certify all stages of a supply chain according to the Fairtrade Textile Standard, including ginning, spinning, knitting, dyeing, printing and garment making. The company was supported in this process by the Helpdesk on Business & Human Rights, who provided feedback on the risk analysis approach as part of a free consultation.
The new Fairtrade Textile Standard offers a comprehensive approach to strengthening workers’ rights and improving wages and working conditions in the textile industry. Fairtrade uses the Anker method to define a living wage as a minimum that meets the basic needs of workers and their families and provides adequate housing, nutritious food, and expenses for health care, education, clothing, transportation and savings. With the introduction of the standard, Brands Fashion has committed to paying living wages and adjusting the wage level for around 1,000 textile workers in India accordingly.
As part of the implementation of the standard, intensive training sessions were held along the entire supply chain of Brands Fashion to create awareness of fair wages and to initiate positive change. The introduction of living wages at supplier companies was defined in concrete action plans. In addition, democratically elected workers’ representatives were established who receive specific training and serve as contact points for their colleagues on labor and social rights. In addition to fair working conditions, the participating companies must also meet high environmental standards.
During the implementation of the standard, the biggest challenges arose from cooperation with factories in the lower textile supply chain. Often, no direct business relationships exist with these suppliers and individual buyer companies have little leverage over them as their share of total production volume is often small. This made it difficult to convince the supplier factories of the benefits of the ambitious Textile Standard. In addition, a high degree of trust and accessibility is necessary to gain insight into purchasing prices, internal payroll systems and local social security policies. Through a lot of translation work, on-site visits, trust building and discussions with the management of supplier companies, it was finally possible to certify all factories of the entire supply chain under the demanding standard in 2021 and to commit them to implement living wages.
Brands Fashion received support in the implementation as part of the develoPPP program by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. With the develoPPP program, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports private-sector activities with development policy potential.