Fair Wear Foundation

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Fair Wear Foundation
Non-profit organization
Industry Verification of workplace practices
Founded 1999
Headquarters Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Key people
Erica van Doorn, Director
Ieke van den Burg, Chair of the Board
Products Sewn products, Workplace Verification, Standards Development
Website fairwear.org/

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is a European multi-stakeholder initiative working to improve workplace conditions in the garment and textile industry. Governed by labor unions, NGOs and business associations, FWF verifies that its member companies implement the FWF Code of Labour Practices in their supply chains. Established in 1999, FWF in 2010 has over fifty member companies from all over Europe and is active in production countries like China, India, Bangladesh and Turkey.[1]

Governance and multistakeholderism[edit]

To safeguard its independence as a verification initiative, FWF has a tripartite governance structure.[2] Their governing body is a Board, which, in addition to an independent chairperson, consists of representatives from four categories: 1) business association for garment suppliers, 2) business association for garment retailers, 3) trade unions, and 4) NGOs. Each category has equal voting rights.[3]

The board is informed by a multi-stakeholder Committee of Experts, as well as stakeholder partners in each country where FWF is active. FWF also has stakeholder platforms in European countries (i.e. Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium) that commit to the FWF Charter.[4]

“What’s interesting about FWF is the comprehensiveness of its approach. Each aspect of the FWF systems supports the others. For example, FWF’s ongoing multi-stakeholder collaboration in both producer and consumer countries has really improved FWF’s verification processes.” – Ellen Dekkers, general secretary FNV Bondgenoten [5]

Code of Labour Practices[edit]

The FWF Code of Labour Practices contains eight labour standards that are based on the conventions of the International Labour Organization(ILO) and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.[6] The Fair Wear Code is known for its strong provisions on freedom of association, hours of work, and a living wage.[7]

  • Employment is freely chosen
  • There is no discrimination in employment
  • No exploitation of child labour
  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
  • Payment of a living wage
  • No excessive working hours
  • Safe and healthy working conditions
  • Legally-binding employment relationship

Supply chain responsibility[edit]

Fair Wear Foundation works on the basis of the principle of supply chain responsibility, i.e. each actor in the supply chain of a certain product is (co-)responsible for the conditions in which the product is made. A brand selling clothes in Europe is in part responsible for both the labour conditions at its suppliers and for example on the plantations, and also for the environmental impact of that product. In recent years, the notion of supply chain responsibility has become increasingly accepted, by individual companies as well as the fashion world in general.[8]

Focus[edit]

Garment and textile industry[edit]

FWF restricts its focus to those phases of production where sewing is the main manufacturing process. It is there that FWF believes it can have the greatest impact for workers. This is among the most intensive phases of the production process. It is the phase where very many labour problems are found, and where effective remedies can positively impact the lives of millions of workers.[5]

Geographic reach[edit]

As of 2012, FWF has some verification-related activity in the following countries: Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, India, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and Vietnam.[9]

Multi-level verification[edit]

Factory audits[edit]

FWF prefers to assemble teams of individuals from different organizations and with different specialisations for this purpose. These teams are drawn from its "local partner networks" (organisations and/or individuals) that it has established in various countries.[3]

FWF’s factory auditing serves two main purposes. For factories, it is a process leading to workplace improvements (and not some policing exercise). For companies, factory verification visits also serve as an indication of an affiliated companies’ performance in upholding its FWF commitments.[5]

Complaints process[edit]

The Foundation has a worker and third-party complaints mechanism to address problems in a member company's supply chain.[7] FWF’s complaints procedure serves as a safety net. FWF places complaints handlers in countries where FWF is active. This ensures that workers making products for FWF affiliates can safely and fairly seek redress for violations of the FWF code.[10]

Verification of company management systems[edit]

When a company joins FWF, it commits to implement the FWF Code of Labour Practices in its supply chain. While this includes efforts to work directly with factories to improve conditions there, it also means developing internal management systems to better support good workplace conditions. Each year, FWF visits affiliated companies to verify these systems and their effectiveness.[10]

Transparency[edit]

For full accountability in supply chains, transparency is necessary at three key levels: the workplace, the company, and the organization.[5]

  • FWF makes aggregate data available on FWF verification audits public.
  • FWF conducts brand performance checks, reviewing each affiliated company’s management systems and performance in fulfilling FWF requirements. Reports are available online.
  • FWF commits to keep local stakeholders aware of developments at FWF that pertain to them, makes country strategy documents and other research public, and publishes an annual report.[11]
  • FWF publishes reports on third party complaints.[12]

Cooperation[edit]

FWF cooperates with a range of stakeholders and other organisations in order to develop sustainable systems for good workplace conditions. FWF plays an active role in convening the Jo-In Platform, which assembles the heads of leading Code initiatives internationally (i.e. Clean Clothes Campaign, Ethical Trading Initiative, Fair Labor Association, Social Accountability International, and Worker Rights Consortium). The goal is to harmonise workplace Codes globally and to collaborate for improved implementation on challenging issues like living wage and hours work.[13]

FWF has also developed working partnerships with FLO International (now called Fairtrade International),[14] United Nations Women,[15] the European Outdoor Group, and other organizations. FWF looks to such collaborative projects to pilot new approaches and/or to have a greater, more sustainable impact on workplace standards implementation.

Industrial relations / social dialogue[edit]

"FWF realises good labour conditions by: stimulating sound industrial relations worldwide and, wherever possible, harmonising policies and methods” (from FWF’s mission/vision)

FWF’s ultimate goal is to render its own work obsolete. For improvement of labour conditions to be sustainable, good labour laws and enforcement, a well-functioning labour inspectorate, strong worker representation (labour NGOs, trade unions) and constructive local, national and international cooperation are essential.[16]

FWF Wage Ladder[edit]

In November 2011 FWF publicly launched the FWF Wage Ladder, an innovative new online tool which helps brands, factories and labour groups make real progress towards living wages for garment and other workers. Based on a concept first developed by Rutledge Tufts as part of the Jo-In Project, the FWF wage ladder allows the wages paid at any factory to be compared against a set of relevant local wage benchmarks which have been created by NGOs, labour groups, business associations, and government agencies. The wage ladder generates a visual layout that shows where the wages paid across a factory's various departments are at in comparison to these benchmarks. This provides a basis for negotiating improvements between factories, brands, and worker representatives. FWF has made the tool publicly accessible in the interest of supporting better wages across the garment industry and beyond.[17]

Member companies[edit]

Eligible companies are those that operate in the European market – including producers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. Garment and textile manufacturers can also join FWF as long as they operate in a producing country where FWF is active. As of 2012, FWF has approximately 75 member companies, with over 100 clothing brands.[18] The work of FWF touches over 500,000 workers in the supply chains of member companies.

During Amsterdam Fashion Week in January 2012, FWF laid 6 kilometers of red ribbon between 80 shops in Amsterdam as part of its Red Ribbon Campaign to raise consumer awareness about the companies that are working to improve workplace conditions through their membership in FWF.[19]

Funding sources[edit]

Financial support for the FWF comes from special social funds, which were established as a result of sectoral collective bargaining (in two sectors: the garment sector and the retail sector). Between 2000 and 2008, FWF’s funding was divided fairly evenly (17-22%) across the following sources: member companies, government, NGOs, trade unions, and business associations.[5]

FWF has also received some support from the European Union[3] and funders such as UN Women.[20]

History[edit]

After nearly 5 years of multi-stakeholder negotiations, Fair Wear Foundation was founded in 1999. Just as in other countries, garment production in The Netherlands had by then been displaced to low-wage countries. After some years of campaigning against poor labour conditions in low-wage countries, the union FNV and the CCC contacted the employers’ organisations and proposed a joint initiative to improve labour condition in the garment sector.

The founders designed the Code of Labour Practices for the Garment Industry. They based the code on the international standards included in International Labour Organization conventions, with guidance from the model codes of the international Clean Clothes Campaign and the ICFTU (the international umbrella organisation of trade unions, of which the FNV is a member).

In the period 1999–2002, the Foundation carried out pilot projects on the implementation of the code of labour practices with four Dutch companies. These experiences led to the determination of a standard procedure.

Building up membership among companies was the next step. The first group of 11 members was announced to the public in March 2003. This group comprised partly fashion producers and partly producers of industrial workwear.[21] Between 2003 and 2012, the company membership has grown nearly 700%.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]