Patagonia Fair Trade program; for fair production

Patagonia’s environmental program incorporates a Fair Trade Certified program that benefits its employees.

Since its creation by Yvon Chouinard in 1953, outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia has always been a pioneer in terms of environment, sustainability, and worker livelihood in the production of the brand’s outdoor long underwear as well as its famous fleeces and three-layer jackets.

Patagonia’s efforts towards environmental protection and sustainability are well known: the brand pioneered production of fleece from recycled plastic bottles in 1993. Today, the company’s end-to-end production process –bottles and industrial waste, including waste from other companies– gets recycled. Patagonia was also the first to switch to organic cotton and has developed countless environmental projects since its launch.

“Patagonia was still a fairly small company when we started to devote time and money to the increasingly apparent environmental crisis. We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation, the slow disappearance of fish and wildlife. And we decided to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”.

Patagonia’s defense of the planet has always included the defense of humans, and the company starts with its own employees.

Which is why it launched its Fair Trade program and certification.


“We’re out to change the industry”

These are the words of the Patagonia management; its Fair Trade program is one of the first initiatives the brand launched to supplement workers’ salaries and improve their standard of living. To that end, Patagonia joined the Fair Trade project, which means that –like all other companies who sell Fair Trade Certified products – it monitors the factories it works with to ensure safe working conditions in third-world countries that supply products to first-world companies.

How does it work?

In addition to the increase in wages and working conditions, Patagonia pays a premium for each Fair Trade Certified item that carries its label. The extra money goes into a fund managed by the workers, and they decide how to spend it. The Fair Trade Certified program also promotes measures to improve workers' health and safety, social and environmental compliance, and encourages dialogue between workers and businesses.

What are the benefits of becoming Fair Trade Certified?

Patagonia’s participation in the Fair Trade program has progressed rapidly in recent years. The program began in 2014 with just ten Fair Trade clothing styles from a single factory. By 2016, the brand was selling 192 Fair Trade Certified products from six factories. By fall of this year, Patagonia plans to have 300 Fair Trade products made in 13 different factories.

What are the results?

To date, Patagonia has paid out over S430,000 to those workers who produced Fair Trade Certified clothing from the fall of 2014 through May 2016, an amount that will grow exponentially after the massive increase from ten initial products three years ago to the 300 that will be included this fall.

  • The workers voted to use the money in a range of different ways. Employees at Nature USA in Los Angeles voted to take their share of the money as a cash bonus for healthcare and college tuition for their children.
  • In Hirdaramani, Sri Lanka, workers chose to use their money to open an in-company daycare center and implement a program to improve health and sanitation facilities.
  • And workers at MAS Leisureline, also in Sri Lanka, chose store vouchers to buy food, medicine, and other personal items.

  • “The benefits of the program have exceeded our expectations”, said Thuy Nguyen, Patagonia's manager of Social and Environmental Responsibility. According to company representatives, this is the result not only of the increase in wages but also of the improvement in worker engagement with company decisions.

    Patagonia Fair Trade Certified products at Barrabes

    Barrabes offers Patagonia Fair Trade Certified fleeces made from 100% recycled material, like the brand’s Better Sweater, in a range of colors.

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