Photo: Chetna Organic Co-operative, Didier Gentilhomme for Fairtrade International
What is Fairtrade?
What do the different fair trade logos mean?
What does ethically made cotton and bedding mean for lives on the ground? Let's start with just a few of our top fair trade facts...
Our bed linens are made from hand-picked, luxurious, Fairtrade certified cotton that is sewn and finished by hand. It is spun and woven to an impeccable quality into the softest cottons and processed in family-run, Fair Trade certified factories.
To display the Fairtrade mark, we must meet strict social, economic and environmental standards (as set internationally by Fairtrade International) that provide cotton farm workers with fair prices to support fair wages, better terms of trade, better work conditions in addition to paying a premium price for the cotton sold. Every single step of our process is audited and recorded repeatedly by FLO-CERT or Fairtrade ANZ. Right from the farm to our local warehousing.
This means we can trace each product we sell, right back to the farm it was produced on and through every single step of the manufacturing process.
Fairtrade requires that fixed minimum prices are paid for all cotton as well as an additional premium, used to fund community projects like schools, women's centres, seed banks, eco-research centres, or warehouses and pre-payments to store cotton to enable farmers to wait until a higher price can be gained. Fairtrade deals only with small-scale family run farms and co-operatives and ensures that child and slave labour is kept out of the supply chain.
Did you know, that a further percentage of the final product sale price is paid back to support the providing communities as a whole? Fairtrade then also supports farmers with education to improve farming practices, to help them to become more sustainable and organic.
We source all of our cotton from the Chetna Co-operative in India. Chetna was established as an organic and Fairtrade co-operative so has incredible robust systems for ensuring full traceability and segregation of cotton from throughout all processing. Due to its small scale an farmer-owned model, it also provides incredible insight into the farms to truly ensure that it keeps child labour or slave labour practices far out of its system.
For us, the most important thing, is that we have a means of supporting the farmers to building their own businesses, to pay them enough to be able to send their kids to school, and slowly, but surely, to enable people to get out of the poverty cycle for good.
One point to keep in mind is that many countries, like the US and Australia, provide some mechanisms also for farmers to receive subsidies during tough times. Unexpectedly, farmers in India, without these subsidies, can have a tough time competing on price. (I know. We were really surprised by this too). So rather than creating a false economy, in some respects, Fairtrade prices can start to even the field.
When assessed by the University of New South Wales Centre for Social Impact, it was found that, "Overwhelmingly, [farmers'] responses were positive... From the farmers' perspective... Fairtrade is fulfilling its purpose" (4). The big issue, really, is simply that we need more of it. That is our aim!
Distinct from the FLO International Fairtrade Cotton certification, is the Fair Trade USA certification that is held where our goods are spun, woven and made. Fair Trade USA and GOTS certifications both seek to ensure that all steps of the supply chain uphold a number of principles, primarily that a living wage is paid to every single worker, at every stage of the process.
We believe it is important to support not just the workers making products, but also the farmers who grow them. Everyone along the supply chain. This is why we choose to use (and pay significantly more for) cotton that is Fairtrade certified as well as products that are made in Fair Trade certified factories. These are two distinct parts of the process and have a completely different impact on people's lives.
To give you an indication of how seriously we take this, our supply chain mirrors one of Australia's only two fashion companies to receive an A+ rating in the Baptist World Aid Fashion Report, based on assessment of wages, ethics and human rights.
It is particularly important when we think of where our goods are made, that we don't gloss over any of the steps. Even if a product is made in Australia, this only means a certain percentage of the end costs were spent here. But most likely, a lot of the process was done overseas.
For us, it is critical to remember and voice this. These are real people, in spinning, weaving and knitting mills, doing real work, who need to be remembered and heard. We cannot gloss over them because of marketing campaigns that sound better to say 'locally made'. Sadly, conventional spinning and weaving mills are areas where large amounts of trafficking, slavery and child labour occur.
For us, it doesn't stop at 'certifications' either. It is integral that we work with partners who go far above and beyond any requirements of certifications. Who when we visit the places our goods are made, we can see how happy workers are, how long they have chosen to work their for, and most importantly, the confidence and security they have in knowing that their employees look after them, their families and their career. Not just in the short term, but over the longer term too, ensuring that they can plan for their children's futures and not require other members of the family to work in unfair or unsafe conditions either.
Beautiful sheets take incredible amounts of work. Real work. By wonderful, skilled people. Fairtrade is just one way to better ensure we respect, empower and protect them.