Way back in 2006, Etiko was the FIRST non-food brand to gain Fairtrade certification in Australia and New Zealand.  People who know a little about Fairtrade may associate tea, coffee and chocolate with the brand when they see the familiar blue, green and black circular logo.  Thankfully these products are sold in major supermarkets alongside non-Fairtrade items, so people don’t need to track down a specialty store to buy them.  A tonne of other Fairtrade products are available – 2,500 globally – and not just food.

It was Etiko’s sports balls – its Jinta range – that were the first non-food product to be granted Fairtrade certification in Australia and New Zealand in 2006.

Four years later we added Fairtrade-certified cotton t-shirts and sneakers to our range. Etiko’s t-shirts are Fairtrade-certified AND GOTS-certified (bonus!)

What Is ‘Fairtrade’?

Products deemed ‘Fairtrade’ must meet standards – economic, environmental and social – set by the certification body, Fairtrade International. These standards relate to better working conditions, fairer prices for farmers and producers, and protection of the environment.

Fairtrade works with producers and suppliers to assist them with their certification journey, to understand what is required, and how to make changes (if needed). Check out Fairtrade (Australia and New Zealand) or Fairtrade International for more details.

What is GOTS?

The Global Organic Textile Standard is the result of collaboration amongst experts involved in organic farming, and socially and economically responsible textile processing; and international organisations.  It is now a universally recognised standard, and assures consumers that the item has met standards to be considered an organic product.

What does certification mean for Etiko’s workers?

For farmers and factory workers involved in contributing raw materials to and crafting Etiko’s products, working for a Fairtrade-certified business means a range of benefits. A safe and respectful workplace and a better income are just the start.  In turn, a better income means increased food options, greater access to education and health services for their families.

Fairtrade certification means workers in the factories in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where Etiko sources our clothes, sports balls and sneakers receive a fair wage and have decent working conditions.  Fairtrade Premiums – extra money paid into a communal fund – go toward what workers deem important for themselves and their families.

Fairtrade’s standards require manufacturers to work towards payment of a living wageThis is an improvement on payment of the minimum wage.

At Etiko, we ensure that people working on our products receive a living wage. We pay 4% extra to our manufacturers to ensure workers receive a living wage, rather than the minimum wage. In some countries there is a 400% difference between the minimum wage and living wage, so paying a worker a living wage makes a huge difference to a family!

It is essential to find out if the companies you buy from pay workers living wages.

At the factory in India where our t-shirts, hoodies and underwear are made, both the workers and their immediate family get free eye examinations, transportation is provided to-and-from work, and meals are subsidised. The mill sources cotton from Chetna Organic Cotton in India, and it is certified as meeting the Global Organic Textile Standard.

With Etiko’s cotton tees being Fairtrade-certified AND GOTS-certified, you are on a winner!

Rubber used in our Etiko sneakers produced in Pakistan, is certified by FSC, the Forest Stewardship Council and Fairtrade by FLO.

Certification and Accreditation: What is it? 

Certification is the process that a company undergoes to meet established standards.  Certification bodies check that companies are adhering to standards, that a company is compliant.

When a neutral, 3rd party is satisfied that a company meets the standards, and formally declares compliance, this is known as accreditation.

Why do we need certification and accreditation?

In an ideal world, we would not need such processes and checks. However, because some companies don’t do the right thing, and exploitation (of people and the earth) unfortunately still exists, a range of standards and guiding principles have been introduced over the decades.

Certification and accreditation is part of the process of accountability and transparency for good companies.

Depending on your product and where your company is based, there are various certifications, and compliance experts to assist with accreditation. So wherever in the world you are buying your shoes and clothes, look out for certification and accreditation labelling.

In the case of Fairtrade products, FLO-CERT is the company who checks on producers to ensure they comply with Fairtrade standards. FLO-CERT is the only accredited certification body for ethical labels.

Various stakeholders – advocacy groups, compliance groups, small-to-medium businesses – are working together with the end goal of improving the industry, improving lives of farmers, producers and factory workers.

Accreditation 

The ISEAL Alliance represents the global movement of sustainability standards.  Fairtrade and GOTS are members of ISEAL.

Ethical Clothing Australia helps Australian businesses who are manufacturing locally ensure their supply chains are transparent and legally compliant.  Don’t think that sweatshops/unfair labour practices just happen overseas.  By checking ECA’s website, you can see which Australian-made (yes, made IN Australia) clothes are meeting manufacturing standards.  This certification applies to the manufacturing process in Australia, however does not include information on raw material supplies.

Fair Wear Foundation works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and sometimes governments to verify and improve workplace conditions in 11 production countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. FWF is more widely known across Europe.

What does certification mean to Etiko?

We know that our Etiko community wants to make responsible choices when they shop, and they consider the social and environmental impact of their purchases.  So ensuring that producers and suppliers we engage with are doing the right thing, is essential to our company.

Fairtrade certification is hard to achieve….and hard to keep, so we know that strong systems and strict processes are in place for certification.

What is the benefit of being accredited?

Having an independent, third-party verify that the certification Etiko has undergone is credible is essential. Etiko is assured we are selling products that are doing good, and the process to prove that is credible.

As more people become interested in where products come from, how they are made, and the impact production has on the earth and people; credibility is key to remaining a strong ethical company.

Improvement in the Australian Clothing & Footwear Industry

As an industry, we are far from achieving the perfect world for workers at the beginning and middle stages of our clothes and shoes’ production lives….however with greater awareness and consumer pressure, progress has been made.  This year’s Ethical Fashion Report shows that more companies in Australia are taking steps to improve their practices.  It is a collective effort and pressure by advocacy groups, companies and consumers that is making a difference and bringing about change. So we will see even more improvement in the industry over the coming years.

With the introduction of an environmental impact section to the Ethical Fashion Report next year, we know accountability and transparency will be even better over the years.

What does it mean to consumers?

Customers are reassured claims we make are credible. Generally, people are surprised to see non-food products certified Fairtrade.

What Can Consumers Do?

Choose companies that are doing the right thing; who are looking after workers and protecting the environment. Ask companies if workers in their supply chain are paid a living wage or minimum wage.

Tell retailers this is what consumers want.  The more people who advocate – the more likely positive change will happen!

Call out companies that are not doing the right thing yet. Encourage them to change, and steer them in the right direction.  Let them know about accreditation bodies who can guide them to identify supply chain information.

Tell your friends when you find a good company; share on your social media platforms. When companies see and hear from consumers that they are doing well, it reinforces their behaviour to do good!

Tell your friends about the Ethical Fashion Report, Oxfam Australia’s Fashion Tracker, Ethical Clothing Australia, Fairtrade and Good on You.