fair wear

lotte schuurman - media & communications
October 2017
Isrid van Geuns - Recruitment - Specializing in fashion and luxury
interview by Isrid

'We can really make a positive change’

The objective of Fair Wear Foundation
“Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) works to improve working conditions in the fashion industry. Our brands commit themselves in order to produce clothing in the fairest way possible. A lot of factories work for several different brands at the same time. Brands don’t have the power to control a factory’s working conditions but they can exercise a certain influence. We work alongside these brands and use their influence to change working conditions. The brands involved don’t shy away from conflict or problems but join together to tackle the factory. FWF is not a quality seal you stick on a piece of clothing. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. Working on green solutions is a continued process. It takes place at the factory floor as well as within our own organisation. Decisions made in Europe have a real impact on circumstances taking place in factories thousands of miles away. Brands that carry the FWF approval need to continue to look at their own way of inventory management: Are they increasing pressure on the factories and are they paying enough for production? FWF brands continuously work hard to show us their progress to achieve better working conditions. We assess their efforts and report it. Going to our website: www.fairwear.org will show you how well your favorite brand is doing. At FWF we believe that together with clothing brands and other players in the industry, we can really make a positive change.”

'At FWF we only keep our focus on improving working conditions'

Every window is a painting
“Fair Wear Foundation was founded in 1999. The first companies signed on back in 2003 and we moved to the WFC that same year. Through expansion we have outgrown several different showrooms. A year ago we moved to this location, growing our staff from twenty-five to thirty-eight people. The showroom is located on the ninth floor and the view is fantastic up here. Every window looks like a small painting, showing rainbows, pretty city views and gorgeous sunsets.”

Working in teams
“FWF is a rather linear organisation when it comes to hierarchy. Our teams manage themselves, people take responsibility for their own actions and that is how we work together. There is a team handling countries of production, a membership team and a support team. I myself take part in the external relations and communications team.”
From niche to norm
“A FWF membership requires time and money. In the end we want companies to build it into their business model, not to see it as an extra cost. It should become the norm to work together with one’s factories to improve working conditions. We notice a growing interest among companies to join independent organisations to improve the quality of life of the people working the factories or environmental conditions. To be clear, at FWF we only keep our focus on improving working conditions. There is still so much work to be done there, that we feel, in our opinion, we need to stick with the issue at hand to maximize best results. It is possible we will broaden our attention to other issues concerning company policies.”

Industry transformation
“We are partnered up with the ministry of foreign affairs ever since 2016. Trade unions such as CNV International and Mondiaal FNV are also connected and it enables us a better view of the bigger picture. Working together with the brands brings great progress but having big players in the industry work separately, only achieves baby steps forward. We really want a complete transformation of the entire industry, so we all need to work together. Not only do companies want to improve working conditions within their own circle, they want to share it with the world, sending a clear message: ‘Look, we did it, that means you can do it too.’ It is a powerful message.”

Published in the WFC 50 year anniversary book
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