Fair Wear Foundation is a non-profit organisation that works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and sometimes governments to verify and improve workplace conditions for garment workers in 11 production countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.
FWF keeps track of the improvements made by the companies it works with. And through sharing expertise, social dialogue and strengthening industrial relations, FWF increases the effectiveness of the efforts made by companies.
FWF’s more than 80 member companies represent over 120 brands, and are based in Europe; member products are sold in over 20,000 retail outlets in more than 80 countries around the world. Change requires a major joint effort. We therefore invite companies to join FWF and make a difference.
There is no single solution for workplace injustice. There are many and at FWF we find that solutions work best when combined.
Poor labour conditions can only be solved through multi-faceted solutions. The FWF approach brings together the key components needed for sustainable change. It means companies work step-by-step to improve conditions in their supply chains. It also means cooperation among a slew of stakeholders, and accountability among all of us. When fully executed, the FWF approach means results.
FWF restricts its focus to those phases of production where sewing is the main manufacturing process. These are among the most labour-intensive phases of the production process. It is also the stage of production where many labour problems are found, and where effective remedies can positively impact the lives of millions of workers.
FWF’s focus means that its staff has advanced and specialised knowledge of industry practice and trends. Focus also enables FWF to concentrate on building strong working relationships with those local and international stakeholders who, themselves, specialise in garments and textiles – a keystone for sustainable change in the industry.
HOW DOES FWF WORK?
At FWF we believe that enacting change in supply chains is joint responsibility; many actors need to work together to improve working conditions.
Our multi-stakeholder DNA allows us to bring different actors and groups to the table so that, together, we can come up with innovative solutions to human and labour rights issues that are present in the garment supply chains. This process approach, based on the verification of efforts by brands, and support for their work from other actors allows for effective solutions that can be scaled up. And as an independent organisation, FWF always reports transparently about the work of its members.
FWF joins together business associations, trade unions, and NGOs as equal partners at every level of FWF activity – from decision-making at the Board level to workplace verification and code implementation. Each stakeholder group has an important role to play in improving working conditions, and the impact is that much greater when they all work together.
One of FWF’s strengths is its approach to local stakeholder partnerships. FWF has invested significant time and resources in relationship-building with local partners in production countries. This is because the effectiveness and value of FWF’s system ultimately relies on local stakeholders’ capacity to effect change locally.
FWF involves local stakeholders in every aspect of its work – from auditing to remediation and complaints handling to development of FWF’s overarching country strategy
When a product is labelled as 100% fair, it implies that every stage of production of a particular product has been overseen and verified as “ILO proof”. But this guarantee is nearly impossible to provide for the average t-shirt or blanket, for instance. The truth is that most garments and sewn products are not (yet) made in fully compliant conditions. For this reason, FWF does not claim that its members’ products are produced in full compliance with labour standards. FWF does, however, verify that members are working hard, step-by-step, in this direction.
‘Supply chain responsibility’ requires companies to make sourcing decisions that ensure good working conditions wherever their goods are made. It also requires companies to have management systems in place to consistently monitor conditions and support improvements. That’s a lot to tackle at once, especially for companies just starting out in CSR.
FWF’s process approach meets companies where they are. Some companies working with FWF have more than a decade of experience in workplace compliance; some join just as they are entering the CSR field. Whether a CSR leader or newcomer, each company uses FWF guidance to identify areas where the changes they make can have the greatest impact. Subsequent steps build from there. This step-by-step process leads to real and lasting improvements in workplaces throughout supply chains.
FWF’s system can be adapted to a variety of companies thanks to its process approach. Despite their diversity, FWF members have a common attribute: a commitment to work continuously and strategically for improvements in their supply chains.
While company commitments to ethical practices are important, such claims usually only gain credibility when verified by a third party. This is where FWF comes in. FWF’s multi-stakeholder make-up means that it is independent and credible. In order to gain real insight into company performance, FWF’s verification system exists at three levels: FWF verifies at factory level and implements a complaints procedure in all countries where it is active to serve as a safety net. Finally, FWF also verifies at the company level to check whether companies implement the FWF Code of Labour Practices in their management systems effectively.
Accountability should lie at the heart of any initiative seeking to improve conditions in supply chains, and transparency is an important component of accountability.
For full accountability in supply chains, transparency is necessary at three key levels: the workplace, the company, and the organisation.
Transparency is essential for accountability and credibility. Yet it is also a challenge for garment and textile companies, who consider their competitive advantage to lie partially in their unique supply chain decisions – for example, where they are placing orders, prices paid, forecasting, etc. Indeed, transparency often can be among the most difficult FWF requirements for member companies.
But some pioneering companies are beginning to break this mould. CSR leaders now commonly report their factory lists, audit outcomes, and other data. There is still a lot to do in this regard, however. FWF continues to work with member companies to balance transparency and business confidentiality, while enhancing accountability in supply chains.