120 companies worldwide work together with the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF). It is committed to improving working conditions in the global clothing industry and invited 20 member companies to a Facebook Live marathon on Fashion Revolution Day (April 24), the day of the hashtag #whomademyclothes.
The heart of the FWF is a code for labor practices and workers’ rights, the “Code of Labor Practices.” The Code is based on international standards and regulates a total of eight points: among other things, the limitation of working hours and the free choice of workplace. Furthermore, that there cannot be any exploitative child labor and that a living wage must be paid.
From the sports and outdoor industries, FWF members Deuter, Kjus, Jack Wolfskin, and Vaude joined in on the Facebook Live marathon. Each of the companies presented themselves to Facebook users for 30 minutes and answered some of their questions. ISPO.com compiles the most important answers.
This was one of the users’ most pressing questions that the companies usually had to answer at the beginning. It’s actually quite obvious: because the FWF doesn’t issue any certificates, but companies can become members, giving them the option to advertise with the FWF logo.
In this respect, the FWF sees itself as a learning initiative. This means that FWF membership alone is far from indicating anything about a company’s actual status in terms of social fairness.
Marco Hühn, Quality Manager at Deuter, still thinks the membership helps companies: “A lot of work goes into making your own supply chain transparent, visiting all of the factories,” he says. In addition, the same area of a company doesn’t always visit the factories. Sometimes it’s Quality Management, sometimes the CSR department. The full picture would never come about that way. “We needed help reviewing our working condition. The Fair Wear Foundation supported us there.”
That is why Deuter has been a member since 2011. The FWF also supports the company in reviewing documents and conducting interviews with workers. “Participating in Fair Wear definitely isn’t our unique selling point,” says Hühn, “but we want to communicate it.”
Vaude, like Schöffel and Dynafit, has achieved “Leader Status” at FWF – as the best company so far, as Antje von Dewitz proudly explains to Facebook users. At this year's Brand Performance Check by FWF, Vaude achieved an audit rate of 100 percent and a benchmark score of 94 percent. When von Dewitz began as managing director in 2009, she had the vision of a “green company.” Little by little, she has gotten a step closer to her vision. And part of that, of course, are fair working conditions. But “to reach our great goals, we needed partners. And we found Fair Wear who, in our opinion, works the most strictly and objectively.”
Sven Serena, Executive VP Supply Chain at Kjus, feels similarly. However, he sees another reason why the FWF is helping his company. “We’re an industry of people. We work with people in the factories and want to give them the best opportunities we can.” In the era of digitization, every sports company has a lot of pressure on them. “But that pressure shouldn’t be passed on to the factories. We should concentrate on the workers in our CSR projects. That’s our challenge today.”
“Every year we get checked to ensure that we’re keeping our promises,” says Hühn. Workers are interviewed, factories inspected. In contrast to some clothing companies, Deuter only works with two large suppliers in Asia. At its three locations, the outdoor brand has now joined with FWF to introduce “Worker Empowerment Training” to strengthen workers and their rights. And the FWF checks whether overtime is reduced not just in the factories, but also in the companies themselves.
Vaude also gives its partners workshops where they learn how to stop producing in an environmentally harmful way, or how to become more energy-efficient. A total of six workshops have taken place so far – and from time to time, the partners have improved. This has also helped Vaude itself in their thinking. “We have a partner-like approach,” says von Dewitz, “And it was interesting to see that even a small European company, a family business, can have this kind of an influence.”
“It’s not a certificate that guarantees anything, but we think that it’s the right path for us as a company,” says Sven Serena. ‘You’re always in the outdoors when you practice a sport. That’s why you have to take care of them.” That is why the strategy at Kjus is always socially and environmentally friendly.
Sven Serena grins at first when he reads the question, then answers: “Sometimes you improve something that, a few years later, gets worse again. But now, since the collaboration with the FWF, there’s the example of a factory in Indonesia having improved its employment agreements: “The people there have secure jobs now.” In Vietnam, Kjus has been monitoring workers’ incomes in a factory for some time.
Nevertheless, as a company it’s always necessary to check whether the standards are being complied with over a longer period of time. Any change in management means that attitudes could change. “But I doubt we would have achieved this without Fair Wear,” says Serena.
Hühn also qualifies that his company acts as a partner in the supply chain, rather than as a determiner. “Of course, it takes time to implement Fair Wear standards.” But Deuter, like many other companies, is now also producing more sustainably, linking more and more social production with environmentally friendly production. Deuter aims to completely ban the harmful fluorocarbons (PFC) from its products by 2020, and by 2019 the company will already have achieved this in its sleeping bags.
A goal that Vaude knows all too well. The outdoor brand is working towards a similar goal, but even more comprehensive: Vaude is also voluntarily committed to eliminating all harmful substances from its entire supply chain by 2020. All products will then be free of harmful substances. Outdoor apparel, as well as backpacks, shoes, and tents will be produced without PFC in the future.
Antje von Dewitz believes that the network she has spun with her colleagues thus far has established itself: “And on then are there successes.” Added to that, of course, is the development that demand for fairly produced goods is also growing among customers. “But I don’t believe it’s a general movement,” von Dewitz says. “We’re living in the wrong economic system, one that just looks at the financial data. The focus is on the profit.” She wanted to reiterate that there is still a lot to be done, but naturally that rethinking hadn’t completely taken place on this Fashion Revolution Day. That is, on the day aimed at promoting rethinking in the clothing industry.