Ethical clothing company Epona is the first UK business to announce its backing for the pioneering Fairtrade Textile Program. The scheme is the first of its kind for fashion companies, monitoring every stage of the supply chain: from cotton field to factory.
Through the Fairtrade Textile Standard, Epona workers will receive support and training in production facilities, where it is most-needed to improve their rights. The programme also aims to improve business practice by enforcing fair prices and the delivering living wages. It is a long-term commitment and manufacturers must issue contracts that allow for future wage increases.
Epona was purchased by the National Union of Students (NUS) in 2013, in order to ensure the union could oversee the ethics of its clothing supply chain. The company was one of the first in the UK to use Fairtrade cotton, reflecting a sector-leading commitment to improving conditions. NUS is an integral member of the Fairtrade system and is working towards converting 100% of its cotton to Fairtrade and has taken the UK’s first step towards running a completely Fairtrade Production supply chain.
Rob Young, NUS Vice President (Society and Citizenship), travelled to India in October to visit the company’s factory and meet the people and communities benefiting from Fairtrade. Young welcomed Epona’s support for the scheme:
“Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and work under safe conditions. I look forward to working with Fairtrade on this project and continuing NUS’ work with students’ unions to promote Fairtrade clothing to students across the UK. I’m really proud that Epona is the first clothing company in the UK to take this important step towards improving factory workers’ rights and, having seen the impact of Fairtrade in cotton farms first-hand in India, I feel confident about future progress.”
Fairtrade Foundation’s cotton product manager, Subindu Garkhel, expressed the significance of the partnership:
“The Fairtrade Textiles Standard is the first of its kind to offer businesses a chance to reject exploitation at every stage of the supply chain. As the UK’s first company to join, Epona is leading the way for small-holder farmers and factory workers alike. We hope that this bold move will persuade other companies of every size to take this final step towards truly Fairtrade fashion.”
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The international Fairtrade system exists to end poverty through trade. The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body and NGO which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on more than 5,000 products which meet its rigorous social, economic and environmental standards. This independent label signifies to consumers that farmers and workers across 75 developing countries are getting a better deal from trade.
Today, more than 1.6 million people who work hard to produce coffee,tea, cocoa, bananas, wines, flowers, cotton, gold and many other productsbenefit from Fairtrade, which campaigns for as well as enables a fairer system of global trade.
In 2016,UK retail sales of Fairtrade certified products reached£1.65billion. Beyond certification, the Fairtrade Foundation is deepening its impact by delivering specialist programmes to help disadvantaged communities boost productivity in the face of challenges such as climate change.