The Fair Trade Certified apparel pilot programme initiated by Fair Trade USA is making good progress, according to a report from the organisation’s Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) for apparel.

Launched in 2010, the project claims to be the first global programme to certify facilities making clothing and accessories with a consumer label to indicate social and environmental sustainability.

The programme also claims another first: an attempt to deliver direct economic benefits to both cotton farmers and cut-and-sew factory workers.

In the two-year pilot, four factories were certified out of 55 applicants, with four more in the process of certification.

The report says that about 16,000 cotton farmers in India, Egypt and Nicaragua have directly benefited from the programme, along with 1,300 factory workers in India, Liberia and Costa Rica.

“Consumers want sustainably-sourced apparel,” said Heather Franzese, who managed the pilot at Fair Trade USA.

“A recent Harvard study showed a 14% sales lift on clothing labelled ‘socially conscious’ in Banana Republic outlet stores.

“People want to know more than ‘Made in Bangladesh’; they want to know that the woman at the sewing machine can afford to send her kids to school.”

The programme is now set to put into practice a series of further recommendations made in the report.