Patagonia counts nearly 75 factories and more than 100,000 workers in its global supply chain

Patagonia counts nearly 75 factories and more than 100,000 workers in its global supply chain

US outdoor brand Patagonia is ramping up its relationship with Fair Trade USA, with a view to manufacturing 300 styles – approximately one-third of its products – in Fair Trade Certified factories next year.

By autumn 2017, the California-based company aims to boost production of fair trade garments from 218 styles to 300 across factories in India, Thailand, Colombia, Vietnam, Nicaragua and Mexico.

Patagonia, which counts nearly 75 factories and more than 100,000 workers in its global supply chain, hopes the collaboration will pave the way for transparency and inspire other brands to do the same.

Since 2014, the company has increased its Fair Trade programme from one factory and 11 styles at Pratibha Syntex in India and, over the course of the last two years, has paid US$639,000 in premiums that go directly to the workers making its apparel.

For every product made by a Fair Trade Certified factory, businesses such as Patagonia choose to pay an additional premium that workers can use to elevate their standard of living and bridge the gap between a minimum wage and a living wage. The money goes into an account the workers control and a worker-elected committee votes on how to spend the money – either as a cash bonus or to pay for social, economic and environmental community projects.

Once a factory is certified, any other company that wants to make Fair Trade products in that factory simply has to pay the additional Fair Trade premium.

According to Patagonia, in one instance the premiums were used to start a child care centre, in another to purchase raincoats to wear to and from work during the monsoon season, and in another as a cash bonus equivalent to three-weeks pay.

"Fair Trade USA's approach has proven it contributes to a better standard of living, including pay and employee participation in the workplace and community," adds Rose Marcario, Patagonia's president and CEO. "It also helps create better working-conditions and safeguards against the use of child labour."

Last month, Patagonia invested around US$1m in a campaign designed to push the environment as a top election issue and support get-out-the-vote organisations.

Patagonia puts $1m into environment election vote