May 10 2018: What is Fairtrade manufacturing & how to become a fairtrade label

May 10 2018: What is Fairtrade manufacturing & how to become a fairtrade label

Charlie Bradley Ross Monday, 16 April 2018

Purnaa is a social enterprise garment manufacturing company. Founder Corban Bryant wanted to create good jobs for marginalised people. Nepal is the world’s number one labour exporting country per capita. Every year hundreds of thousands of people leave the country looking for work elsewhere. He founded the CMT unit to give people good, sustainable jobs at home.

Los Angeles
Sunday Apr 15th, 2018 - 17:00pm
Monday Apr 16th, 2018 - 01:00am
Monday Apr 16th, 2018 - 05:30am
Monday Apr 16th, 2018 - 10:00am

In this online webinar, Mitchel Borger Sustainability Manager from Purnaa will be sharing their experiences of setting up a Fairtrade manufacturing unit and how to make sure your production is socially compliant and as environmentally responsible as possible, as well as answering all of your questions live.

Purnaa is a social enterprise garment manufacturing company. Founder Corban Bryant wanted to create good jobs for marginalised people. Nepal is the world’s number one labour exporting country per capita. Every year hundreds of thousands of people leave the country looking for work elsewhere. He founded the CMT unit to give people good, sustainable jobs at home.

Purnaa decided to become accredited as Fairtrade by the World Fair Trade Organisation because the certification takes a holistic view of workers rights and environmental sustainability.

In the video we cover:
  • What is the difference between uncertified manufacturers and those that are Fairtrade certified?
  • How Purnaa became certified & why.
  • What is the process of becoming certified and did Purnaa face any difficulties?
  • How can brands encourage manufacturers to become certified?
  • Why Purnaa work on larger scale orders.
  • Clarification on whether you can or can't market products as Fairtrade Certified.
  • Advice for designers just starting out looking for small-scale production.

Download slides here

Purnaa Slideshow

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Key Takeaways

"I sometimes walk along the streets here in Kathmandu on my way to work and I see people truly struggling to live. We want to create as many jobs as possible, but we need the demand."

Introduction of Purnaa

Founded in 2013, Purnaa is a social enterprise in Kathmandu, Nepal on a mission to create opportunities for marginalized people that empower fresh starts and fulfilled lives.

Most of our clients are small-medium sized brands from North America and Europe that prioritize sustainability and ethical manufacturing. We are passionate about improving lives through positive employment and transforming society ethical and sustainable business.

Corban’s Story Starting Purnaa
  • Worked in US Air Force
  • Worked in India in a social enterprise that does solar lighting for households without electricity
  • Learned of social problems, specifically human trafficking and exploitation in South Asia. Also Nepali #1 labour exporting country in the world.
  • Wanted to create jobs in Nepal so people not so vulnerable to exploitation and people restored
  • Started in 2013
  • Now 85 people, 80% women, 70% from marginalized backgrounds (hire from shelters
How did Purnaa become certified and why?

+ Wanted to get certification or membership from outside agency

+ Give customers assurance that we are who we say we are. We already wanted to do the practices that WFTO requires to be members

+ We already had the same values as the WFTO.

Why did they choose WFTO over the alternatives?

There are many different fair trade organizations or social compliance or environmental certifying bodies: SA8000, BSCI, WRAP, OEKO-TEX, GOTS, Global Recycle Standard, Higg Index, BlueSign, Fair Trade International, WFTO, Fair Wear Foundation, Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade Federation other social compliance certifications.

We felt it’s good to have some external body. Good to be recognizable. Good to be holistic. Good to work for an SME.

What is the difference between an uncertified manufacturer and a certified?

WFTO does not offer certification. It is a membership guarantee system, where the organization becomes a “Guaranteed member” by showing they follow the WFTO values. A certification system such as Fair Trade International or GOTS certifies a product as meeting criteria to be considered a certified product. Under that system, manufacturers can become accredited producers to be able to make those products.

Regardless of if an organization is called a guaranteed member or certified or whatever, becoming accredited by a Fair Trade organization or other certifying body means a third party conducts a compliance assessment and determines that a group is properly following a standard. This gives consumers assurance that a particular product really is made in line with certain standards or values. A certified manufacturer has gone through a strict assessment of their activities, this can be a time consuming, complex and expensive process which takes anywhere between 1-5 years. There are many, many types of certifications. They cover some, but not all, of a supply chain and focus on different areas such as social compliance, building and fire safety etc.

Uncertified manufacturers haven't gone through this process. This does not mean that they are not manufacturing ethically many manufacturers are not certified as they can't afford it, or work with many different countries (where some certifications are better known than others), many may not have been asked for certification. The factory made be regularly audited and monitored for their social compliance, it is worth asking your manufacturer…

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the Global South.

Fair Trade organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade." They can be recognised by the WFTO logo.

Fair Trade is more than just trading:

  • It proves that greater justice in world trade is possible.
  • It highlights the need for change in the rules and practice of conventional trade and shows how a successful business can also put people first.
  • It is a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty, climate change and economic crisis.
The 10 Principles of WFTO are followed:
  1. Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
  2. Transparency and Accountability
  3. Fair Trading Practices
  4. Fair Payment
  5. Ensuring no Child Labour and Forced Labour
  6. Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equality and Woman’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association
  7. Ensuring Good Working Conditions
  8. Providing Capacity Building
  9. Promoting Fair Trade
  10. Respect for the Environment

This is incredibly important for us!

What is the process and were there any difficulties?

+ Submit an initial application (audit reports, sourcing, training etc)

+ Self Assessment Review (42-page audit). Makes sure you’re compliant with WFTO 10 Principles. State the 10 Principles.

+ After that Peer Visit, go through Self Assessment together

+ Did an audit, spent 2 days here (interviews), wrote a report on Purnaa with recommendations.

+ Come back with an improvement plan. Become full, guaranteed members.

+ Self-assessment 2 years, audit 4 years.

+ Time to complete Feb 2016 - March 2017 - 8 months to a year - quick - 1-2 years normal

+ Expense - pay to belong to the club (1% of sales), pay for the audit

+ Long but straightforward

+ Works for every size of businesses. A great deal of trust.

Can brands encourage manufacturers to become certified, what’s the best way to do it?

+ Factories are not going to incur, if there’s no demand. Customers and brands can bring the change. Businesses respond to what customers want.

  • If manufacturers hear this request from multiple customers then they may act on it, if you are the only one then bare in mind that you probably don't have the buying power to persuade them, but if you develop and maintain a long-term relationship with them your influence may increase over time.
  • If a manufacturer has never considered certification then point them in the right direction, give advice or share resources with them. Explain why it is important and how it could increase their visibility and
  • The cost of running a Fair Trade or certified company is more expensive. Employees should receive a living wage and health and safety and working conditions should be excellent etc. It is not the manufacturer who should solely cover these costs, an ethical company will be more expensive and as a brand/designer, you should be prepared to pay for this. If manufacturers see that customers are willing to pay more, they may be more likely to consider.

Try to grow so you have influence...


Why Purnaa work on larger scale orders?

+ Brings the most employment. Fulfils our mission the best. Simple and repeatable than something that changes every day.

+ Couture or customized or tailor-made or fashion

+ We don’t want 1 person to make an expensive dress rather 100 people to make numerous dresses.

  • Purnaa's mission is to create employment opportunities for people in Nepal, therefore we chose orders which will provide the most sustainable kind of work: larger orders with a high possibility of being repeated.
  • Getting a product ready for production is time and management intensive process. Fabric and trims have to be sourced and imported, samples and patterns have to be made, production managers have to get the floor ready, teams have to be trained etc.. For a project to be worthwhile for us we have calculated that it needs to take at least up 10 production days, this normally equates to around 500 pieces.
  • Our MOQ is still quite low for the industry, as we grow so does our MOQ so that we remain profitable.
If you had any advice to give to brands/designers starting out, what would you give? Also, what can they do to become as ethical, transparent and sustainable as possible?
  • Try and find a manufacturer that understands your needs and that you work well with, above all else, you must trust them because to achieve the best results you should be flexible, willing to compromise and take advice. Some designs don't translate into production very well so listen to the experts.
  • If you can visit the manufacturer(s) and suppliers that you are working with. This will increase understanding and improve your relationship. Especially if you are a small customer, taking the time to visit could make you more of a priority.
  • Consider the materials that you want to use and think about their proximity to where you want to manufacture, what will be the carbon footprint of your final product?
  • Try to use materials locally to your manufacture, this will mitigate some of the risk and expense of importing materials that can negatively impact your lead times.
  • If you consider your products ethical and sustainable then take time during the design/development phases to make sure it does not waste material, the size and fit are perfect and that you are using sustainable fabrics that work well with your product (and do not have to be flown in from the other side of the world) also make sure that the fabric is dyed ethically (pointless having an organic cotton which is then bleached in an unsustainable/unmonitored way)
  • Have a budget
  • Focus your first line to a specific type of product
  • Have a timeline and realize that most fashion companies are sampling 9mo-year ahead of products in stores - if you need products for Christmas, you better be working on them in Jan.
  • Be understanding of the context of where you’re manufacturing
  • Fewer links you have the better.
  • Build relationships with the middleman.
  • Helping retailers communicate your message/brand ethos.
  • Construct a product that will be able to compete with the current alternatives on the market that may not be ethical or environmentally sustainable.
  • What problem do you want to be apart of solving?
WFTO Product Label

The WFTO Product Label is more than just a Fair Trade symbol. It signifies not only that the practices across the supply chain are checked against the WFTO Fair Trade Standard, but it also represents the support to the battle against poverty and inequality. Products carrying the WFTO Label are made and traded by Guaranteed Fair Trade Organisations dedicated to the sustainable Fair Trade economy. Every purchase of products with the WFTO Label supports small producers and their communities.

Sustainable Fabrics and Materials:

We’re constantly searching for new fabrics that have a low environmental footprint.

"Even though it seems like hard work sometimes, trying to justify the cost of buying Fairtrade because it is a bit more expensive, understand the stories that the people are living in these parts of the world. It is so worth it to buy ethical and buy sustainable."