Are Fair Trade Clothes a Fair Deal?

Patagonia says that for every Fair Trade certified product it sells, the company will pay a premium directly into a workers' fund. The workers will decide collectively how to spend this fund, whether scholarships and disaster relief funds, or medical care and transportation. Workers can also vote to receive the Fair Trade premium dollars as a cash bonus, which can be equivalent to an entire month's salary or more, Patagonia says.

Jill Dumain, Patagonia's director of environmental strategy, admitted that finding factories willing and able to meet Fair Trade USA's standards was challenging. The company made an agreement with a factory in India, but Dumain said there are challenges in not just fair but equal conditions for workers, perhaps in the same factory who are not working on fair trade products.

"We are also empowering the people purchasing our products," said, Cara Chacon, director of Social and Environmental Responsibility for Patagonia, in a statement. "This effort is part of a larger strategy to raise awareness with our customers on how they can make a difference in the world with their purchasing decisions."

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