The manufacturers BP – Bierbaum-Proenen, GREIFF, KÜBLER Workwear and WEITBLICK Gottfried Schmidt, as well as fabric producer Klopman International, are currently cooperating to increase the share of fairtrade cotton in the workwear sector. Their aim is to send out a clear pro-sustainability message: Workwear – produced with a strong sense of responsibility for people and the environment.

Together, we can achieve more: This idea marked the beginning of the cooperation between the workwear manufacturers BP – Bierbaum-Proenen, GREIFF, KÜBLER Workwear, WEITBLICK Gottfried Schmidt and as well as fabric producer Klopman International on the topic of sustainability. For all the project players, ensuring their actions were sustainable and responsible had already played a major role in their respective company strategies for a long time. However: Goals can be reached much faster working hand-in-hand. The five project partners, who already participate in an exchange on sustainability questions, have now decided to cooperate with Fairtrade Germany. The reasons behind this decision: Fairtrade won them over based on 25 years of experience in the area of fair trading and on their resolute and sophisticated sustainability concept. In addition, the “Fairtrade” brand name is extremely well-known on the market. It stands for credibility and reliability – both very dear to the project partners. To kick off the cooperation, the partners agreed to purchase an ambitious volume of fairtrade cotton – then to gradually increase the quantity ordered.

The “Supporting Fairtrade Cotton” project was launched by the project group in cooperation with Fairtrade and was developed in close consultation between the five project partners and Fairtrade. The programme focusses strongly on the people who are right at the beginning of the textile value chain: The farmers who cultivate and harvest cotton. Not only are they being offered fair trading conditions but also new ways of achieving social change and an increased level of environmental protection. Fixed purchase volumes provide them with planning reliability – enabling them to increase their incomes. In order to comply with the Fairtrade standards and to get accordingly certified, these smallholders have to fulfil a whole range of conditions. They have to observe the environmental regulations and social requirements and ensure that their cotton is produced safely and without endangering the health of their workers. In return, certified smallholders enjoy numerous benefits: They receive bonuses which can be used for community projects according to a democratic voting procedure. “Thanks to the Fairtrade bonus, we are able to realise numerous environmental and educational projects”, says Shailesh Patel of the Rapar and Dhrangadhra Farmers Producer Company cooperative in India. “The projects for utilising rainwater, reforestation, road construction and educating our children are extremely important to us and make life for our cotton farmers a whole lot easier.”

“We are convinced we are doing the right thing because the bonuses are used sensibly and expediently – thus helping others to help themselves”, which is something the five project partners all agree on. Currently, Fairtrade is cooperating with almost 50,000 cotton producers in some of the poorest regions of the
world – most of which are in India and West Africa. “The dedication of these workwear manufacturers makes a considerable contribution to increasing sustainability at the roots of the cotton-growing trade and provides important support in enabling cotton farmers in the south to improve their living standards and go easy on the resources”, says Dieter Overath, Executive Chairman of the Board of “TransFair e.V. – Verein zur Förderung des Fairen Handels in der Einen Welt”.

Sustainability is one of today’s dominant social issues and a criterium that is having an increasing impact on purchase decisions. This also applies to workwear, in particular – which more and more wearers expect to be produced in a sustainable manner. People want to feel good about wearing their working clothes which is why sustainable products should also be labelled as such. In future, the “Supporting Fairtrade Cotton” logo sewn into the workwear products as part of this project will show that the manufacturer has purchased cotton according to the Fairtrade conditions – thus purposely supporting the sustainability efforts in this area. This offers wearers the opportunity to make a conscious decision in favour of sustainably produced clothing.

Cooperating on the sustainability front is the first major step that the project partners have taken together. Further collaborations are conceivable. The network regards itself as being a projectorientated and open union – not a closed group.

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