What Happened to the High Fair Trade Apparel Standard?

HAE NOW stands for: Humans, Animals & Environment … NOW! Their website states “We endorse human and worker rights. We work to preserve the environment and protect the animals that share our fragile planet. Therefore, we chose a name we can always turn to for inspiration: ‘HAE NOW’ is a reminder to put Humans, Animals and Environment first!”

Hae Now is also the only wholesale blank T-shirt brand participating in the Fair Trade USA apparel pilot program trying to prove the legitimacy of fair trade labeling in apparel. As we have mentioned in much of our writing we do not endorse this pilot, and we have to wonder why Hae Now continues with its participation despite so many objections from grass roots fair traders, academics, labor leaders, and activists.

Ethix believes that Hae Now is true to its name and is striving to put Humans, Animals and the Environment first. This is a complex challenge as India is a bastion for sweatshop abuses and Hae Now is attempting to prove a different model can exist. When it comes to investigation of apparel factories and supply chains we have always relied heavily on the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) as the best option for independent critique and thinking. In March of 2012 the WRC raised serious questions about the factory where Hae Now manufactures and whether or not it is a platinum standard manufacturing supply chain. The WRC believes it falls far short of this, and you are invited to read the results of their visit to the factory:

You can download the .pdf report on Rajlakshmi, where Hae Now is manufactured, by clicking the link here. The report on Esteam, a second factory in the region who is also participating in the FTUSA Pilot, can be downloaded by clicking here.

We will continue to update our website with news relating to the Worker Rights Consortium work with the FTUSA pilot and responses from Hae Now and the Factory where its shirts are produced.

UPDATE 10/12/2012: The mill where Hae Now is manufactured has released a follow-up response to the report by WRC earlier in the year.  We have the .pdf response here available for download.  The CEO of the Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills, Rajat Jaipuria, has these responsed to the WRC’s concerns regarding how the mill operates on a day-to-day basis.  Mr. Jaipuria addresses operations, manufacturing standards, workers’ rights, and other topics where the WRC raised concerns.

For the moment, please consider all your ethical options if you are looking for Fair Trade T-shirts. We have union label shirts made in the USA and at the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic, as well as organic USA made tees.

Fair Trade T-Shirts from Hae Now are a part of the fair trade clothing pilot project by Transfair USA, (name recently changed to Fair Trade USA). As proponents of union made apparel, we are critical of the Transfair (Fair Trade USA) pilot for it’s lack of worker representation requirement and living wage standard. Several NGOs stopped working with Transfair (Fair Trade USA) because of serious concerns regarding this pilot. Fair Trade Tees labeled by Transfair (Fair Trade USA) are not seen as the best option for ethical clothing by many in the sweatshop-free movement.

Although we were originally impressed the partner factory of Hae Now, Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills (P) Ltd (RCM) we are anxious to see their public response to the WRC comments. RCM has stated that there is a functioning union and that they are setting a high bar for other manufacturers. Hae Now’s standards according to RCM actually exceeded the requirements of the Transfair (Fair Trade USA) pilot. Our concern has always been that once Hae Now proved the model through a successful pilot, brands and factories with lower standards would share in the benefits of certification for Fair Trade tee shirts.

How Transfair (Fair Trade USA) Originally Framed Their Pilot Project:

Chetna is the cotton supplier for the factory where Hae Now’s apparel is produced. The 500 workers in this model factory produce knit and woven apparel, bedding and bath products, and accessories such as bags and aprons.

For each Fair Trade Certified garment sold, Hae Now will pay five percent of the cost of the garment to a worker-controlled fund set up by the factory according to Fair Trade requirements. The workers then vote to receive cash bonuses from the fund or to invest the funds into important social programs. Many of the workers are unionized and those that choose not to be are represented by a democratically elected Works Committee at the factory that meets regularly with management to address worker needs and concerns.