Driving the provision of a living wage from the producer perspective
The majority of initiatives around living wages tend to be spearheaded by multinational brands in response to international or national pressure, with producers and manufacturers subsequently affected by such initiatives and occasionally brought in as partners as collaborations unfold.
While there is widespread agreement that cross-industry, collaborative efforts are necessary for systemic change when it comes to living wages, it is also important to highlight opportunities for producers to jointly lead initiatives around this issue, as such efforts can be deeply transformative in enhancing the lives of workers and their families.
One such example of a producer-buyer partnership is the Living Wage Project of Egedeniz Textile, the first certified organic textile company in Turkey and a medium-sized producer supplying to brands in the United States, Japan and Western Europe.
In partnership with Swedish children’s wear brand Mini Rodini and the Fair Wear Foundation, Egedeniz launched the Living Wage Project in June 2016 after deciding as an employer to prioritize the provision of a living wage to its workers.
In the first two years of the Living Wage project, Egedeniz has:
“The most important part of this project has been the relationships between all the steps in the supply chain. From the brand side, supplier relations are increasing positively. From the supplier side, it’s really important to believe in your role in the partnership with a buyer. If your working conditions will change simply based on the brand, then there are risks of huge negative impacts for the workers. You need to believe in and own your role in the sustainability of the business and in the partnerships involved.”
“It’s our goal to have living wages being paid in all of our suppliers by 2021. If you’re working full-time, you should be making enough to meet your basic needs and then have some discretionary income.
As an industry, we can be creative in how we support this – for example, we’re a part of the Fair Wear Foundation’s living wage ‘incubator’ where brands are coming together to discuss living wage projects and how to make them work in practical ways.
A key lesson from our work in this area is that you need everyone on board, from the finance team to the buyers themselves and beyond. Ensuring broad buy-in across the brand helps ensure the success of the project.”
Karin Iseman, Mini Rodini
“This project has [made] a big contribution to our family. I would like to thank Egedeniz and Mini Rodini for this support. I hope this will continue. I am sure all families who [are benefiting] from this project are thinking [the] same as me.”
“You can see the change in the eyes of workers when you walk through the sewing line. We’re stopped and the workers say thanks. It can be seen as such a small payment, but it’s such an important thing to these workers. It’s increased their loyalty and motivation – they feel like a valued part of the business and we’re seeing clear improvements in the quality of the work and worker recruitment and retention. We’re also hearing positive feedback from worker representatives and we can see the relationship-building directly on the production line.”