Fair wage workshop organized with ETI Norway and four Norwegian brands:
Stormberg, Norrøna, the Varner Group and Voice

On March 27, 2015, ETI Norway, the Fair Wage Network and four Norwegian clothing and sportswear companies came together to discuss their adoption and implementation of the Fair Wage Method. Not long ago competitors would never have set foot in the same room, certainly not to discuss their strategies, risks and challenges with one another. But we have come a long way and the challenge of sustainability has induced a cooperation trend that is fundamentally reshaping relations between competitors.

Four companies – Stormberg, Norrøna, the Varner Group and Voice – are of different sizes and with different resources, capabilities and market power. They are all members of ETI Norway and have accordingly committed to embedding responsible sourcing and ethical trade within their companies’ processes and strategies. Through participation in ETI Norway’s Fair Wage project they are piloting the Fair Wage Method and are currently at different stages of implementation of the Fair Wage Assessment among their selected first-tier suppliers. They are hereby demonstrating that sustainable sourcing is by no means restricted to large companies.

During this meeting the companies discussed their implementation of the Fair Wage approach and the main challenges they are facing in this process. The main challenge touched upon concerned how sustainability initiatives such as the Fair Wage Method can be adapted to the circumstances of small and medium-sized enterprises. These are companies working towards a more responsible sourcing strategy with much smaller budgets, market power and limited presence in the sourcing countries. Hence, finding the leverage to push these initiatives forwards might be challenging.

H&M, which is the furthest along in carrying out the method, has emphasized the importance of having a good and long-term relationship with the suppliers and factories that will be part of the project. They also highlighted that such relations might be more important in obtaining beneficial results than the size of the orders or the companies’ capacity on the ground.

Participants in the workshop also agreed that collaboration between brands could also be instrumental in overcoming the barriers due to lack of resources and limited bargaining power. A partnership would not only help to avoid duplication, but could also provide lessons learned and create better leverage overall for all parties.

The meeting was useful and interesting, raising some important, but difficult and challenging issues that need to be put on the agenda. We at the Fair Wage Network are optimistic that these first steps achieved with ETI Norway could lead to further collaboration with these brands and to an extension of such innovative partnerships.