MEC announces new in-house line of Fair Trade Certified™ apparel

Canadian retail co-operative will offer its Fair Trade Certified t-shirts starting this summer

VANCOUVER, BC and OAKLAND, CA, June 18, 2014 /CNW/ - Canadian outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) today announced the launch of its first in-house line of Fair Trade Certified™ apparel. Fair Trade Certified MEC t-shirts will be available late this summer online and in the co-op's 17 brick-and-mortar stores. The apparel will include MEC's long-running, popular line of organic cotton women's short and long-sleeved t-shirts. Men's t-shirts will be added to MEC's Fair Trade Certified line next spring.

MEC's Fair Trade Certified clothing will provide tangible benefits for the factory workers who make the t-shirts in Pithampur, India. For every Fair Trade Certified shirt MEC sells, the co-op will pay a cash premium directly into a special fund directed by the workers.

"Fair Trade is uniquely positioned to ensure fair wages and safe working conditions for the people who make MEC-brand products," said CEO David Labistour. At the same time, the Fair Trade Certified label quickly communicates those benefits to our members who wish to make principled purchases."

A democratic process will enable the factory workers to decide how to best spend the special fund. They could choose to enhance local community services in support of health care, education or improved transportation infrastructure – or opt to take the premium as a cash bonus to bolster their own incomes.

"By championing Fair Trade Certified apparel in the Canadian marketplace, MEC is supporting factories that prioritize best-in-class conditions while empowering workers to improve their lives and their communities," said Maya Spaull, Director of New Category Innovation at Fair Trade USA. "At the same time, MEC is empowering consumers to wear their values and help to alleviate poverty through every t-shirt purchase."

MEC plans to inform its members about how the Fair Trade premiums are ultimately spent by the workers who will benefit from the program.

Besides enhancing workers' quality of life, MEC's partnership with Fair Trade USA includes independent third- party monitoring of workplace conditions in Fair Trade Certified factories. It also provides factory management with support for such things as on-the-ground training geared to upholding workplace safety. For their part, employees participate in a series of Fair Trade trainings to learn about their rights under the standards, how to manage and invest additional income and how to improve communications with management.

Fair Trade is a market-based approach to poverty alleviation and sustainable development that offers incentives to factories for complying with strict social, economic and environmental criteria. Most widely known as a certification for coffee or chocolate, Fair Trade USA has spent the past three years developing an apparel standard certification program that has the potential to dramatically change the entire manufacturing industry for the better.

Offering its members Fair Trade Certified apparel is a further step in MEC's efforts to improved working conditions for factory workers. In 2013, in recognition of its responsible sourcing program, MEC received full accreditation from the Fair Labor Association.

About MEC
A retail co-operative, MEC exists to enable and inspire Canadians to live active outdoor lifestyles. From backcountry trails to city streets, MEC supports a range of outdoor activities, including climbing, hiking, camping, snowsports, watersports, cycling, running and yoga. Well known for selling high-quality well-designed products that offer great value, MEC employs outdoor enthusiasts who possess a strong service ethic to provide its members with an authentic and accessible customer experience. MEC has more than 3.75 million members across Canada, whom it serves through 17 stores in 6 provinces as well as www.mec.ca and the Shop MEC iPhone® app. Anyone can join MEC by purchasing a $5 individual lifetime membership.

About Fair Trade USA
Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in North America. We audit and certify transactions between companies and their international suppliers to ensure adherence to the rigorous Fair Trade standards. Fair Trade USA also educates consumers and provides farming communities with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit FairTradeCertified.org for more information.

SOURCE Mountain Equipment Co-op

For further information: Johnny Santilly, Media Profile, Johnny.santilly@mediaprofile.com, 416-342-1841; Tim Southam, MEC Public Affairs, tsoutham@mec.ca, 604-561-4528 (mobile), 604-707-4480 (direct); Katie Barrow, Fair Trade USA, Senior Manager, Communications, kbarrow@fairtradeusa.org, 510-844-1656