The Accreditation Program
The accreditation program was established under the leadership and collaborative efforts of the local Textile, Clothing and Footwear, (TCF) Union (then known as the TCFUA), and businesses and employer groups from the local industry including the Australian Industry Group (AI Group) and the New South Wales Business Chamber.
After a lengthy development period a ‘Code Of Practice’ was created to guide the accreditation program. Originally three variations were created separating retailers, manufacturers and sportswear. It was developed as a means for local TCF businesses to demonstrate that they are compliant with Australian workplace laws.
The accreditation body started with two part-time workers and received its first application in November 2000. The program was then originally launched as the ‘No Sweatshop Label’ at an official public event in 2001.
In 2010 the program was re-branded as Ethical Clothing Australia following feedback from stakeholders on the need to modernise the organisational name and the certification trademark. As the local industry has changed in the past twenty years the organisation has also adapted, and the accreditation of manufacturers has become a major focus of work.
Key aspects of the program have remained the same since it was created. To take part in the program businesses must voluntarily sign-up and commit to an independent audit (undertaken by the Union as part of the Service Level Agreement) to ensure that all workers including outworkers/homeworkers and any contractors are meeting their obligations under the Award and that the workers are receiving the appropriate pay, entitlements and working in a safe environment.
Once successfully accredited, businesses are able to use the ECA certification trade mark on their Australian made products and across marketing and promotions. To remain accredited a business must take part in the audit each year.
A Joint Union, Employer & Industry Collaboration
ECA is an example of how industry, employers and unions can work together to create and deliver a robust program that supports an ethical local industry. The accreditation program’s history shows that it has been a trail blazer in developing a response to protecting and advocating for the rights of garments workers. There is no equivalent accreditation program that applies the same level of rigour and utilises the trade union as part of the process nationally or internationally.
The need for an accreditation program and auditing remains as strong as the day it was created. Non-compliance, exploitation and unsafe work practices continue to occur in the local industry. ECA’s program continues to provide a platform to profile and showcase businesses that are doing the right thing by the workers in their local supply chains.