Local high school student chooses "Fair Trade" as Leadership Project April 22 2016, 0 Comments
We were recently contacted by Bailey Armbright, a bright and socially conscious Healdsburg High School senior, asking us if we would "mentor" her. Bailey stated "I believe that One World Fair Trade would be an impactful business to have as my mentor due to the immense knowledge that the business has regarding fair trade and how it works."
She explained that she was doing a project in her leadership class regarding fair trade and her project is primarily focused on revealing the unjust and immoral conditions that child workers must face for the wealth of a major corporation. Bailey added "I believe that people deserve to know where their clothes come from and who they are made by, I intend to raise awareness through my campaign by making posters to hang up around my school and by speaking to classes around my campus to inform them about the benefits of fair trade."
Bailey had several very good questions and in light of of Fashion Revolution Week we thought this would be perfect to share.
The following is Bailey's questions and our answers:
"Here are my questions"
What pushed you to start a business that involves Fair Trade?
When I first met my wife, she was involved in a partnership that owned & operated three Fair Trade shops in Sonoma County. I immediately loved the idea of Fair Trade and began to immerse myself in it to learn more. Not long after, we decided to purchase complete ownership of what is now our shop in Healdsburg, One World Fair Trade.
How does a business establish connections to participate in the Fair Trade movement?
We work primarily through producer groups who have been validated by a third party organization, the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) and sometimes the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). These two very credible organizations validate companies who have made a full commitment to fair trading practices and are the primary organizations that represent the wholesale & retail Fair Trade supply chain. All companies involved undergo a rigorous screening process and occasional audits to evaluate their internal commitment to all Fair Trade Principles.
Do you need a license to sell Fair Trade items specifically?
No, it does not require a license to sell Fair Trade products but in order to validate that fair Trade practices and principles have been followed during the entire supply chain from producer to consumer, third party validation is essential. There are some businesses out there that “claim” they are selling fair trade but without some form of validation, consumers really have no assurance that they truly follow fair trade practices. We are proud to be a validated member of the Fair Trade Federation and proudly display the FTF Logo to show our validation. We recommend to consumers to look for the logo when shopping for Fair Trade for assurance.
How much of the price we pay for Fair Trade products goes back to the producers typically?
There is not a simple answer to this very good, but complex question. Let me explain; in our small shop in Healdsburg, we carry about 12,000 items from 54 countries and every piece is made differently, from the materials it is made from and the time it takes to produce. We represent products from over 70 Fair Trade organizations that each, on average, employs 200-1000 artisans. Every one of these small communities can have a very different cost of living and cost of living is primary to establishing a “living wage”. Some artisans are paid by piece and others are paid by the hour. The simple answer is that most fair trade artisans are paid on average, 3 times more than non fair trade artisans for similar work. In addition to this, most groups also receive a community premium to use to benefit their entire community.
If a company is not involved in Fair Trade, what can they do to become active in providing Fair Trade products?
My recommendation here in the United States would be to contact the Fair Trade Federation or Fair Trade USA to find producer groups that fit the company’s profile. If a company was interested in dedicating itself to Fair Trade, committing to sell only Fair Trade products as we at One World Fair Trade have done, then I would highly recommend working through the Fair Trade Federation.
Is it difficult to make a profit from selling strictly Fair Trade merchandise?
No, I don’t feel there is, I actually feel that it is a wonderful business model. Fair Trade is experiencing a growth as awareness increases. There are wonderful and very talented designers now working with producer groups to make and keep items on trend, current and fashionable. This, in turn, creates a continued demand for quality, handmade products. I think we are also experiencing a shift in consumerism with the growth in social media and the abundance of information available via internet. Conscious consumers now have the ability to evaluate companies and how they treat producers, employees and environment and support those companies that are in-line with your own values.
What are ways you insure that the workers/groups you purchase products from are being treated and paid fairly?
We are confident in the rigorous screening process and auditing of the entire supply chain by the third party organizations we work through to assure safe & healthy working conditions, protection of the environment, and a fair and living wage. We also have established long term relationships with most of our producer groups and stay in close contact regarding work standards and growth in the local communities. We and several of our employees regularly travel to some of these marginalized areas to see, first hand, just how fair trade has impacted the communities in positive ways.
What do you provide that sets you apart from other Fair Trade companies?
I think there are two great reasons. First, I really have to give credit to my beautiful and talented wife Annette; she has a very big heart and a great eye for purchasing and stocking our shop. She truly has a gift in finding just the perfect pieces that stand out and set us apart from many of the other Fair Trade stores. Secondly, and no less important is our wonderful staff. We are so fortunate to have an amazing and dedicated team. Each and every employee contributes something special to our business and each one works for us because they genuinely believe in our mission. Our sales staff is the direct connection between the artisan and the consumer. They know intimately about the products, the process, the materials and the communities in which they are produced. This is what I believe makes a Fair Trade company truly special and unique. But don’t take me wrong, I think there are many other wonderful Fair Trade shops out there but I am obviously biased, and know we really have something very special going on in our shop in Healdsburg.
If someone cannot afford to buy Fair Trade products, what are some alternative types of products that are more cost-effective but still benefit the workers who made the merchandise?
I think it is a gross misconception that just because an item is “Fair Trade”, it is going to be more expensive. Fair Trade is not about making more expensive products; it is about treating people with respect and giving workers the rights that we all should have. Fair Trade does not necessarily make an item more expensive but sometimes the time it takes to hand produce a quality item will make it more expensive than a cheaper, mass produced product. Fair Trade encompasses a vast array of products at a broad range of price points. I feel that if you keep an eye out for ethically produced products in place of mass produced, you will be surprised in what you can find. I have on rare occasions, heard a person passing in front of our shop say something like “Fair Trade is expensive”, as they walk by without ever stepping foot in the door and it always make me think to myself, “really, we have some items for $1.00?”