Bangladesh Artisans

Customers often ask staff and volunteers working in our stores whether our promotions have a negative impact on artisans.

The answer is a definitive “No.”

Decades ago, individuals involved with SELFHELP Crafts (which changed its name to Ten Thousand Villages in 1996) helped shape the foundational principles of Fair Trade.

These principles will always guide every aspect of our business, and two of them are particularly relevant to ensuring Ten Thousand Villages’ promotions don’t have a negative impact on artisans:

Principle #3: Fair Trading Practices

Ten Thousand Villages and other Fair Trade importers have some unorthodox payment practices.

When requested, Ten Thousand Villages pays 50% as soon as we place an order, and the balance before the products even leave the country where they were made.

Some people question whether this practice constitutes “charity” and violates our commitment to operating as a legitimate business. I’ll save a discussion of this point for a future post. But the short answer is marginalized people and organizations in countries where Ten Thousand Villages purchases simply don’t have access to the variety of financing options we take for granted in North America.

Principle #4: Payment of a Fair Price

Among the values we hold dear is a commitment not to negotiate, in the traditional sense, with our artisan partners.

We don’t pressure them to lower their prices, simply so we can pass on those savings to customers and/or increase our profit margins. Instead, we work with them to develop products that meet three criteria:

  1. The products must be consistent with the artisans’ cultural traditions and made from raw materials they can readily access.
  2. We must have confidence the products will be of interest to customers in the North American market.
  3. The artisans must be able to sell the items to us at a price they consider “fair,” and which will not be too high for North American customers once we add a mark-up to cover our operating costs.

Our artisan partners tell us what constitutes a fair price for their products – a price that allows them to provide fair wages and other basic supports and benefits for workers. And since these prices are agreed upon long before our promotions are contemplated, there’s no negative impact on them when we alter our selling prices.

Discounts Actually Make a Positive Impact

Promotions that allow us to sell more products free up space and cash. We then use these additional resources to strengthen our business and purchase more from artisans in the future.

  • The more Ten Thousand Villages sells, the more we’re able to buy from artisans.
  • The more we’re able to buy, the more employment opportunities there are for artisans.
  • And when artisans are employed in meaningful work, they’re able to provide for their families and plan for their futures.

Artisans have already been paid in full before their products arrive in North America, at prices that allow them to run sustainable businesses and provide well for themselves and their workers. So, in actual fact, promotions and discounts have a positive impact on the artisans with whom we partner.


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