“The most fulfilling thing about working in fair trade? Definitely the amazing trading relationships Sasha has developed,” says Roopa Mehta, CEO of Sasha Exports.
“Sasha’s partnerships with workshops – and with our trading partners around the world, like Ten Thousand Villages – all make me so pleased. Every single one of these groups has overcome challenges to get where they are today.
“Fair trade is growing, and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”
There’s no doubt that the work I get to be a part of at Ten Thousand Villages is inspiring. And yet, as with any job, from time to time, we can all use a tangible reminder about why we do what we do.
In September 2013, we invited Moses and Esther from Kaki Creations in Kenya to join us for our national store manager workshops. They shared stories about life in Kenya and the good work they’re doing there. It was an amazing opportunity for staff to meet some of our artisan partners, and to hear firsthand about the business they’re building and the contributions they’re making to strengthen their community.
There are many inspirational stories of individuals, groups and organizations tirelessly working for a better world, and for the fair and equitable treatment of all people. The world is riddled with challenges, but we can help to change things for the better by the actions we take every day.
A compelling quote by Jacques Diouf inspired and challenged me to reassess how I want to contribute to a more just world: “Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.” It’s about the choices we make on a daily basis and the positive or negative effects they have on other human beings, the planet and other living creatures.
We periodically receive questions from customers such as:
- Why does Ten Thousand Villages buy products from the specific groups you work with?
- Why do you import from those particular countries and regions?
- Are you open to adding new groups from new countries?
Ten Thousand Villages’ mission is to create “opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.” This drives everything we do, and we will not compromise our commitment to our Fair Trade principles.
There have been a number of studies and articles floating around in the media lately, claiming that there are some major shortcomings in fair trade certification systems. Ten Thousand Villages welcomes this discussion, as we’re always looking for ways to improve the impact of our work.
When people ask me about the impact Ten Thousand Villages has on producers, lots of answers come to mind. But I believe it’s the artisans themselves who should have the final word regarding whether or not our work is making a difference.
There are lots of heartwarming examples, but I’ll share two that stand out in my mind:
I’m reading an incredibly moving book – one that has inspired me many times to stop and think about how fortunate we are to live in a country with strong infrastructure and social safety nets.
The book, entitled Haiti After the Earthquake, charts Haiti’s history, the events surrounding the quake itself, the aftermath, and most importantly, the dream of a rebuilt Haiti.
Many people are unaware that a commitment to sustainability is built right into the World Fair Trade Organization’s 10 Principles of Fair Trade.
Principle #10, “Respect for the Environment,” includes the following thoughts:
Organizations which produce Fair Trade products maximize the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges, buying locally when possible. They use production technologies that seek to reduce energy consumption and where possible use renewable energy technologies that minimize greenhouse gas emissions. They seek to minimize the impact of their waste stream on the environment. Fair Trade agricultural commodity producers minimize their environmental impacts, by using organic or low pesticide use production methods wherever possible.
We’re in the midst of a major shift in the way consumers think about their purchases. As we gain greater access to information about where and how things are made, expectations are on the rise.
In the past, it was enough to talk about corporate social responsibility (CSR). But now, much more is required to secure people’s trust: Companies must demonstrate genuine accountability, and their actions must be able to withstand scrutiny.