What do we mean by Fairtrade?
The simple answer is that the cotton used to make our fairtrade products is grown by farmers who recieve a premium for their crop and woven by weavers guaranteed a fair wage, healthy working conditions and good benefits.
The money we pay is paid directly to the people who grow the cotton and weave the hammocks. And our products are not made in a factory owned by us, they are made principally by weaving groups - sometimes the are made by weavers at home. These groups are autonomous and function quite independently from us. This is our intention and our aim.
So in reality...
Those who make the products we sell are paid twice the local wage, plus a productivity bonus.They have benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, wages in advance in the form of loans if necessary, payment for medicines and, for the women, gifts of gold when they leave to marry, in accordance with the local culture. Conditions are bright, well- ventilated and comfortable to work in.
What difference does it really make?
The simple reality is that people who produce for us have a guaranteed job, decent pay and an improved standard of living. As a direct result of this, their children can go to school, they have access to medical treatment and can improve their homes to a safe standard. One member of staff recently told us that she had bought a proper gas cooker, rather than cooking on an old paraffin stove which was highly unsafe. The gift of gold to woman when they marry helps to stop baby girls being abandoned or killed by their parents, who fear they cannot afford a dowry for their daughters.
The Fairtrade Foundation Definition
The more complex answer is that we comply with all seven points as defined as the conditions for fair trade. Here are the accepted criteria as defined by Wikipedia and by The Fairtrade Foundation
"Fair trade advocates generally support the following principles and practices in trading relationships:
Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
Fair trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Its purpose is to create opportunities for producers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system."
As an example of this, we work with small producers who still use hand looms, thus preserving traditional skills and creating work which would otherwise no longer exist. As small manufacturing units they need the opportunity to get their goods into the market place normally dominated by large producers. We practice ethical purchasing in this respect. There's no doubt about it, it would be a whole lot easier to buy factory produced goods from factory producers but that isn't what we aim for. We are actively looking to to work with small producers where the difference our orders make is so much greater.
Transparency and accountability
Fair trade involves transparent management and commercial relations to deal fairly and respectfully with trading partners."
We work closely with our producers to time orders to suit capacity and order in quantities that best suit their production. We know they are trying their best and treat errors in manufacturing accordingly. Our premise is that all parties have to be successful in this trade otherwise we are not succeeding.
Fair trade is a means to develop producers independence. Fair trade relationships provide continuity, during which producers and their marketing organizations can improve their management skills and their access to new markets."
Our producer groups are seperate businesses, whom we encourage to find other customers as well , to ensure that they are viable in their own right and not dependant on us. Since we started working together, our principle producer has expanded their customer base to include customers across Europe, in Japan and Australia.
Payment of a fair price
A fair price in the regional or local context is one that has been agreed through dialogue and participation. It covers not only the costs of production but enables production which is socially just and environmentally sound. It provides fair pay to the producers and takes into account the principle of equal pay for equal work by women and men. Fairtraders ensure prompt payment to their partners and, whenever possible, help producers with access to pre-harvest or pre-production financing. "
Our producers set the price for their goods, which ensures that they are paid realistically for them. We order and pay well in advance for each years stock to avoid our producers having cash flow problems or getting into debt. All points in the above paragraph are guaranteed.
Fair trade means that the work of women and men is properly valued and rewarded. Each person is always paid for their contribution to the production process and are empowered in their organizations, regardless of gender. "
We have been very surprised and impressed our producers challenge to cutural values which discriminate on gender and class. This means equality at work and in some cases women being taught what were traditionally male only skills. Although hand loom weaving is traditionally the work of men because of the amount of physical strength required to operate a hand loom, our weaving group does employ woman weavers.
Fair trade means a safe and healthy working environment for producers. The participation of children (if any) does not adversely affect their well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play and conforms to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the law and norms in the local context."
There are no children involved in any of our proceses. A great deal has been spent on building new premesis and providing a safe and pleasant working enviroment. It would have been very easy and cheap to have the main roof of the production unit made using modern construction materials, but working under a tar roof in tropical conditions is unbearably hot and so the building has a coconut leaf roof which must be replaced every two years. This is much more pleasant to work under but is expensive to maintain. In addition, the floors are tiled, so cool and clean to work on in bare feet.
Fair trade actively encourages better environmental practices and the application of responsible methods of production."
We are committed to reducing carbon footprint and do so by using hand looms and foot powered sewing machines . Our dye works re- process and treat all liquids leaving the plant, which is almost unheard of in rural Asia. We are working towards turning as much of our production as possible over to organically grown, certified fair trade cotton.