Time and time again we are awed by the stories and creativity of our partners. Their commitment, skills and resourcefulness inspire us to do better. Let’s start buying things that benefit everyone, create true abundance and contribute to a sustainable world.
Afar is a brand of Village Industry, a textile factory based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The company started operations in 2004 as a knitting plant and is now doing printing, sewing, dyeing, and finishing. What makes Village Industry unique is its capacity to process fabrics and leather combining sophisticated technology and high quality natural raw materials. Afar bags and garments are produced in a safe environment and the vast majority of textile and leather goods are made by women, who enjoy a suitable job for their life condition. Most of the cotton they use comes from small farmers in central Ethiopia, where cotton has been grown for centuries using only traditional techniques. Most importantly, the leather they use is a by-product. The Zebu cows are not raised for their skin or meat but are working animals that live out their lives roaming the beautiful Ethiopian landscapes. In Africa they have time, and since they are so rich in time they dedicate time. Afar products contain this valuable asset that is visible in every stitch, cut and detail.
Alaffia \ah-la-fee-uh\ is a common greeting or valediction originating from Togo, Benin and Nigeria and it means a state of peace, health, and well-being. Alaffia was formed in 2004 to alleviate poverty and empower communities in West Africa through the fair trade of Shea butter and other indigenous sources. Proceeds are returned to communities in Togo, West Africa to fund community empowerment and gender equality projects such as Maternal Health & Equality, Alaffia School Projects, Bicycles for Education and Reforestation Projects. Some of the tangible results have been over 7,482 bicycles donated, shipped and distributed to 60 different villages, the retention rate for student recipients is in excess of 90%, with an annual passing rate of 92%, and reduced teen pregnancy rates in rural villages. Alaffia’s Social Enterprise Model is a comprehensive approach to providing safe, efficacious hair, face and body care while alleviating poverty in West Africa through the preservation of traditional skills and knowledge in the global market. They focus on empowerment projects, use indigenous ingredients, work with women’s co-op’s and collectives, produce ethical, safe and efficacious products, use sustainable and transparent packaging, and reinvest a portion of product sales into their empowerment projects in West Africa.
Balizen offers home décor items using handmade textiles and natural fibers available in Bali. They are committed to preserving the Balinese culture and helping to move Bali into a green and sustainable future. They use ecologically sustainable natural materials such as bamboo, vetiver, capiz shell and organic cotton and try to recycle as much as possible. Everything is hand made by village artisans or in our Balizen in-house fair trade workshop with the smallest carbon footprint they can manage. They utilize, sustain, support & promote traditional, indigenous village handicrafts so they can be enjoyed by this and future generations. They train their workers and outside suppliers to improve efficiency & sustainability as well as the 5 Rs – reduce, re-use, recycle, refuse & repair. Balizen is a registered fair trade company, Fair Trade Federation member. This means that everyone they employ, and their subcontractors too get a fair living wage and have good working conditions, and are planet conscious too. They support and are involved in sustainable education, reforestation, organic farming, community empowerment projects and contribute to Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders.
In Zimbabwe, children with disabilities and their families are often shunned by society, and by their extended families. This social isolation and the lack of community often cause these families to spiral into extreme poverty. In 1998, fourteen mothers of disabled children formed a support group in Harare. Their talent for embroidery inspired them to begin making handicrafts to provide a sustainable income for their families. The group creates embroidered and painted fair trade handicrafts for the international market. Product sales have allowed the group to expand to its current size of 100 members. It is self-managed by a committee of seven elected members. The group makes decisions as a team and is proud of their level of cooperation. During the last 5 years they have purchased 2 houses for their daycare, physical therapy, workrooms, office, and housing for 3 families. The center provides hot meals and a vegetable garden for the members and children working there.
Chicago-based Bright Endeavors is an innovative social enterprise that partners with young moms battling homelessness and poverty by teaching them to craft premium soy candles in a supportive, professional environment. Through their paid job training program, Bright Endeavor provides the guidance and job skills young moms need to secure quality employment and begin working toward professional success. Every candle is another opportunity for a young mom to move closer to her goals. They know young moms represent a groundbreaking opportunity for family and community transformation. Every mom wants to provide a safe and loving home for her child. Unfortunately, for a young mom battling homelessness and poverty, that home can feel out of reach. In most cases, these women are living in low-income communities without access to quality education or job opportunities. Under these circumstances, the barriers to an empowered life filled with hope and opportunity can be overwhelming. Bright Endeavors exists to partner with these strong women and help illuminate the path toward a brighter future.
Craft Link is a Vietnamese not–for–profit fair trade organization that helps traditional craft producers to revive their culture and improve their livelihoods through handicraft production and marketing. Craft Link activities are guided by a Steering Committee comprised of independent Vietnamese individuals and representatives of NGOs. All craft groups meet essential criteria such as fair wages, environmental and employee safety and preference is given to producers who are marginalized or disadvantaged, such as ethnic minority people in remote areas, street children, and people with disabilities. Their objectives are to help craft producers, especially the poor, to improve their livelihoods through craft production and marketing; help to revive and promote traditional culture and skills; educate the public about handicraft producers and their products. Craft Link carries out many development projects to support its target artisan groups all over Vietnam. Each project lasts for at least two years. Training provided to the artisans during the project period includes management skills, accounting, product development, marketing, and quality control.
Escama Studios is a Fair Trade social enterprise that is committed to improving the quality of life for the members of their cooperatives. Escama Studio is a sustainable fashion brand based in California and Brazil. Their mission is to create innovative on-trend fashion accessories while promoting sustainable development through trade. The word ‘Escama’ means ‘fish scales’ in Portuguese; the name was chosen because their flagship products – crocheted accessories with post-consumer pull tabs – appear to be made from big metallic scales of a fish. To achieve their unique aesthetic, the Escama Studio team adapted traditional Brazilian crochet work and imbued the handmade crafts with a modern design sense and new materials. With designs originating from both San Francisco and Brazil, the pop top bags are handmade in Brazil by artisan groups who are an integral part of the company. Escama Studio is a green company, a fair trade company and an ongoing experiment in sustainability. They measure their success by the strength of their partnerships with producers in underprivileged communities and by the sense of wonder that their products bring to their fans worldwide.
The Mabinti Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania was founded in 2007 by Katia Geurts, a former primary school teacher from Belgium. When Katia moved to Tanzania in the early 2000s, she teamed up with Fistula Foundation’s partner hospital, CCBRT (Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania). Together, they set out to empower fistula patients after surgery, and equip them with a strong set of skills as they get ready to re-enter society. Thankfully, a woman with obstetric fistula can be physically healed through life-transforming surgery. However, for many survivors, complete recovery goes beyond the physical—emotional and psychological damage can haunt her long after her body has healed. Over the course of a year-long program, women at the Mabinti Centre learn various job skills, including screen printing and sewing, as well as basic business classes to help them launch their own shops after graduation. The Centre also provides vital life skills, ranging from psychological counseling to family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. Many graduates have successfully launched their own shops, and can financially support themselves through the skills they learned at the Centre. “It’s like they have a backpack with them, full of confidence,” Katia said. The team at the Mabinti Centre has worked tirelessly to fulfill their mission: providing holistic post-operative care for fistula survivors in Tanzania. Your compassion helps to ensure that their doors will stay open for another ten years, and beyond!
MESH is a Fair Trade organization based in India that works with 34 producer groups across 11 Indian states. Each producer group works especially for people affected by leprosy or people with disabilities. Some are integrated groups of marginalized men women who work alongside people with disabilities; others are employing only people affected by leprosy and their family members. Their mission is to provide opportunities for disabled people and people affected by leprosy to achieve social and economic integration and self-sufficiency by trading. Their vision is that of autonomy for their partners. MESH provides training to their artisans to produce goods suited to their abilities, and serve as a guide in the selection of products developed. They assist in obtaining raw materials, ensure prompt payment for goods to provide stable cash flow and working capital for continued production. Also, they provide quality control, guidance in developing cost sheets and securing of orders. They further assist in developing a sustainable market for the products beautifully crafted by the artisans to provide full-time employment for disabled people.
MR ELLIE POOH
Mr. Ellie Pooh LLC is an eco-friendly Fair Trade company based in Sri Lanka that creates exotic gifts and paper, partially out of elephant dung. Elephants in Sri Lanka are being killed at an alarming rate. The company hopes are that such an initiative will self-educate the villagers into living and working with, and respecting the elephants. With this new mindset, their gentle giants can blossom into a cultural asset rather than a local threat. All of their paper products are 100% recycled. They are made up of 30% fiber from elephant dung and 70% recycled paper. No trees or toxic chemicals are used in their papermaking process. They only use all-natural vegetative binding agents, along with water-soluble salt dyes for coloring. Mr. Ellie Pooh’s papers are handmade, acid-free, and as organic as it gets! Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100% recycled content uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste, and—of course—100% less forest destruction. In accordance with the Fair Trade Principles, they provide sustainable papermaking and artisan jobs in the Kegalle district of Sri Lanka. These jobs help build support of the local communities and are essential to the success of our conservation efforts. This unique method of papermaking directly contributes to the local economy. They train villagers to make our paper and hire artisans to create our products and educate them to live among (and respect) the elephant in an area where humans and elephants often conflict. In this way, elephants can be viewed as an economic asset, rather than a liability.
Together we are working to end native homelessness. Native Works exists to better Seattle’s homeless Native American community. By crafting authentic jewelry, and in partnership with its parent organization, The Chief Seattle Club. Native Works honors native tradition while fostering a healthier native future. Each piece of jewelry is handmade by a local apprentice, and 100% of proceeds go directly to providing meals, mental healthcare, drug and alcohol counseling, housing referrals, legal consultation and more to those in need within Seattle’s native community. The mission of The Chief Seattle Club is to create a welcoming place of support, acceptance, and ceremony for Seattle’s Native population. The Chief Seattle Club is a non-profit dedicated to physically and spiritually supporting American Indian and Alaska Native people. At their center in the Pioneer Square district of downtown Seattle, they provide food, medical support, housing assistance, the Urban Indian Legal Clinic, a Native art program and gallery, frequent outings to tribes, pow wows, and museums, and much more. The Chief Seattle Club exists to provide sacred space to nurture, affirm and renew the spirit of urban Native people. The Chief Seattle Club is a human service agency that provides for the basic needs of their members, many of whom are experiencing homelessness. Over 90,000 meals are served every year and members can access quality nursing care, mental health providers, chemical dependency professionals, and traditional healing practices. Native people in urban areas face unique challenges and the Chief Seattle Club embraces the cultures, languages, and traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives as the primary method for healing and transformation.
NEPAL WOMAN CRAFTS
Nepal Woman Crafts is a small Kathmandu-based manufacturer and exporter of traditional textile goods, and handmade paper and paper products. The paper products are made by using the inner bark of the Daphne Cannabina bush, locally known as lokta. Lokta is found at altitudes above 6,500 ft. in almost the entire Nepalese Himalayan region. It has a unique characteristic of regenerating itself every 4-5 years after the bark has been peeled and cut away for making paper. Lokta is harvested for our suppliers in sustainably managed forest areas, thus preserving the fragile forest ecology of Nepal while providing gainful employment to local mountain people. This women’s group uses their hand-made paper business as a vehicle for promoting income and entrepreneurial abilities among Nepalese women. Proceeds from sales benefit individual artisans, various producer groups and the Tibetan refugee community. NWC maintains a strong commitment to upgrading artisans’ skills, as well as the preservation of traditional Nepalese arts.
Ngwenya Glass’ charming complex is set in large indigenous gardens and is considered one of Swaziland’s/Eswatini’s major tourists attractions! Here a small group of Swazi craftsmen and women – with age old artistry – breath life into enchanting interpretations of the animals and birds of Africa, imbuing each with its own irresistible personality. Ngwenya Glass only uses recycled glass – mainly old soda bottles for each of their handmade and mouth-blown pieces. People from all over Swaziland collect bottles and are paid per pound for clean glass. Ngwenya must be the cleanest area because any bottle that catches the attention of local children finds its way into the factory! Not only are the people of Swaziland encouraged to collect the bottles, but Ngwenya Glass works with the local schools to instill in the children a sense of environmental awareness. In exchange for building materials and the sponsorship of the soccer team, the students must participate in roadside clean-up campaigns. An environmentalist’s dream – 100% recycled glass, disused engine oil fuels the furnaces, and old newspapers are used to shape and pack the glassware.
Prosperity Candle is a social enterprise that supports refugees and artisans through candle-making and beautifully crafted vessels easily refilled or repurposed for a lifetime of enjoyment. As they like to say, there’s a story behind every candle they pour. Every candle is hand-poured by a woman artisan building a brighter future for herself and her family using all-natural soy & coconut waxes, pure cotton, and wood wicks, and premium fragrances made with essential oils. They never add any dyes or enhancers. They also share the belief that equal opportunity for women and girls everywhere creates a brighter future for all. They celebrate creativity and quality, support fair trade and ethically made goods, and argue that every product – if made the right way – can help make the world a better place. They believe that welcoming refugee families and helping them to build new lives lies at the foundation of American values. Most importantly, we believe in contributing to the common good, and in shared prosperity where everyone everywhere has the opportunity to thrive.
PROVAIL is a recognized leader in the field of supported services for children and adults with disabilities. They create tailor-made programs to suit each person and address the needs and concerns of family members as well. PROVAIL and its
REFUGEE ARTISAN INITIATIVE
The Refugee Artisan Initiative is dedicated to improving the lives of refugee families. This Initiative is supported through sales of wearable goods made by trained refugee artisans and donations to Mimi Globe Goods, a non-profit company based in Seattle, WA and founded by Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman. Mimi Globe Goods empowers stay-at-home immigrants and refugees from Bhutan and elsewhere with the skills to design, make and market handcrafted jewelry and accessories while earning livable wages. An average of 2,750 refugees arrives in Washington state each year, not knowing the language or cultural norms. They need a job but don’t have the skills or education. 34% of households headed by foreign-born women are at the poverty level. Most of their artisans are mothers who have difficult schedules and must fit in working between caring for their children and home, with learning a new language and navigating the challenges of living in a new country after having left much behind. As part of the Refugee Artisan Initiative, they hire and train immigrant women with sewing skills, enabling artisans to work from home in an enterprise that needs little space. They help women overcome language, transportation, and cultural barriers to employment and pay the Seattle-mandated minimum hourly wage. In addition, they use recycled and repurposed
Sabahar is an Ethiopian company that produces uniquely designed, hand made cotton and silk textiles. Their products are entirely hand made in Ethiopia from natural fibers. Kathy Marshall, a Canadian by birth but a twenty-year veteran of Ethiopia, founded Sabahar in 2004 and still works as its General Manager. Her passion for preserving and celebrating the rich weaving tradition of Ethiopia combined with her desire to create respectful and ethical work opportunities for marginalized people have laid the foundation for the company. They spin the cotton into thread on drop spindles and use spinning wheels to spin Eri silk into thread. They dye the thread in small batches using environmentally friendly dyes and weave the fabric on traditional handlooms and make the fringes using a twist technique that has been practiced for centuries. Their artisans work in their homes and at their workshop. More than twenty sets of hands touch each product they sell. Such intensive production practices enable them to create and sustain significant employment for artisans who may otherwise leave their trade to find more reliable work. They have three core values that guide them. The first is sustainability. They support and train artisans to apply their ancient skills to modern, fresh designs. By providing the bridge between the artisan and the global market, they provide reliable income for families. The second is innovation. Weaving is an ancient craft in Ethiopia but silk was only introduced to Ethiopia about 15 years ago. They adopt traditional technologies to new fibers and products and remain loyal to tradition while adjusting to contemporary tastes. And finally, they care for each other. Their products are made with care by people they care about. They create positive work opportunities, with an emphasis on employment for women. Sabahar is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization.
Shanga is a successful social enterprise which employs people with disabilities to create unique, high-quality, handmade jewelry, glassware and homewares incorporating recycled materials. These products are sold in Tanzania and all over the world, with profits being reinvested back into developing opportunities to employ more people with disabilities. Combining an uplifting local community project with unique artistic activities and opportunities to purchase handmade gifts, Shanga has been a favorite Arusha tourist destination since its inception in 2007. Shanga became part of Elewana in 2017 as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility program, with an ongoing commitment to the people of Tanzania. Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge is the home of Shanga, which comprises of an open workshop for glass-blowing, weaving, sewing, Tinga Tinga painting, bead-making, and metalwork, with a shop showcasing all Shanga’s handmade products
Sparrow Society is a non-profit company based in Cape Town, South Africa. They aim to go beyond mere charity by providing the skills training and opportunities for their artisans to earn a livable wage with dignity, and to go from merely surviving to thriving. They strive to create high-quality products with ethically sourced materials featuring Afri-Mod designs. South Africa has one of the highest Gini Coefficients in the world – meaning it is one of the world’s most economically UNEQUAL societies, leading to a whole host of other issues facing their communities. They have extraordinary wealth and fatal poverty right next to each other. Sparrow Society hopes to be a part of the solution to close that economic gap through creating dignifying jobs, adding to skills development and small business support. Through their Creative Business Course, they have been able to help many women start their own small business, sewing from their homes. This gives them added flexibility and empowers them to take charge of their futures. Sparrow Society hires them as Independent Contractors on larger orders, which helps with keeping the small businesses sustainable. They partner with skills development training centers to upskill the seamstresses, and also with a workshop in Gugulethu that trains and employs people with disabilities.
The mission of Villageworks is to support vulnerable and marginalized groups by creating economic opportunities. They train and provide skills to home-based workers in remote parts of rural Cambodia and disabled people in Phnom Penh, with the aim of promoting sustainable livelihoods. Villageworks Songkhem was established in 2001 as a social enterprise. In 2015 they became certified members of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). They take great pride in carrying the fair trade label because upholding the fair trade principles, such as proving fair wages, a safe working environment, promoting sustainability and gender equality are in the DNA of their organization. They offer a large selection of quality products such as bags, scarves, accessories and interior decoration items. Their innovative products are made from a range of different materials, including recycled, organic and natural materials. They strive to provide their artisans with sustainable employment and increase their opportunities, particularly with the intention of empowering women living in rural parts of Cambodia. All their products are made with joy. Villageworks is empowering women in the rural area of Cambodia and disabled persons in the rural and urban area by providing them with stable income. They are committed to donate a percentage of sales and income to the local school programs and promote education for rural children. They continuously work on upgrading skills, building capacity and confidence, and support eco-conscious production strategies.
THE WREN DESIGN
The Wren Design was founded in 2008 after the owner, Wendren Setzer, decided to resign from her job as a textile designer at a clothing factory. She found that working for a large corporation was unfulfilling and wanted to take on a new challenge. By starting a business that was more in keeping with her design ideas, she had the freedom to apply a more innovative approach to product development. Her belief in the value of good workmanship over mass-produced products served as the central principle around which the business has evolved. The Wren Design began to establish itself as a fast-growing international company with a reputation for sustainable manufacturing, fair business ethics, innovation, quality workmanship, and excellent customer service. The first Wren bags were made from English woven fabrics. The idea of using found materials and repurposing them to promote sustainability was a watershed moment for the company. While exploring other materials options, she hit upon the concept of using paper to construct items of apparel. By treating the paper using fusion and coating technologies, the paper’s strength is greatly enhanced, and it becomes a functional fabric. The company promotes an ethic of shared industry, and there is a sense that it exists only through the people who contribute their skills. The work environment is built on a relationship of trust, fairness, respect and the promotion of individual growth opportunities. Through the team’s dedicated efforts, every person involved in the company has been able to achieve several goals: to earn a higher wage, to own their own machines and to produce a product that they can be proud of. The team members are all proud entrepreneurs in their own right with individual strengths.
Xaquixe is a Zapotec word and means “at the base of the mountain.” Xaquixe is a company specializing in blown glass and was founded in 2002 in Oaxaca, Mexico. They elaborate pieces of unique and original design through sustainable and handcrafted processes. The central part of Xaquixe production in the process of transforming waste into materials and alternative energies. They use 95% recycled glass and add 5% of Xaquixe Formule (patented) that returns the characteristics of transparency, shine, and compatibility with a wide range of colors, which generally could not be applied to recycled glass. Their color palette is unusual in the market of the glass pieces created with recycled glass. Xaquixe uses alternative energies with waste generated in the local community. They use burnt cooking oil from 50 Oaxacan restaurants using a multi-fuel burner and generate CH4-Methane in an anaerobic biodigester. In combination with photovoltaic cells, the energy required to reach the 1300º temperature is obtained, ideal for working with blown glass. Their pieces are the result of the fusion between knowledge and skills in the traditional technique of blown glass. Functional and decorative designs based on conventional forms add a contemporary touch, inspired by nature and organic forms.