This morning at school drop-off I was chatting with one of the other dads about A Little Good. He asked how we can be sure that our workers get a fair wage - he's a staunch unionist, so his question wasn't surprising.
Confidence in the ethical practices of our suppliers is a top priority, but it's a time-consuming and tricky process to get right and it's not always black and white.
It's easy to badge something 'ethically produced' or 'fair trade' but another thing altogether to put these words into action. We do everything we can to verify our suppliers' claims so our customers don't have to worry or second guess their purchase.
The clearest way to do this is by dealing with World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) accredited members. In some cases accreditation can take a producer a couple of years to achieve and many are knocked back.
The WFTO has a set of standards based on the 10 Fair Trade Principles and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. Organisations must meet the mandatory requirements and many also choose to apply the non-mandatory requirements. You can read more about them here and they're summed up in the infographic below:
Image source: www.wfto.com
A number of our suppliers are WFTO accreddited, but it's not for everyone (the process, costs, time and individual implications can rule this out). We've spoken to many suppliers with claims of fair trade and ethical production who aren't accredited. Only those that we have confidence in after thoroughly researching and scrutinising have made it into A Little Good.
Also, there are many complex factors at play in the countries we source our products from - political, environmental, economic, social, the list goes on. It would be naive to idealise the world under fair trade. Harriet Lamb, The former CEO of Fairtrade International explains:
"Fairtrade is a large, complex work in progress. We have never claimed to tackle all the many injustices that grind down people living in poverty, or to have achieved trade nirvana balancing all of global trade’s problems with a magic Mark.Rather we are gradually, layer by layer, unpeeling the intertwined and entangled impacts of poverty in trade. Every time we make progress, we uncover another problem, another issue screaming for attention." (Source: Huffington Post)
This is not a reason to avoid fair trade and ethically made goods. It's the opposite. When we buy these products, we're sending a very clear message that we value more than just the material goods in our hands. Our purchases show that we care about the world around us - for the makers, their families and communities. We're in for the long haul.
One day we hope to visit the workshops of all of our suppliers (we went to Nepal last year, but that's a story for another day). But for now, we'll continue to rely on very careful selection of those we deal with and this means being ever vigilant. It's not easy or straightforward, but it's at the heart of what we do and why we're here.
(Banner image credit: Pebble)