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Fair Trade

Ethical small business: implementing the 10 Fair Trade principles at Karakorum

 

If you’re not yet familiar with what we do, Karakorum is an ethical home decor brand based in the small Cotswolds town of Stroud, focusing on creating social change one fair trade item at a time.

We search the world looking for and striving to support small scale artisans that create beautiful and unique traditional handmade crafts, small businesses and fair trade practices.

Fair trade plays a crucial role in promoting social justice, economic empowerment, and environmental sustainability in today’s interconnected world.

Its positive impact extends far beyond individual transactions, contributing to a more equitable and sustainable global economy for present and future generations.

There’s no ethical business without transparency, so today we wanted to share with you all the ways we implement the Fair Trade principles.

 

Fair Trade vs Fairtrade vs fair trade

Before we dive in, a little bit about what fair trade actually means.

As we mentioned in our previous blog post, The meaning of the most popular sustainability certifications of 2022, there is a difference between Fairtrade, Fair Trade and fair trade, which can be a little confusing.

Fairtrade and Fair Trade are official accreditations, so the sourcing, manufacturing and distribution process should follow strict guidelines. For consumers, it guarantees the quality and ethical production of the items you buy.

The Fairtrade certification is given by the accredited third-party auditor, FLOCERT, and generally refers to food products. It ensures that workers’ rights are met, people have safer working conditions and receive fairer pay.

 

 

Fair Trade refers to other, non-food products. Through peer-reviews and independent audits, World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) verifies members are mission-led enterprises fully practising the 10 Principles of Fair Trade across their business and supply chains.

Meanwhile, fair trade (all lowercase) simply means trade between companies and producers, in which fair prices are paid to the producers. As this is unregulated, you’ll need a certain amount of trust in the company saying it.

It’s a term often used by smaller businesses and producers (like we do at Karakorum), as it costs a lot of money to achieve the official Fairtrade or Fair Trade accreditations.

Despite not having official accreditation due to cost, as an ethical homewares shop, we feel that it’s important to follow the 10 principles of Fair Trade set by the WFTO as closely as we possibly can.

Let’s take a closer look at the principles, and what we do to meet them.

 

The 10 principles of Fair Trade, and how we implement them at Karakorum

The WFTO created these 10 principles to ensure that any Fair Trade enterprise prioritises people and planet.

They carry out verification and monitoring to ensure these principles are upheld, and that businesses are creating positive, lasting impacts on a global scale.

“The principles can’t be applied in isolation; they must be considered holistically to provide a roadmap for transformative change.

Addressing fair prices, wages, environmental sustainability, social development, and democratic decision-making collectively creates a framework that tackles systemic issues in global trade.”

 

1. Opportunities for economically marginalised producers

Poverty reduction through trade should be a key aim. To gain Fair Trade accreditation, an organisation must support marginalised small producers, and seek to enable them to move from income insecurity and poverty to economic self-sufficiency and ownership.

At Karakorum, we work with producers in rural places that have limited access to other livelihoods.

For example, the baskets from Uganda are made by the ladies in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – which is remote and hard to reach. They mostly rely on subsistence farming, and these baskets are a way to top up their income and earnings. There is little other work in the region.

 

Picture of weaver holding up the basket

 

2. Transparency and accountability

There should be transparency and accountability which ensures that relevant information is provided to all trading partners, and the communication channels should be good and open at all levels of the supply chain.

The producers we work with are involved in important decision making. They also all have full control over the pricing, and are fully involved in any design processes.

 

3. Fair trade practices

An organisation must trade with concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalised small producers and does not maximise profit at their expense.

While Karakorum does work with small artisans groups, we sadly don’t have the ability to go out to producers to check that they are sticking to fair trade practices.

This is why we work through social enterprises where we can, such as People of the Sun in Malawi and Women of the Cloud Forest in Guatemala.

 

 

Artisan in Kenya handcarving wooden items

 

4. Fair payment

A fair payment is one that has been mutually negotiated and agreed by all through on-going dialogue and participation, which provides fair pay to the producers and can also be sustained by the market, taking into account the principle of equal pay for equal work by women and men.

Fair Payment is made up of Fair Prices, Fair Wages and Local Living Wages.

Prices are fixed by the producers, and we work with them, or through an intermediary to ensure that their prices reflect the materials and labour and profit.

Except for larger suppliers, we pay upfront before receiving the items, therefore they are never left short.

 

5. No child labour, no forced labour

The organisation adheres to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national / local law on the employment of children. The organisation ensures that there is no forced labour in its workforce and / or members or homeworkers.

Again, unfortunately, we can’t visit to check, but we vehemently do not agree with child labour, and if we discovered any was in use for the making of my products, we would work with the artisans to ensure this stops.

Due to many of the items we sell requiring a certain level of knowledge and skill, we can be almost certain that child labour is not an issue with these producers.

 

Family. A picture of a little boy looking out from under the clay wheel

6. No discrimination, gender equity, freedom of association

The organisation does not discriminate in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, HIV/AIDS status or age.

We do not discriminate on any of these things. We also support women empowerment – many of the traditional crafts we support are women-led.

A wonderful example of this is the baskets from Gone Rural – a women-led, grass roots organisation.

 

7. Good working conditions

The organisation provides a safe and healthy working environment for employees and / or members. It complies, at a minimum, with national and local laws and ILO conventions on health and safety.

As with some of the previous principles, we can’t 100% guarantee this, as we don’t have the resources to visit suppliers.

However, we maintain close relationships with the artisan groups we work with, pay fair wages and also go through Fair Trade and social enterprises where possible. Many of the groups I work with can both work from home and have workshops, so it provides them with the flexibility that they need.

In August, Karakorum founder Natasha is planning to visit suppliers, such as Kasinde Crafts in Kenya, Tabaka Chigware Youth Group who carve Soapstone, Bwindi Handicrafts in Uganda, and Clement Artisan group in Rwanda.

She will be asking all these questions, and while she hopes to do more of these visits, it’s sadly not feasible to go to all of them or to go often.

 

8. Capacity building

The organisation seeks to increase positive developmental impacts for small, marginalised producers through Fair Trade.

Seeking to develop the skills of producers and workers so they can continue to grow and prosper.

While Karakorum itself doesn’t provide capacity building, working with social enterprises and WFTO organisations ensures that this happens.

We also choose suppliers that aren’t social enterprises based on this, such as Kasinde Crafts in Kenya – a social business where purchases directly economically empower the artisan.

 

Mwehe walking with basket weavers

 

9. Promote fair trade

The organisation raises awareness of the aim of Fair Trade and of the need for greater justice in global trade through Fair Trade. It advocates for the objectives and activities of Fair Trade according to the scope of the organisation. Honest advertising and marketing techniques are always used.

We raise awareness of Fair Trade and ethical trading practises through social media, the Karakorum website and blogs like the one you are reading right now!

 

10. Climate action and protection of the environment

Buyers and importers of Fair Trade products and services support their supply chain partners in adopting practices and transport options that encourage sustainable development and protect our planet at this time of crisis.

All the packaging that we use is recyclable and low impact, such as paper tape, cardboard boxes, paper void fill and cushioning, as well as re-using any materials we get from suppliers where possible.

We also source items that are made from sustainable materials, like sisal baskets, olive wood, and recycled glass bottles.

 

Hopefully that’s given you a great insight into what we do and why we do it – ultimately we want to be good to our beautiful planet and the people living on it.

A final note to say that WFTO also celebrates World Fair Trade Day on the second Saturday of May every year – this year it’s on 11th May 2024. The theme of the campaign is #BusinessRevolution.

“It’s a day to shine a spotlight on the transformative power of the Fair Trade business model and its positive impact on people’s lives and communities. Every year, the theme of the campaign changes to focus on a specific topic that is dear to the community.”

If you’re eager to learn further, you can find out more information about World Fair Trade Day and the 10 principles of Fair Trade on the WFTO website.

Plus, to celebrate 30 years since the first Fairtrade certified products hit the shelves, Fairtrade Fortnight 2024 will be held in September as part of their year-long milestone celebrations.

Find out more about how they raise awareness with all sorts of activities during Fairtrade Fortnight on the Fairtrade website.

About Karakorum

Based in the beautiful Cotswolds, Karakorum is an ethical home decor brand that focuses on creating social change one fair trade item at a time.

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