In many of the places we visited, it was a stark reality shock. To realise that men, women and children were literally being treated as slaves to produce the shoes, clothing and trinkets that would sell for small fortunes overseas stirred a deep sense of injustice in us - and from then on, we have made it our mission to right those wrongs.
In many cases, these beautiful, warm-hearted people weren’t even being paid enough to survive in squalid conditions.
Some were getting by on a single bowl of rice or some vegetables each day.
When we bought our very first Fair Trade items to sell in the States, the excitement and deep gratitude of that Kashmiri artisan triggered an unshakeable conviction that we were going down a very important path.
The term ‘Fair Trade’ gets thrown around a lot these days - but all too often, the true intent of a Fair Trade business is overlooked. It takes a lot of work to become Fair Trade certified, and rightly so. It’s not just a trendy tag you should be able to stick on your products...
To quote the official Fair Trade website, here is what sets Global Groove Life and other Fair Trade companies apart from the other businesses who have workers in developing countries:
- Fair Trade Federation members offer advance payment to artisans and farmers, allowing them to purchase raw materials without taking out high interest loans.
We do not expect our artisans to go into debt in order to work for us. We are always working towards ensuring that they are financially secure and healthy.
- Fair Trade Federation members form long term relationships with artisans and farmers. If a product doesn’t sell, fair trade buyers won’t simply move onto another supplier. Instead, they work with the same producers to develop new products using their existing skills.
Over the last 17 years, we have created a tight network of artisans, who we are devoted to and determined to empower. We are not interested in abandoning them to chase a lower cost of production or shorter timelines.
- Fair Trade Federation members are committed to the people behind their products. If problems arise, fair trade buyers are actively involved in finding a fair and honest solution.
Things go wrong in every business, but for a tailor or farmer, one small hitch can be disastrous. It’s the basis of our business relationships that we don’t jump to conclusions, and that no matter what is happening, we’ll help our artisans find a workable solution.
- Fair Trade Federation members set realistic timelines and plan their product lines well in advance. Long production times create healthy work environments and reduce the pressure, stress, and overtime that is often imposed on workers in developing countries.
Sometimes we are overtaken by ruthless competitors who are prepared to push their workers to the brink. Sometimes our shipments don’t come in on time because our head artisan had a sick child or their husband was in an accident.
We love their irrepressible spirit, their fierce determination to live meaningful lives, and their refusal to be bowed by circumstance.
Whether it’s gorgeous lotus art, a show-stopping piece of jewelry, or a practical yoga mat bag, these hand-crafted pieces are living artifacts, testament to the drive and creativity of the Global Groove artisans.
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