Handmade Expressions Giveaway!Living Our Values, Making an Impact Through Fair Trade By Handmade Expressions This Fair Trade Month, Handmade Expressions is happy to share our story with you – as well as our products. To celebrate, through October 31st we’re offering a fair trade prize package to the customer and retailer whose photo of their favorite fair trade item gets the most “Likes” on our Facebook page. (See the contest details here.)
About Handmade Expressions
As a wholesale company that sells unique, inspired products made by artisans in India, we’ve been fully committed to fair trade and sustainability through our values, operations and initiatives since 2006. In fact, we’re proud to be the first fair trade wholesale company to develop an Artisan Assessment Index, an innovative tool that quantifies the social impacts of our artisan partnerships, as well as material scorecards that measure the environmental effects of the materials we use to create our products.
We also invest 10 percent of our annual profits back into the communities we partner with for initiatives such as installing solar lamps in rural villages without electricity, providing educational scholarships, and funding health camps, skills training and environmental campaigns. Now we have a comprehensive report that analyzes the environmental and social impacts we’ve been making.
Living Our Values, Making an Impact highlights several of our projects and actions accomplished in the last year. It was published to educate retailers, consumers and other wholesalers about our product sourcing and labor practices, and how we empower 40 artisan communities and reduce our environmental footprint in India and our headquarters in Austin, TX.
Handmade Expressions saw there was a need for leadership in this area, and our hope is our report inspires other companies to become more sustainable and transparent about their sourcing, labor and social impacts. “This level of transparency is incredibly important for fair trade,” says Michael Skillicorn, who manages Farmer Relations for Deans Beans Organic Coffee. “This is the type of company report we need to understand the impacts [of fair trade].” Jocelyn Boreta, Fair Trade Program Manager for Global Exchange, said Living Our Values, Making an Impact is “a model for us all in being able to share information in a clear and powerful format.”
Central to Handmade Expressions’ mission is empowerment. Most of our artisans have limited economic opportunities and live in rural regions of India, a country where nearly 30 percent of the population lives in poverty. About 75 percent of the artisans we work with are women, which we believe is important since only 39 percent of the population is employed in the formal workforce. We’re able to pay our artisans 17 percent above market wages and the average income for our artisan partners grew 130 percent from 2009 to 2012.
Some of our impacts from fair trade have been even more successful. For instance, the wages of one of our jewelry-making partner communities in New Delhi are 25 percent higher than the market rate. We’ve seen this artisan group grow over the past four years, and thanks to their financial success, they’ve been able to move out of their congested workshop and into a ventilated workspace that has the proper tools and containers to dispose of chemicals from electroplating. Now the women of the group are enrolled in evening classes and the founder’s daughter is the first woman in the community going to university! Because families are earning more and children don’t need to work, we’ve seen fair income translate to better education for the families.
When it comes to production, we are fully committed to being as environmentally sensitive as possible. We strive to lower carbon emissions by reducing our air shipping volume, promote and educate our artisans to use non-toxic resources, and we choose materials that minimize our carbon footprint (such as sustainably sourced Indian Rosewood and packaging products in upcycled saris instead of plastic poly bags). Because water is so scarce in Barmer, a desert region of Western Rajasthan, the block printers who make our popular Eco Shoppers needed to transport excessive volumes of water into their community everyday for production. In addition, the drained wastewater with effluents was being absorbed into the land. With the help of a local lab, Handmade Expressions developed and installed a water filtration system that now conserves 5 million liters of water per year! Having a water filtration system is a huge economic relief for the artisans, and it benefits the community’s health since there’s no longer runoff polluting the surrounding area.
Fair Trade Month is a time to celebrate the positive change fair trade makes on communities around the world. We are a fair trade, socially responsible business because we have a deep respect and love for people and the environment. We hope our actions inspire more people to become engaged citizens and support our mission to do good by choosing to buy fair trade all year long.