Developing a comprehensive Ethical Policy has been on my to-do list for a while!
I’ve finally had the time and headspace to draft one.
It’s really important to me that our Ethical Policy is a ‘living document’, which reflects where we’re currently at, and where we’re aiming to get to, and clearly explains what we mean when we say our Happy Blankets are ‘sustainable, and ‘ethically made’, and that ‘transparency is important to us.’
They are written into our Articles of Association as a Company Interest Company (a special form of business registration in the UK, designed for social enterprises), and they drive every decision we make.
- We’ve conducted the most rigorous product safety and hygiene testing we could, from the very beginning – despite being advised multiple times that this ‘just wasn’t realistic’, given where we were at and what we were trying to do. In fact, that’s where nearly 50% of our start-up funding went!
- We’ve tried to avoid raising expectations among the mothers we’re partnering with that we wouldn’t be able to meet – and ending up with a large inventory that would go unused – if no-one actually wants to buy our Happy Blankets. We’ve invested lots of time and energy in testing the market before we got started on our first collection, by generating pre-orders, including through a successful crowdfunding campaign!
I’m currently looking into the feasibility of getting certified against external standards like the Fairtrade Textiles Standard, the SA8000 social accountability standard and the Nest Seal for Ethical Handcraft. But I know that these processes can be quite complicated and expensive – and I’m also conscious that our operating model is very much evolving at this stage in our journey, as we’re learning so much on a daily basis as we create our first collection of Happy Blankets!
So far, we’re proud to benefit from free membership of the Nest Artisan Guild, Weave a Real Peace, Social Enterprise UK, the British Association of Faitrade Shops and Suppliers and Good Market, and I really value everything I’m learning through our interactions with these communities.
Our Ethical Policy covers the following issues:
Beyond a Living Wage
“Ultimately, we’re trying to strike a balance between paying as much as we can to help the mothers we partner with to build better futures for their children – but not offer such high wages that we are creating all sorts of problems within the community where our partners live, especially given that we can only offer opportunities to a small number of mothers as we start out.”
This section of our Ethical Policy explains how we’ve calculated the rates we’re paying the mothers we’re partnering with, and how they compare with both local wage rates and what is known as the ‘Living Wage’. It also outlines what we’re currently able to offer in terms of a positive working environment, and how we’re ultimately hoping to go ‘beyond a living wage’, by focusing on predictability of income, offering a range of additional benefits, and ‘going beyond the individual’ to invest in strengthening the fabric of the communities where the women live.
Our children will inherit the Earth – let’s pass it down to them in the best state possible
The environmental section of the Policy explains how we’re reclaiming, repurposing and re-using fabric, and everything else we are doing to ensure that every aspect of our production process is as gentle to Mother Earth as possible – from partnering with a handloom fabric supplier who hand hand-dyes the fabric using Oeko-Tek certified dyes, to minimising cutting waste.
We’d love for our production process to be 100% circular – but that’s not feasible, not least due to the hygiene and safety standards we need to meet to ensure our Happy Blankets are safe for little ones.
We also explain the dilemma we’ve faced in terms of whether or not to offer personalised blankets – which, on the surface, seem like the antithesis of sustainability – and highlight how the multi-purpose nature of our blankets means that you can ‘buy less and buy better.’
Who made my blanket?
The Transparency section of our Ethical Policy outlines how we are trying to trace – and share – our full production process and supply chain.
It also explains the benefits of partnering directly with our stitchers – mother to mother – rather than going through a ‘middle man’, and demonstrates how our labels and packaging reflect our commitment to transparency.
“I’d ultimately love to be able to break a full breakdown of exactly where the money our customers pay for each Happy Blanket goes – but as we’re still figuring out how the assumptions in our financial model translate into reality, we’re not quite there yet!”
We also give an overview of where we’re currently at – and where we’re heading – with respect to financial transparency.
Health and Safety
“It’s more important than ever right now for mothers in Bangladesh to have opportunities to generate sustainable incomes from the safety of their own homes!”
The Health and Safety section of our Ethical Policy covers both customer safety and worker safety. It details the rigorous safety and hygiene testing process our Happy Blankets are subjected to and explains everything we are doing to keep our stitchers safe.
Measuring our Impact
I have fourteen years of experience supporting organisations all over the world to understand, measure and communicate their impacts. From Malawi to Mongolia, and Serbia to Sri Lanka, I’ve worked with ‘big name’ charities helping hundreds of thousands of people affected by major humanitarian emergencies, like Save the Children and the British Red Cross – and small organisations doing brilliant things in local communities.
I’m excited everything I’ve learned to develop a comprehensive and robust approach to measuring Khushi Kantha’s social and environmental impacts, which focuses on what is most important to the mothers we’re partnering with.
For example, we’re aiming to develop a multi-dimensional Happiness Index – and draw on approaches and tools like the Most Significant Change approach, the Global Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index, and the Gross National Happiness of Business framework.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion is at the core of our mission as a social enterprise.
As you may have gathered, we’re very early in our journey – we’re starting out by partnering with just six mothers to create our first collection of Happy Blankets, all of whom already have strong stitching skills.
We’d ultimately love to be able to create opportunities for any mothers who’d like to get involved with what we’re trying to do, whatever their backgrounds and abilities…but first we need to build up the customer base that will allow us to do this in a sustainable way.
As you’ll probably know if you’ve been following our monthly newsletters and social media updates:
- Each Happy Blanket comes packaged in its own re-usable cotton bag, hand-stitched from a vintage sari.
- We’re in the process of designing our double-sided packaging inserts, which will be printed on recycled – and recyclable! – card.
- We’re currently figuring out what type of recyclable envelopes/mailers we’ll be using to deliver our blankets to our lovely customers, and we’re planning to use a branded stamp rather than stickers, which don’t seem the most sustainable option, even if they’re recyclable/compostable!
Have you come across any Ethical or Sustainability Policies that really resonated with you?
What was it about them that stood out?