What does being part of the global Fair Trade movement mean to us?

What does being part of the global Fair Trade movement mean to us?

We’re so excited to have joined the British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTS), which means we’re officially part of the global FairTrade movement!
Our membership of the network has already secured us our first wholesale customers – in Oxford and rural Wales…and we can’t wait to see what other opportunities are in store…
To celebrate this milestone, we wanted to share with you how Khushi Kantha upholds the ten principles of FairTrade.

Source: https://wfto.com/who-we-are#10-principles-of-fair-trade

1. Create Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers

All mothers want the best for their children – and will use every resource they have to offer them the future they deserve.
Motherhood is the most rewarding job in the world – but it’s also the hardest. Every day brings new challenges.
For some, these challenges include being able to meet basic needs, like food, clothing and education.
Creating opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity is at the core of our social enterprise mission – you can learn more about how we go about doing so by checking out our very first Impact Report 

2. Transparency and Accountability

Sharing our supply chain: 
We are committed to sharing our full supply chain, from the artisan cooperative that hand-dyes and hand-weaves fabric we use for the outside layers of our blankets, to the local market we source our needles from (Phulbar Market in Dinajpur, North-West Bangladesh, where our blankets are hand-stitched), the slightly further afield market where we buy the vintage cotton saris we use to make the reusable, handmade cotton bags that our blankets come packaged in (Saidpur Old Cloth Market in Nilphamari district, North-West Bangladesh, which is around 90km from the village in Dinajpur where our blankets are hand-stitched), and the company that is kindly producing our labels for free, as they’re inspired by what we’re trying to do.
Who made my blanket? 
Once the stitching of each Happy Blanket is complete, the mother who made the blanket sews her name into the label, along with the unique number that is given to that particular blanket. Our labels also feature the geo-coordinates of the village where our blankets are made. Our packaging inserts feature the name and story of the individual mother who made the blanket that you have bought or gifted.

Our production process
 Check out our youtube channel for a ‘behind the scenes’ look at our production process – we’re just getting started, so there will be plenty more videos to come! We also share detailed production updates via our monthly newsletter (see this link for a sample newsletter if you’re wondering what you get when you sign up!) and social media accounts.

Financial transparency
 Check out the financial section of our first Impact Report to learn more about how we’ve spent the income we’ve generated so far….and we’re always happy to answer any questions you have….just drop us a line on laura.rana@khushikantha.com.

3. Fair Trade Practices 

We don’t use a ‘middleman’ –
Our founder Laura Rana  collaborating with her sister-in-law Rowsa Hasan (our Head of Production) to partner directly with the mothers who hand-stitch our blankets. 

This means that we can be 100% confident that every Taka (the local currency in Bangladesh) that is promised to the mothers goes into their pockets, and that the reality of their working conditions matches.
Sadly, this is not always the case when partnering with artisan communities on the other side of the world. Having lived in Bangladesh on and off for the last twelve years, Laura is currently based in London, and hasn’t been able to travel to Bangladesh since launching Khushi Kantha. But she wanted to move ahead with setting things up from a distance as soon as she could – the pandemic means that creating opportunities for the mothers we’re partnering with to provide for their children with dignity from the safety of their own homes is more important than ever!

4. Payment of a Fair Price

 We pay the mothers we partner with seven times the local wage rate, and nearly 1.5 times the Living Wage rate, which we have calculated based on the methodology used in this report.
Ultimately, we’re trying to strike a balance between paying as much as we can to help our stitchers 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.

5. No Child Labour or Forced Labour

At this early stage in our journey, we’re working with a very small group of mothers in a single village. We monitor working conditions closely, as detailed in our Impact Report. The mothers we partner with appreciate the flexibility of our working conditions, which mean they can fit their work with us around their other responsibilities. At present, when we’re in production mode, they work around 42 hours a week – but they’ve all stated that they’d like these hours to increase, up to 48-60 hours (the maximum working week as recommended by the Nest Ethical Compliance Standards for Home and Small Workshops).
That’s why our number one priority right now is to build up our customer base, so that we can provide more work to our stitchers! Joining BAFTs is helping us to do this by linking with wholesalers.

6. Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equality and Freedom of Association

Diversity and inclusion is at the core of our mission as a social enterprise: our goal is to enable mothers in Bangladesh to generate sustainable incomes from their own homes, setting their own working hours around their other commitments.
When they first start partnering with us, we ask each of our stitchers what empowerment means to them, and invite them to share their number one dreams for themselves, their families, their children, and their community. Their responses highlight the importance of gender equality, a key aspect of which is being able to contribute to supporting their families financially:

We’re proud to share data on how creating our first collection of Happy Blankets has enabled the mothers we partner with to make valuable contributions to their household income, at a particularly challenging time:

‘Freedom of association’ means that producers can come together to form their own trade union, and collectively bargain for their rights. At present, our stitchers have not taken up this option, and the feedback they have provided on their working conditions is universally positive. However, once we’ve finalised our latest shipment, we’re planning to implement a workshop for our stitchers on this topic, and welcome ideas on how we can go about this effectively.

7. Ensuring Good Working Conditions

In order to understand how our stitchers feel about their working conditions, we ask a series of questions, inspired by the Global Happiness Index for Business. These questions cover both physical and psycho-social aspects – for example, whether they feel comfortable in terms of lighting, temperature and noise levels, and whether they feel respected, proud to work with us, and involved in decision-making. Findings from our first round of data collection have been overwhelmingly positive, as detailed in our Impact Report.

We also collect data using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, an internationally-validated tool covering 14 dimensions of wellbeing, including energy levels, confidence, optimism and ability to deal with problems.
So far we have collected baseline data (covering the month before our stitchers starting working with us), and undertaken a follow-up survey with five stitchers in November 2021 (after they had been working with us for between 1-3 months).
Overall wellbeing scores have increased for three of our stitchers, but unfortunately decreased for the other two.
We followed up to find out why – and learned that one of them was anxious because her husband was unable to find secure work, and the other was struggling because her husband abandoned her and found a new wife, and wasn’t contributing anything
financially towards their son.

This underscores the importance of building up our customer base, so that we can provide reliable incomes to the mothers we are partnering with. Our goal is to switch from being able to pay a piece rate to offering a monthly salary, as soon as feasible. In order to achieve this, we need to be confident of achieving a certain level of revenue each month.

8. Capacity Building

We practice small batch production, and select and train the mothers we partner with very carefully. Rowsa, our Head of Production, provides ongoing capacity building to each stitcher – and as we start to build up our production capacity, we’re excited to be receiving bespoke orders that challenge our team – like making a polar bear blanket for a polar explorer who recently had a baby, and receiving a wholesale order for 1,000 custom size vintage sari bags, to hold fairtrade jewellery.

9. Promoting Fair Trade

We are committed to spreading the word far and wide – this blog serves as just one example of how we communicate our social enterprise mission and journey, and we’re always up for collaboration opportunities!
You can also check out our press page for examples of interviews our founder has undertaken with a range of publications, to explain more about our approach to creating opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity and contributing to the circular economy.

10. Respect for the Environment

Regenerating the ‘kantha’ tradition: 
‘Kantha’ (which translates as “stitched cloth”) refers to the Bengali tradition of repurposing old cotton saris to create ultra-soft, multi-layered blankets, especially for babies. We’re reworking this tradition to meet global hygiene and safety standards, while retaining the principles of reclaim-repurpose-reuse and celebrating Bangladesh’s rich textiles heritage. Learn more here and here.

Sustainable packaging: 
Each of our products comes packaged in its own re-usable cotton bag, hand-stitched from a vintage sari offcut, accompanied by a double-sided packaging inserts, printed on recycled – and recyclable! – card, placed inside an eco-mailer, decorated with a branded stamp, as a more sustainable alternative to branded stickers.

Offsetting our carbon footprint: 
We want to create the lightest possible environmental footprint across our production process and broader supply chain.  That’s why we decided to calculate the carbon footprint for the production of our first collection of Happy Blankets in the most extensive way possible, right down to the production of the rubber we use in our branded stamp – and the ink that accompanies it! Not only will this information help understand how to offset our emissions to achieve carbon neutrality, it will also highlight where we can make further savings, to help us create an action plan to reduce them.  Offsetting the greenhouse gases has made our first collection carbon neutral, but our ultimate aim is to achieve net-zero! Learn more here.

We’d love to know how you engage with the global Fairtrade movement, whether as a consumer or producer – or both!
How do you interpret the ten principles?
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