Although I would have liked to have gotten our new website launched by now, I’m glad for this one and only reason that it’s not ready: I can share this rather unusual happening here.
We connect with producers through 50+ Fair Trade companies currently. Although ordering from each is different, we order specific products in specific quantities so weren’t not usually surprised when we open boxes. Sometimes colors or sizing are different from what we expect, but we know who made the products and have an idea of what they will be like.
The Wednesday before last, Carri messaged me and was excited about some of the new jewelry that had arrived. She was surprised that there were some things made by a different company included. I went into panic mode.
You see, one of the companies that I have loved buying from for years, and have repeatedly spoken of as an exemplar for how Fair Trade can function beautifully, made a move months ago to join with a company that is not a part of the Fair Trade movement. They, however, are continuing on with their own producer group and were welcomed into the World Fair Trade Organization that has slightly different criteria than our North American Fair Trade Federation. The company’s representative and I visited on the phone and through email and I felt comfortable continuing to buy from them. They have done and continue to do a great job with their producers! There was no reason to worry.
When Carri said that there were products from the new parent company in our box of Fair Trade, I started freaking out. I scrambled to a computer to see if I had missed something on the company’s website and had just ordered poorly. Nope. Nothing noted what products were made by the other company. Then I started searching for the indication that they are still a part of the Fair Trade movement and realized that they are not.
Did I mention that we LOVE the products from these makers?
I called again and now have learned that the new parent company’s jewelry is going to be sold on the same site as our beloved group’s jewelry. Those pieces are made in a factory in Thailand that is ran by “a really good guy” and he even has child care available on their premises...
Now, I’m not doubting that this chap is a really good guy. The parent company has excellent charitable practices so I hope they are good to their producing partners. But I’m cynical. This man lives in a developing country. Business is hard enough in a stable country! What if he gets in a bad spot? When people become desperate, they do things they might not normally do. His group is not a part of a Fair Trade system and what it boils down to is that I trust systems. I want a reputable system in place just in case something happens and a business chooses to not follow the best labor practices.
We at Connected are ONLY retailers to ensure that people who are marginalized for whatever reasons have a way out of poverty. We want to provide an ongoing market so that they can have as much stability and upward movement as possible. We don’t want to have shelves with pretty jewelry that we can’t say with as much certainty as absolutely possible that the producers were paid well, treated well and have an ongoing way to keep selling their goods in this model. Fair Trade is what we are all about. If this wasn’t the case, I’d just be substitute preaching and our house would likely be a lot cleaner.
So, eleven days after that initial message from Carri, Dane and I are currently flying into the heart of Mexico. We will land in twenty minutes, take a public bus down to Taxco to try to develop our own connection with a family group who can make classic styles of beautiful silver jewelry. We won’t have all the fun designs anymore probably, but that’s a loss I’m willing to accept if it means we can be confident about the labor behind the jewelry.
We could definitely fail! I’m not an importer. I’m just a retailer, so this might not work. We’re willing to give it a shot though. And, I’m delighted to have five days with my husband. We’re feeling quite privileged to spontaneously go on this adventure.
We’ll have internet access while we are in Taxco, we’re told. It may or may not be functional all the time. ;) If we are able, we’ll post through our social media sites while we are away. Perhaps we can take this journey together! I hope so. I also hope you have a good week wherever you are, friends! Thanks for reading this wordy post!!
**Special thanks to my Mom & Dad for allowing our boys to stay with them, my sister who is lending a hand, and Kyle with Sara Blackburn who is nannying for us when the boys go back to school.