We often hear talk about Fair Trade but what does it actually mean in practice? We’d like to introduce you to some of the guiding principles that we follow in our Fair Trade business.
Our business ‘Paper High’ was born from a love of traveling. We have traveled far and wide but it’s Asia that we have taken to our hearts and since 2001 we have specialised in selling paper products, leather goods and gifts from that region.
From the start, we were determined that we would keep our business strictly Fair Trade and all the products we sell in our store are handmade using locally sourced sustainable and recycled materials wherever possible. Where our products come from and how they are made are very important to us.
We work to the definitions of Fair Trade set out by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). To meet these we work only with small family businesses, community incentives, and charities. We find that people really love the idea of buying products that are handmade by skilled artisans using sustainable or materials. To truly call our business Fair Trade we do our very best to always work to the following principals:
- We will only buy products from established fair trade producers and small family run workshops.
- When looking for new producers we always look for existing co-operatives, NGO’s, groups working within community initiatives, charities, and marginalised workers.
- We are committed to the empowerment of local communities and this sometimes means paying a premium on the products we buy.
- We look to establish long-term relationships with our producers so the supplier and we can plan for the future.
- It is crucial to us that producers must be completely transparent in terms of commercial operations and we inspect each new potential trade partner. We need to be sure that their fair trade guidelines match our own.
- We aim that the producers should receive an income that improves their standard of living. At the very minimum, it will be the rate set out by their co-operative or a fair rate based on the cost of the materials and time involved in the production of the goods.
- We always pay at least 50% upfront for all orders placed by us to our producers and make sure we pay the balance as soon as the money is available to us.
- All artisans will receive equal payment from us regardless of caste, race or gender.
- Wherever possible we will use local traditionally made materials. This helps to both reduce our carbon footprint and keep work within the local community.
- It is important for us to visit our suppliers at least once a year to give feedback and to discuss any quality and distribution problems we may have encountered.
- We work closely with producers on the development of new products that will help our relationship with them to continue and grow. In doing so we take care to respect the traditional designs and techniques and value input from them.
By working in this way we have developed close and mutually beneficial relationships with our producers. We love and respect the people we work with and have got to know them and their families well over the years and consider them true friends. It is always a joy to visit them and catch up on all the news.
We realise that different people and businesses have different ideas as to what constitutes true Fair Trade. This article is intended to give a little insight into our company and our own principles when it comes to sustainable and Fair Trade. We’d love to hear more from other organisations as to how we may improve on what we are already doing.