Social enterprise Handmade Expressions is the first fair trade handcrafts wholesaler to publish a comprehensive sustainability report that analyzes the company’s values, operations and initiatives to affect social and environmental change. Living Our Values, Making an Impact (http://is.gd/HMEimpact) includes several case studies that highlight projects and actions Handmade Expressions, based in Austin, Texas, took in the last year to fulfill its mission as a socially responsible company committed to people, planet and artisan-crafted fair trade products.
“This level of transparency is incredibly important for fair trade,” said Fair Trade Federation Board Director Michael Skillicorn. “Living Our Values, Making an Impact is unique in its depth and breadth – it’s the type of company report that we need as shoppers to really learn where our products are coming from and to understand the impacts of our choices,” said Skillicorn, who also manages Farmer Relations for Deans Beans Organic Coffee.
Key highlights from Handmade Expressions’ report include:
- First company to develop a fair trade Artisan Assessment Index, a sustainability measurement tool that quantifies social impacts among artisan groups.
- Because of Handmade Expressions’ fair trade partnerships, artisans in India receive 17% above market wages.
- From 2009-2012, artisan family income grew an average of 130%.
- 80% of Handmade Expressions artisan partners live in rural India, where poverty is extremely high.
- Women comprise 75% of Handmade Expressions’ artisan partners.
- Reducing air shipping in 2012 lowered carbon emissions by 41% and saved the company $23,000.
- Case studies report on safe working conditions, water conservation, business development assistance, education and community projects.
“We searched for reports from other small- and mid-size fair trade companies,” said Handmade Expressions Sustainability Manager Alison Hanson. But the wholesaler couldn’t find examples that went deeper than a page or two on a website or infographics.
“We saw there was a need for leadership in this area, and I am proud of what our small team of passionate individuals in Austin and India have been able to accomplish,” said Founder Manish Gupta, who started the company in 2005. “Our hope is this report inspires other SMEs to become more sustainable and transparent about their product sourcing, labor, and environmental and social impacts,” he said.