Karma Gear & Fair Trade
We often get asked what ‘Fairly Traded’ means. In a nutshell, we believe that Fair trade means reducing poverty through trade. It means paying a fair price to impoverished producers and supporting poor communities in developing countries to improve their circumstances. Furthermore, we believe that Fair trade means nothing unless we are both socially and environmentally responsible, as impoverished communities often bear the brunt of environmental problems and suffer from marginalization and discrimination.
The Ten Principles of Fair Trade and Us
The Ten Principles of Fair Trade provide the benchmark for fair trade practices. We have listed these below with an explanation of how we are upholding each principle. We are always working to improve and view fair trade as an ongoing project.
Principle 1 Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
The organisation aims for poverty reduction through trade, by supporting marginalised small producers, enabling them to move towards economic self-sufficiency.
We aim for our business to be beneficial to the economy and people of Nepal. We deliberately choose products on the basis that we are consequently supporting disadvantaged people. We ensure our suppliers provide reliable and fruitful employment to their workers, and by purchasing we allow our suppliers’ businesses to grow and prosper. We favour small family run businesses and village/community co-operatives where possible. Many of our suppliers provide flexible employment to women in small rural villages where there is little opportunity for them to earn money. Learning a craft and producing items can supplement a family’s income and allow their children to stay in education, and further improve their circumstances.
We also try to utilise Nepali made materials and encourage a small local supply chain so that the community can grow together.
Principle 2 Transparency and Accountability
The organisation is transparent & accountable to all its stakeholders & respects confidentiality. The organisation involves workers in its decision-making processes & maintains good, open communication channels at all levels.
We meet with all our suppliers in person before each large order that we make. We discuss what is possible and how the products are to be made. This is a collaborative process where we take on board their thoughts and preferences as to product manufacture, materials used and the time span required for completion.
Once we have decided on an order an invoice is generated straight away. We also agree on a provisional time plan for the work. We then agree on an advance to be paid to the supplier to ensure that they can buy their materials and pay their employees. This provides security for our suppliers. We try to always work in a collaborative way with the view that what is good for one of us is good for all.
We are transparent with our customers too, and are always happy to answer any questions about our products and where they are made.
Principle 3 Fair Trading Practices
The organisation does not maximise profit at the producers expense, consults before cancelling orders (compensating for work already done), fosters long term relationships, seeks to increase volume of trade, works cooperatively with other Fair Trade Organisations, avoids unfair competition/copying designs without permission.
We create long-term relationships with our suppliers and have been working with some of them since starting our business. We want their businesses/trade to be successful and to be good for themselves and their communities, and we work with them as best we can to achieve that.
We always pay the price asked and do not haggle it down. Additionally, we try to design and buy unique products so that we are not in direct competition with others, nor flooding the market with the same products. This way we try to foster growth and diversify our offering, rather than a race to the bottom.
We have so far never cancelled an order. We allow suppliers to make up for shortfalls – due to fabric, time or staff shortages or other problems – with other items, often without notice. This flexibility on our part allows for the unexpected and fosters a trusting relationship between us and our suppliers.
In the case of faulty or incorrect items we will inform our suppliers of the problems, documenting any faults, but we do not return items to them or request refunds, and absorb that loss ourselves. We will then keep an example of the fault and when we next meet with the suppliers to try to resolve the problem and prevent it happening again. For our customers we have a no-fuss return policy whereby they can return any item to us for a full refund or exchange, whether purchased online or at a festival. We strive to provide excellent customer service and always want our customers to leave us happy!
Principle 4 Payment of a Fair Price
The organisation pays a fair price which provides socially acceptable remuneration (in the local context), which has been mutually agreed by all, is considered by the producers to be fair and can be sustained by the market. The organisation pays equal pay for equal work & where Fair Trade pricing structures exist, these are a minimum.
We always pay the price asked by our suppliers/producers. If an item is proved to be too expensive for us to sell then we switch to alternative products which we believe we can both profit from, rather than attempting to reduce the price we pay to the producers. We work with our suppliers to reduce costs in alternative ways, such as switching to a different less costly material or a simpler design.
We usually pay an advance to our suppliers prior to commencement of manufacture, and then the balance is paid upon completion. We prioritize paying our suppliers over other costs incurred by our business.
We always ask to see evidence of fair payment of any employees that our suppliers have. We also speak to workers where possible to make sure that they are happy. Most of our suppliers have the same employees for many years, and we have a positive working relationship with all their staff.
Principle 5 Ensuring No Child Labour or Forced Labour
The organisation uses no forced labour and ensures that producers comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national/local law on child employment. Any child involvement is always disclosed and monitored and does not adversely affect the children’s well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play
It is against the law in Nepal for any child to be employed in a factory (Nepali Constitution, Part 3. Fundamental Rights, Art 39 Rights of the Child) None of our suppliers employ children in their factories, all their workers are over 18. We have never come across any children or any evidence of children working for any of our suppliers, nor have we ever come across evidence of forced labour. We often speak to workers in the factories, inspecting our suppliers premises and factories at least annually. Our local Nepali shipping agent also keeps an eye on our suppliers and would flag any concerns they had regarding child or forced labour.
For our activities in the UK, we have never employed anyone under the age of 18. Any employees of ours will be over 18, will be paid at least the living wage and will have a contract, fulfilling all our obligations under UK employment law.
Principle 6 Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equality, Freedom of Association
Fair Trade does not discriminate in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, HIV/Aids status or age.
As far as we know none of our suppliers discriminate in their employment practices. It is against the law in Nepal to discriminate on any of the grounds above (Constitution of Nepal, Part 3 Fundamental Rights) The employees of our suppliers are diverse.
Women with young children are supported to return to work after maternity leave, some of our suppliers provide a rudimentary ‘day care’ facility on site, where children can play supervised in a courtyard/garden on site. We have seen some women with babes in arms working to do light tasks such as packing or hanging cloths to dry. Breast feeding is normal and acceptable in the workplace in Nepal.
Religious discrimination is, for the most part, rare in Nepal and our suppliers have employees from many different religions. A diverse variety of castes are also represented.
The political situation in Nepal has been volatile for many years, particularly with the civil war that has only recently ended. Although emotions can run high with politics, we have not seen any discrimination with regards to political affiliation – on the contrary we were present in Nepal during the recent 2017 elections and all our suppliers allowed employees at least one day off to participate in voting, most had more days to return to remote villages to vote regardless of political position or affiliation.
We have an ‘Ethical and Environmental Policy’ where we outline our commitment to non-discrimination. We always work hard to make our stall accessible to all people, including making sure aisles are wide enough for wheelchair uses, good lighting, clear signage that can be read by those with visual impairment et cetera. We are also always on hand to assist our customers and do so with care and consideration. One of the partners has attended a disability awareness workshop to improve awareness and make sure that all our customers are supported.
Principle 7 Ensuring Good Working Conditions
The organisation provides a safe and healthy working environment, including working hours & conditions, for workers, including homeworkers, complying, at a minimum, with national & local laws and ILO conventions on health and safety. The organisation ensures there is an ongoing process to improve health & safety in producer groups.
Before we purchase from any supplier we always inspect the working standards in their factories/production areas. We also talk to any employees to ensure their fair treatment and working hours.
We have a number of health and safety policies and documents in place. We also attend event specific H&S briefings, workshops and training.
Principle 8 Providing Capacity Building
The organisation develops specific activities to improve its workers’ management skills, production capabilities and access to markets. Organisations which buy through intermediaries, in the South, assist these organisations to develop their capacity to support the marginalised producer groups that they work with.
We support our suppliers to grow their skills and businesses as much as possible. We work collaboratively with all our suppliers to design, improve and develop products and processes. We take on board feedback from our customers and pass it on to suppliers where appropriate.
We also research new fabrics, construction techniques, fashion changes, manufacturing processes etc to enable us to pass this knowledge on to our suppliers so that they can adapt and utilise new processes and materials.
Principle 9 Promoting Fair Trade
The organisation promotes Fair Trade and greater justice in world trade, by providing information about Fair Trade, itself & its producers for its customers, by being involved with its local Fairtrade group, by attending & hosting Fair Trade events, by following and cross promoting other BAFTS members, the Fairtrade Foundation & the WFTO on social media, by celebrating Fairtrade Fortnight &/or World Fair Trade Day and by making sure its staff & producers are trained to understand the impact of Fair Trade.
We always promote fair trade and are open and honest with our customers, always happy to talk about our production chain and where and how our products are made. We believe in transparency. We favour events that are openly supportive of fair trade and favour fair trade businesses over others. Most of the festivals that we work with actively promote fair trade.
Principle 10 Protecting the Environment
The organisation prioritises products & processes which have the least overall impact on the environment, by using sustainably managed, locally sourced, organic/low pesticide raw materials, low/renewable energy processes, minimum impact waste streams, sea transport & recycled/easily biodegradable packaging, where possible.
We and our suppliers use natural, sustainable and recycled materials, and use traditional techniques, as much as possible, to minimise environmental impact and protect local artisan skills, knowledge and culture. We ensure our practices are ethical, sustainable and advantageous to the economy, environment and people of Nepal.
We are always looking for new products, materials and methods that improve our environmental impact. Furthermore, we are always researching new fibres and processes to further reduce our environmental impact. We also use biodegradable environmentally friendly dyes, trimmings and packaging where possible.
We trade at a select few UK festivals during the summer that we feel share our ethics. We minimise our environmental impact whilst at festivals as much as possible. We are entirely Solar Powered whilst on site, as are many of our suppliers in Nepal. Additionally, we use only a single vehicle and only trade at festivals that are within reasonable distances to our base, minimizing our fuel usage. We use recyclable and reusable packaging and storage solutions for all our products. We do not give out plastic bags; instead our customers are able to purchase a reusable recycled natural rice bag for a nominal fee. Furthermore, we give receipts in electronic format, (via text or email) eliminating the need for paper receipts and therefore reducing waste and carbon footprint.
You can find out more about Fair trade by following the links below
British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers https://bafts.org.uk/
World Fair Trade Organisation – https://wfto.com/