Most of us can usually come up with a few dollars for lunch or even stepping out. We take it for granted that loose change can always be found. Of course, there are exceptions even in this country. There are way too many people living on the margins in the United States.
In the global south, this is not the exception but quite often the rule. Money is a scarce commodity to be used for essential things like food and shelter. Buying a sandwich for lunch is a luxury. Stepping out is unheard of.
Revy learned very early with our fair trade business the importance of this. We always asked our artisans to keep a sample so that they could make the same product when we re-ordered. Fat chance. The sample was made, and then sold in a local market. We now have to supply photos with our orders and in some instances send a sample from our inventory.
Naturally, if an artisan can’t afford to keep a sample in inventory, they certainly can’t afford to buy raw material for an order. This is one reason that members of the Fair Trade Federation like ourselves send a 50% deposit with each order. It is a great income generator for PNC Bank with these extra wire transfers, but it’s the only way to do business according to the principles to which we subscribe.
In some instances, we supply the raw material ourselves. Earring wires must be stainless steel with an absolute minimum of nickel content and we supply them. In this case, the artisan has zero material costs since the earring itself is usually made from a seed or gourd. Regardless, we still advance 50% to them.
In other instances, the material cost is minimal. Our line of accessories from recycled inner-tubes uses scrap as the main component. Only a small amount is needed for linings, zippers, etc. Again, we advance 50%.
There is an added bonus to this since our payments for most products are mainly compensation for labor. This has a much greater impact than when the artisan needs to acquire material. The balance is always paid upon shipment.
Compare this with the “free trade” model where the artisan must wait until the product is shipped to get paid. Sometimes, payment can be months or never at all. This is what we mean by “fair.”
Ron and Mary Ober
Revy Fair Trade
The Obers are the founders and owners of Revy Fair Trade, a Cleveland based fair trade wholesale business that imports from fair trade cooperatives in El Salvador. Revy means revitalization. Their emphasis is both on recycling and natural materials. The product line consists of: Jewelry created from clay, bamboo, coconut shells and a variety of seeds.
Handbags dyed with indigo, teak, tree moss and other organic materials.
Recycled materials including plastic bags, glass, used tires and leather scraps.
Check them out at revydirect.com