Sustainability is a buzzword these days and with all the greenwashing it’s hard to know exactly what role it really plays or what it means when a company proclaims to be sustainable or eco-friendly. When Le Tattva was first just a dream, it was central to Co-Founders Neha and Priscille that we partner only artisan partners that are Fair Trade certified, working towards a Fair-Trade certification, or entirely aligned with the principles of Fair Trade.
By nature, Fair Trade is sustainable trade. Sustainability is defined as something that is “using methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources” and being “able to last or continue for a long time.” When we speak of sustainability, we speak about it not only as care for the environment, but care for the people behind the products. As one of the 10 principles of fair trade, sustainability in relation to fair trade, means a commitment to locally sourced and upcycled materials, helping artisans create sustainable income solutions through fair wages, and create multi-generational wealth for themselves and their communities. It goes beyond the environment to help keep traditions alive and ensure artisans are cared for far into the future.
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a trading partnership founded on trust, transparency and dialogue seeking equitable international trade. It is a vehicle to supporting and respecting workers rights and the environment. Fair Trade partnerships are designed to help producers in developing countries to receive fair, living wages, clean safe work environments, as well as improved social and environmental standards. While Fair Trade goods are most known in connection to food products such as coffee, chocolate, and tea, the business model extends to artisans around the world. Fair Trade certified ateliers exist worldwide and help artisans to continue to create beautiful home and lifestyle products using centuries old techniques—it is not a charity but a new way of doing business that is human focused.
What role does sustainability play in Fair Trade?
By increasing the standard of living for our artisans, we can help create a safety net for them and their communities in the face of fluctuating markets. By buying fairly traded, one is helping to pull artisans out of poverty and ensuring they can extend that help to their families and communities. Fair Trade businesses forge strong bonds with the artisans they work with. Most partnerships last for decades helping to keep the artisans focused on what is most important—their craft. Furthermore, under Fair Trade standards, artisans are paid a salary, something uncommon worldwide. In serious instances, such as the Covid pandemic or times of natural disaster, artisans are continued to be paid even when they are unable to work. Workers are guaranteed access to healthcare, education and safe working conditions helping to keep artisans healthy and employed for years to come.
Fair trade standards require that certified ateliers comply with increased environmental regulations to help combat climate change and allow for the continued existence of raw materials and production. This includes helping artisan ateliers develop methods of working that are gentle on the earth, source local materials, and create products that use up-cycled or recycled materials in their design. Fair Trade certified ateliers and those committed to upholding fair trade principles are increasingly switching to renewable energy sources, investing in organic materials and processes and recycling or minimizing waste. For example, our artisan partners in Agra, India collect all the waste from cutting and grinding marble and give it to others in the community at no cost for construction purposes on their empty plots of land. Everything gets used for the good of all, nothing is wasted.
Keeping Traditions Alive
Buying Fair Trade also means protecting tradition and skills passed down for generations. Through a commitment to pay living wages, Fair Trade certified ateliers ensure that skilled artisans can continue to create—and thrive. A focus on handmade products that use traditional methods of creation helps keep knowledge alive and attention to craft central to production. In India, the ancient art-form of block printing is quickly getting replaced by machine printing that replicates these designs. Our Fair Trade certified ateliers, and others around India, work with artisans to ensure that this beautiful craft continues to exist and be passed down to future generations.
Sustainable Design in the context of Fair Trade, builds on more than just environmental sustainability. In addition to caring for the environment, it is a commitment to upholding and uplifting the people, traditions and knowledge behind the beautiful handmade products that come from our artisans hands, into your home.
Our artisans take great care to create pieces that source materials sustainably. Many of our products use recycled materials that have been repurposed to create beautiful new designs for the home. Below, we highlight a few of our favorites that beautify your space and are extra gentle on the environment.