This post was sponsored by GlobeIn, all thoughts my own.
Call me an optimist, but with the dawn of a new decade I feel like a new future is possible, even if the demand still seems small right now.
It’s true that fast fashion is still running rampant, as is overconsumption and exploitation. But there are also glimmers of hope. Conscious consumption is growing: the global artisan market was forecasted to grow by 12% between 2015 and 2019 while clothing sales in the UK reportedly dropped this past Autumn, in part due to heightened awareness of the environmental and social cost of fast fashion, and 2019 saw Forever 21 file for bankruptcy.
This is not to say that everything is perfect now, in fact far from it. We definitely have a long way to go, but surely we are improving in some ways too. In an emerging cultural landscape inspired by The Minimalists, Marie Kondo and mending our items again, we can turn the tide away from mountains of materialism and towards a deeper sense of contentment. Amongst that change, it’s the perfect time for the Fair Trade and artisan-made model to take its rightful place at the front of the movement.
I spoke to Liza Moiseeva, GlobeIn co-founder, to talk about the future of Fair Trade.
Creating a conscious alternative
Originally coming to the USA from Moscow to become a professional swimmer, Moiseeva’s life changed after studying international studies at Old Dominion University and discovering a range of nonprofits and grassroots programmes creating real change.
I began working with The SEEP Network in Washington D.C., a global network of microfinance organizations. Landing this position was a huge turning point in my life because it’s where I was first introduced to the concept of social business, which is based on the idea that all businesses can and should exist not only for the purpose of making money, but also for the purpose of solving any given social problem, such as poverty. I strongly believed that social business had the most potential for solving issues in the world.
The idea for GlobeIn itself, a model designed to support artisans instead of exploiting workers, was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus (the father of microfinance), as well as successful social business initiatives.
We were inspired by Kiva Microloans, where anyone can support small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world. Many of these entrepreneurs, we realised, are artisans. But while we as individual micro-investors could help them start their business, they still needed a platform to take them to the next level. We decided to build this platform.
Also, during our own travels we saw talented artisans sharing their work at local bazaars and open-air markets. We noticed that despite their talents and how beautiful their product was, they were barely able to support themselves: local markets can be a very limiting space, as there are only so many tourists you can sell product to. In many cases, artisans don’t live in large cities, but in very remote villages. For them to sell their goods, they have to travel two, three, even eight hours, or use middlemen who take a large percentage of their sales.
Nowadays, GlobeIn’s carefully curated monthly subscription boxes are filled with ethical and sustainable items that have been handcrafted by artisans around the world. Artisans receive fair wages, investment and exposure to larger global markets, while consumers are able to find and support conscious and fair practices, and find useful items with deeper meaning. Their items cover homeware (everything from soft furnishings to kitchen essentials!), fashion, beauty and food and drink, making it increasingly easy to source a conscious alternative for everyday staples and gifts alike.
Ensuring sustainable supply chains
Since day one GlobeIn has operated differently. With the nine Fair Trade principles at the heart of their operations, they have shown that sustainable supply chains are achievable if brands are willing to put the work in. They ensure supply chains meet their standards by looking for certifications such as the Fair Trade Federation, while also bearing in mind that some sustainable and transparent brands may operate ethically, but not be certified. They gather in-depth information from their partner organisations to ensure factors such as ethical production, conscious and recycled materials, and showcasing specific artisans who have made each item. Their artisan boxes tell the stories behind their products, including who made them and where, leading to long-lasting relationships and true transparency.
Our objective is always to build a long-term relationship. For example, we have been working with our weavers in Oaxaca, Mexico for over 3 years now. With each year our partnership grows: not only are we able to provide continuous employment to 40 artisans (we started with 2) but also, we are constantly working on quality control and new product development so that we can grow our businesses together.
Each Artisan Box is like a puzzle: all the products have to perfectly fit the theme, the feel, even the color scheme. We are very intentional with what types of products we choose: they have to be both practical, yet unique, sustainably made but still appealing.
The rise of Fair Trade
Running an ethical brand comes with rewards and challenges, as owners must compete with traditional models and unethical practices. At the same time, Fair Trade brands also see more impact and find more fulfilment through the work they do.
Running an ethical brand means that you should be comfortable with slower revenue growth and playing the “long game”; consumers at large are just starting to put their money behind their values. GlobeIn has been at it for over six years now, but when you meet the artisans in person it makes it all worth it.
Our primary impact is made through the fair wages that we pay artisans for their products, which usually translates to a better standard of living for the artisans and their families. More often than not, however, our impact goes beyond the fair wage. For example, our order for the upcycled totes from Ghana has helped recycle 365,000 plastic water sachets from the streets of Accra.
All in all, we want our products to be ethical inside and out. GlobeIn is committed to investing not only in high-quality handmade products, but also in initiatives such as helping send children to school in Kenya or sponsoring a healthcare workshop in India. And we are very grateful to our partner organizations and our customers who are there to support us!
In the years since GlobeIn began, Moiseeva has also seen the shifts in attitude towards more sustainable consumption.
People are much more conscious of why, how, what, and how much they consume.
Fair Trade is not easy. While I definitely see consumers’ strong demand for more transparency and sustainability, I also see how truly difficult “doing things right” can be from an operational and financial standpoint. Fair Trade and ethical consumption niches are definitely growing and slowly becoming mainstream, although I do think it will take a good 5-10 years before they truly become mainstream.
In 10-15 years, impact investing will be mainstream, the same as conscious consumerism. Right now, we are hearing from a small but vocal group of consumers demanding more sustainability and the brands are responding. There has been a huge spike of brands who achieved success through their social mission, it’s only a matter of time that traditional investors start responding to this trend, start investing into social businesses like GlobeIn, slowly morphing into impact investors.
The future of GlobeIn
While already six years old and going strong, GlobeIn is still only just getting started. While they remain committed to being as ethical and transparent as possible every day, including printing GlobeIn magazine which details the company’s production processes and impact report, Moiseeva also believes GlobeIn has huge potential to lead the way in a conscious, Kondo-inspired world.
I firmly believe that we are fighting poverty through Fair Trade and need to redefine capitalism. Knowing where your items come from, the people that made your things, and the environmental impact you have with your purchases are crucial in changing the narrative of consumerism. While GlobeIn does want customers, it is far more important to think about your purchase and if you really need the item. I envision customers creating homes with beautiful and ethical products, with GlobeIn being a “one-stop-shop” for all things ethical and Fair Trade!
As the demand continues to grow for products with principle and without the high environmental and social cost, I think it’s important to look to brands who have longevity and experience in doing things differently. GlobeIn is undoubtedly one of these, working with ethical values before it was trendy, simply because it was the right thing to do. As we continue to advocate for conscious consumption and reforming our capitalist systems, it’s time for Fair Trade and sustainable principles to be at the forefront of the conversation.
That, to me, is a future worth fighting for.