We have recently completed our first baseline for the SFTMS (Sustainable Fair Trade Management System) with 8 producer groups in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. The assessments were led by Belen Sanchez, a Masters student from Ecuador who worked with us as an intern for two months over the summer and developed the tools for this work. I gave a presentation to each group about Fair Trade and the work of Pachacuti in South America and took notes throughout the process and Mark Rogers, my husband, did the Eco Mapping and took photographs of the day’s activities.
The assessments took the form of 1-2 day long meetings designed to engage and elicit input from each group‚Äôs administration, employees and/or homeworkers. Each assessment involved:
1. Pre-screening in the UK- analysing market, legal, quality and customer requirements pertinent to each group
2. Fair Trade Principles Analysis‚Äì investigating producers‚Äô understanding of and adherence to Fair Trade princples.
3. Group Structure/Organigram- defining different roles within each group to facilitate communication
4. Employees / Homeworkers Feedback- providing feedback from the workers on how Fair Trade is affecting their lives, covering issues such as Fair Wage, Training, Satisfaction with the quantity of work, Health and Safety and Satisfaction with the management of the group.
5. Production flow chart- analysing the workflow of the organisation with the aim of implementing quality control practices in the production process
6. Eco-mapping- identifying social, environmental and health and safety issues in our producer‚Äôs production processes and premises
7. Working plan- mutually identifying and prioritising actions to be implemented as a result of discussion about the above points which will improve their adherence to fair trade principles and our fair trade business relationship.
I believe that the SFTMS baseline assessment allowed us to gain a greater understanding of our producer groups and provided a basis for effectively communicating and planning our fair trade business relationship. Feedback provided by the groups generally found the SFTMS baseline assessments to be a very rewarding and educational experience for them.
A few common observances were deduced from our SFTMS baseline assessment experience.
1. Provides a structured and objective way of looking at each organisation and their FT business relationship with Pachacuti. This was the first time for many groups to sit down and take a strategic look at their business and how it works.
2. Cleared up confusion, over what is Fair Trade and the FT requirements. Remarkably, after a 7 year trading relationship with Pachacuti, one group still thought Fair Trade was a european company .
3. Helped to identify weaknesses and opportunities for improvement within each organisation and their fair trade relationship with Pachacuti. During the assessments, most organisations appointed new responisibilities to members which will improve their efficiency.
4. Gives a greater voice to the workers. By speaking directly to us without management present, workers were able to give unhindered feedback about the amount they were being paid, their health and safety, skills development and the general conditions of their work. This allows Pachacuti to have real information to assess and develop how our fair trade activities can improve the quality of our producers lives.
5. Immediate positive impacts to the health and safety of our workers. Many workers complained about the dust from raw materials, but didn‚Äôt like wearing their mask while working. We agreed with management that a new policy be implemented making workers wear masks when needed. Pachacuti has also agreed to purchase 2 professional respirators for chemical handling. We have also agreed to pay for eye tests for our embroiderers and look into ways of providing glasses for all 80 members of the embroidery group and will pay for a medical examination for our alpaca knitters who cannot afford to visit the doctor.
6. Gave us greater insight into the importance of the organisations for the participating members. We were told by one embroidery group- ‚ÄúWe are more than a business, we are community and a family.‚Äù Another group of knitters said ‚Äì ‚ÄúThere are no chiefs here- we are all equal parts of the community. ‚Äú
7. Highlighted positive environmental improvements already being made by our groups. We were very pleased to see the water filtering and recycling system of our hat producers and the solar hot water heater of our natural dye knitters. We are also exploring how we might be able fund one group‚Äôs water motor project as part of our carbon offsetting.
8. Strengthen Pachacuti‚Äôs ability to offer assistance to our suppliers. By taking an in-depth look into how our suppliers work, we were able to pass on best business practice.
9. Allows producers to direct how Fair Trade will benefit them the most. By developing an annual action plan with Pachacuti, producers prioritise and commit to activities which will strengthen their organisation.
The trip provided a valuable insight into the work of our producers and we were really pleased with the standards which we saw and the feedback which we received about the difference which our fair trade purchasing makes to the producers and their communities.