Posts tagged ‘vipa’
A bit of background: the Fair Trade Foundation is the UK arm of FLO-CERT. Here’s how FLO-CERT describes itself; “FLO-CERT GmbH is an independent International Certification company offering Fairtrade Certification services to clients in more than 70 countries. We assist in the socio-economic Development of producers in the Global South and help to foster long-term relationships and good practice with traders of Certified Fairtrade products. Our Certification provides a guarantee to consumers of Certified Fairtrade products that they are contributing to the Social-Economic Development of people through their purchases.”
What does that all mean? Well essentially, FLO-CERT and its country-based partners like the Fair Trade Foundation in the UK and Fair Trade USA (formerly TransFair USA) are responsible for all the certified fair trade products that we see on the shelves with logos like these….
So typically, when there is a groundswell to certify a new commodity or product, an application for certification will be made to FLO-CERT or one of its partners. They will certify that fair trade standards are being met at the producer group itself and in how the product is brought to market.
The jewellery market (gold and diamonds in particular) have been under the scrutiny of socially responsible organizations and conscious consumers for some time now. Efforts have been made at times to clean up the act of a pretty much unregulated industry; blood-free diamonds is one example. Real progress was made this year when the Fair Trade Foundation and the Alliance for Responsible Mining announced a joint initiative – Fair Trade Fair Mined Gold. Unlike other certifications, FLO-CERT had felt the need to incorporate a partner with industry-specific experience – hence the involvement of ARM.
Here’s a little about ARM: “The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) is an independent, global-scale, pioneering initiative established in 2004 to enhance equity and wellbeing in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities through improved social, environmental and labour practices, good governance and the implementation of ecosystem restoration practices. ARM is committed to social justice and environmental responsibility as the values driving the transformation of ASM.” In practice, ARM works very closely with the mining communities to organize themselves, to improve their working practices and to use their mining revenues to improve their collective well being.
It was great today to hear how these groups have worked together (and continue to do so) to enable artisan mining communities to transform their standard of life. As we have found in other areas of fair trade, the struggle is huge, and the learning curve that these communities go through is enormous. What is so uplifting is how they tackle that challenge, usually beyond expectations.
We learned a lot about capabilities, levels of production, and the different scales of operation in (mainly) Peru and Bolivia. We ended the session having crystallized a number of concrete opportunities for all sides to explore and that real sense of satisfaction and achievement that goes hand-in-hand with involvement in fair trade at any level.
We’ll blog later about the mines and the miners, and about our specific projects.
Had my first visit to Earls Court in years today. What used to be called the Earl’s Court Show is now referred to as International Jewellery London (IJL). It was great to see some Vipa customers, old and new, exhibiting and it was exciting to see so many break out sessions devoted to ethical jewellery in general and fair trade / fair mined in particular. One session that I made it to had a great video about gold mining in Peru from one of the leading advocates of fair trade / fair mined, Stephen Webster.
Before getting back to David’s telephone conversation, a couple of background information “nuggets” might be useful.
David’s first “proper” job after first graduating from college was with his brother Peter. Peter had earlier launched a jewellery design and manufacturing company called Vipa Designs. Like many other manufacturing businesses, jewellery has changed dramatically in the UK over the past 20 or 30 years. Most of the small to medium manufacturing companies have disappeared, and the bulk of mass manufacturing is now shipped overseas. During that time Vipa has bucked the trend and grown steadily, gaining a reputation for innovative design and high quality manufacturing whether for one-off pieces or for larger quantities.
Before opening Global Fayre, we had no idea of just how complex the topic of fair trade is. Three years later, our understanding of the whole issue is deeper, but our awareness of some of the complexities is deeper too. Just what “fair trade” actually means differs widely from product to product. When something like coffee is certified as fair trade, we all know that this means that the growers have been paid a fair trade price; it doesn’t tell us anything about the importer or the roaster. Conversely, when you purchase a typical piece of fair trade jewellery, you know that the producer group that made the piece has been treated fairly, but you probably don’t know anything about how the raw materials were produced.
A really exciting announcement was made in the UK this year on Valentines Day; the Fairtrade Foundation and the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) had come together to certify the world’s first fair trade and fair mined gold. Around 15% of the world’s gold production is sourced from small scale miners, numbering around 15 million. Conditions in these small scale mines are often hazardous both to the people working there and the local environment. (more about this in a later blog). The UK initiative focuses on the three core areas of the gold supply chain: a cluster of small-scale mines, a handful of gold traders, and around 20 designer jewelers (again – more of this in a later blog).
So – nuggets over, back to that phone call.
David and Peter have often used each other as sounding boards, personally and professionally. David was doing exactly that with Peter after the closure of Global Fayre when Peter said “come and help me make this fair trade gold thing work” (or something to that effect). Vipa Designs is one of the 8 companies currently licensed to trade in fair trade gold. Quite where this will lead is not clear, but it’s exciting to find a new challenge and to be able to contribute in some way to the growth of fair trade and ethical business.
So – we’re off to England! David, Cheri and the girls are very very excited. We’ll be living near our family there in the middle of the country.
For now at least, this means that Global Fayre is on hold in terms of having an online store and doing educational work. Our hope is that once we get settled in England (we move in August) we can pick the reins back up; however that works out, we’ll keep posting here and on our facebook page. We remain just as passionate about fair trade as ever, and get a real sense that more and more people are joining us in wanting to become conscious consumers.