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02 Feb 2023

Community to Consumer

Community to Consumer
Businesses are under increasing pressure to ensure that their profits do not come at the expense of people and the planet. In our last blog post, we discussed the effects of production on the environment and the latest innovations to manufacture in a more responsible way. In this blog post we focus on the people, how communities can benefit from considered and responsible sourcing and production. Brands and retailers must consider how they can invest in global communities through their supply chains, both far and near. Do you know what impact your business has on people and communities around the world?

Firstly, it’s important to figure out how to effectively measure your business’s social and human capital, so that you can track how you are impacting communities, in order to improve and build on this over time. The Social & Human Capital Protocol is a universal free tool which helps businesses in any sector or geography to explore just that. It enables organisations to measure, value and integrate social and human impacts and dependencies into existing business processes such as risk mitigation, sourcing, supply chain management and product design.

Going Beyond Fairtrade

How can buyers and manufacturers enhance community resilience in their sourcing regions? It goes without saying that providing fair trade employment is an important first step. Fairtrade is an arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships. The Fairtrade movement combines the payment of higher prices to exporters with improved social and environmental standards.

A Fairtrade Premium is what makes products with the Fairtrade mark unique. It's an additional sum of money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price that farmers and workers invest in social, environmental and economic developmental projects to improve their businesses and their communities. For businesses who aren’t registered with the Fairtrade Foundation, there are still opportunities to make similar impacts on their sourcing communities. Further reaching impacts can be approached by tackling big community problems like water resilience, building greater infrastructure for basic needs such as water and power sources, to smaller, more tangible impacts like free annual dental care and eye checks for workers and their families.

Divine Chocolate is a great example of a brand who are going beyond Fairtrade to help empower the communities who grow their cocoa. Committed to doing things differently, Divine are the only chocolate company in the world which is co-owned by their farmers. The cocoa farming co-operative Kuapa Kokoo has a 40% representation on the Divine board team so they have an influence and say in how the company is run. As well as paying the Fairtrade premium and Fairtrade prices they also have a Producer Support and Development Fund which has supported many community projects such as a women’s literacy fund.

Supporting Education Equity

Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS) in Kathmandu is an educational and vocational training centre supporting the needs of low-income families throughout Nepal. They specialise in hand knitted or woven apparel and home textiles using natural fibres such as wool, cotton, allo (nettle fibre), hand spun banana and silk yarns.

Not only do KTS provide fair, living wage employment to hundreds of women after training them in knitting and weaving, but the sales of their products help to fund inspiring social programmes too, such as a free nursery and primary school for 200 children, an orphanage for 20 children and free annual health camps for employees and their families. The children are also provided with free school meals, stationery and uniforms to alleviate the associated cost of education from their parents.

Vanishing Point Studio

Producer organisations like KTS can only continue to exist with the ongoing support of buyers in developed countries. Vanishing Point Studio in Copenhagen, are one such supporter, a small independent boutique who regularly order hand knitted sweaters, cardigans and hats from KTS, helping them to continue their outstanding community outreach programmes throughout the year.

Danish home and craft brand Sostrene Grene are committed to various partnerships and initiatives intended to create value for the communities that they are a part of. These include donating a portion of profits to Plan International, which is supporting women and girls in East Africa to escape the cycle of poverty through education and opportunities.

The Body Shop have been purchasing their main natural ingredients from around the world through a Community Fairtrade programme since 1986. Get Paper Industry (GPI) in Nepal are one of their suppliers who make handmade paper and packaging products. The Body Shop works with these suppliers to establish fair prices, long-term relationships and predictable levels of demand, which help the producer communities to secure livelihoods. They also pay a premium that is invested in local development projects to tackle poverty and vulnerability. GPI have invested theirs in programmes like an anti-sex trafficking campaign for young girls, a tree planting programme, and free primary scholarships for more than 200 girls.

Providing employment to those who need it most

Social impact doesn’t have to focus solely on developing countries, there are many social enterprises doing great things in the UK and Europe to support those on the edge of the employment market. 

Bread & Roses


This amazing organisation is using floristry as a tool for social good by training refugee women in the craft. According to Bread & Roses, ‘Women from refugee backgrounds face particular barriers to rebuilding their lives in the UK. They are less likely to have formal work experience than their male counterparts and often find it difficult to attend English classes due to childcare responsibilities. On top of this, many women rebuilding their lives in the UK are also coping with the trauma of having experienced sexual or gender-based violence.’ They sell weekly flower subscriptions of beautiful bouquets in order to fund floristry training programmes which offer women a forum to be creative, build their confidence and learn a new skill.

ArtHouse Unlimited

ArtHouse Unlimited 

This UK charity presents the artistic talents of adults living with complex neurodiverse and physical support needs. The artists work alongside instructors to create artworks which are developed into design products for sale. All artwork derives from the skills each artist brings to the enterprise and every contribution holds real value. The company is proud to be able to imbue a sense of purpose into their artists in line with their belief that feeling truly respected improves health, happiness and well-being. They strive to challenge perceptions and to create better acceptance and inclusion for people living with neurodivergence and physical adversities.

Fine Cell Work

Fine Cell Work

This UK social enterprise and rehabilitation charity trains prisoners and ex-prisoners in high-quality needlework skills, and then supports and pays them to create beautiful handmade products, designed by world-renowned artists. Their post-release programme has supported over 70 ‘apprentices’ since it began in 2017. These apprentices have a 2% reoffending rate (compared to a national average of 46%). Around 43% of the apprentices have subsequently secured employment (against a national average of 17%) and a further 8.5% have gone into further training or volunteering.

Key Takeaways

  • Measure the social and human impact of your business
  • Set out a code of conduct for your suppliers, you can base this on Amfori BSCI**. Sostrene Greene have a good Code of Conduct as an example of good practice. 
  • Consider how you can provide employment to marginalised groups or those who find it difficult to find employment 
  • When sourcing from developing countries like those in India and South East Asia, seek out the producer organisations who are going above and beyond with their social outreach programmes
  • When establishing relationships with these co-operatives and small suppliers, ensure you are regular and consistent in your order cycles to help them maintain predictable levels of demand. Sporadic large orders can be problematic, particularly for suppliers of handmade goods 

**What is Amfori BSCI?. The amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative (amfori BSCI) works to improve social performance in global supply chains.Amfori BSCI has more than 2,000 members and helps them monitor the working conditions at 54,000 suppliers based on 13 principles. The principles prohibit child labour, corruption and discrimination, while driving improvements in the occupational health and safety of workers and the protection of the environment.

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