Innovation That Matters

A sustainable model for fair-trade goods


When consumers buy fair-trade products, it’s typically because they are motivated more by ethical considerations than by price–which tends to be higher for such goods. Fair-trade exporter CraftNetwork, however, is focusing on long-term sustainability with an approach that aims to make fair-trade goods more competitive with other alternatives. CraftNetwork provides export-facilitation and enterprise-development services to Indonesian artisans with the goal of increasing sales, strengthening ethical trading practices, building organizational capacity, generating employment and improving the artisans’ standard of living. In Etsy-like fashion, CraftNetwork offers an online marketplace for jewelry, paintings, sculpture, home decor and accessory items crafted by more than a thousand disadvantaged Indonesian artisans. Going beyond just a B2C marketplace, however, CraftNetwork also helps the artisans it represents compete with large-scale factory producers in global wholesale markets, according to an article in BusinessWeek. Specifically, by helping the artisans produce goods to common specifications, it enables them to offer volumes and uniformity that are competitive with those of factory-based counterparts, BW reported. A recent deal with Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, calls for CraftNetwork’s artisans to produce 50,000 books woven out of banana leaves, employing an entire Indonesian village and bringing in USD 70,000 per month. CraftNetwork also offers its artisans business training and resources including a pool of money that they can reportedly borrow from to finance their operations while waiting for payments. CraftNetwork is supported by the Grassroots Business Initiative of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation group. Ethical consumers notwithstanding, true sustainability–particularly during tough economic times–still comes down to the fundamental ability to compete on basic considerations like quality and price. CraftNetwork’s is a model to watch–and emulate. Spotted by: BusinessWeek



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