The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) requires 10 Principles (LINK) that Fair Trade organizations must follow in their day-to-day work and carries out monitoring to ensure these principles are upheld. The practices transparently explained bellow show how Royal Knit is achieving each of the requirements of being Fair Trade certified.
#1. Principle One: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged ProducerRoyal Knit believes that the best way of combating poverty is through offering our artisans a chance to live a sustainable life in which they can achieve independency through producing high quality products. The way we do this is by offering consistent training to new artisans. We invest about 10% of our expenses in 3-month training programs for beginner and advanced artisans which happens once a year This is how we do it: we start it by advertising in the communities that we will be holding a training program for textile enthusiasts and we encourage everyone to give it a try. These training programs take place mainly in Cusco and Puno, regions where are known for its wonderful weaving traditions. The programs are led by main, specific artisans who have additionally been trained to be leaders and trainers of the programs: we have one trainer for around 10 or 20 attendees. Around 80 people join the program at the beginning but because some find it too hard to keep up with the high quality we teach they choose to make low quality for cheap companies, only 30 approximately finish the program. But these 30 persevering people are great artisans who we guarantee are skilled to create high quality products. This forms a cycle; a mutual and sustainable relationship we have with our artisans: now that we have trained them and they are able to deliver high quality products, they understand they are also able to receive a fair wage for their great work and so live a better life for themselves and their families. With the fair wage we pay them, they are abl to send their kids to school for a brighter future, build a kitcen for their house, construct a regular floor instead of having a dirt floor, and even able to buy their own house. We believe this cycle has been very successful in creating opportunities for these economically disadvantaged artisans.
#2. Transparency and Accountability Royal Knit believes that transparency is an essential practice for everyone involved in the supply chain. Starting from our artisans and suppliers, which whom we frequentlytalk with openly about fair pricing, future and current orders, and share our expectations from each other. Next, we also value transparency among our employees, with whom we have a clear communication. We hold weekly meetings in our office as a way of keeping an open talk, in which we manage all the orders we need to achieve in the long and short term and also give the workers a chance to share and solve possible problems to the whole wok-team as a way of working more efficiently and transparently together. And third, it is key to be transparent with our customers too. We explain to them the structure of our business, the fair trade aspects of our company, and the main supply chain levels by showing them our pie chart cost so they can understand how we got to the final price we offer them. By doing so, it is easier for the customer to understand all the effort we have put into each product and the importance of paying a fair price to keep our cycle under fair trade regulation as well as keep the high quality of our products.
We believe that by doing these practices we are promoting communication and transparency along our supply chain.
#3. Fair Trading Practices
Royal Knit is concerned for the social, economic and environmental well-being of our marginalized artisans and we do not maximize our profit at their expense, that is why we pay them a fair, mutually-agreed price (see Principle #4), offer them flexible hours according to their schedule and culture, and respect their traditions. In fact, we are conscious about how important it is for them to keep ancient cultural traditions. For example, in Cusco and Puno, our main supplier regions, we know that the month on February is a sacred, festive month for locals. Specially on the Saint Joseph Day, which is the Day of the Artisan – and so they have long celebrations. Royal Knit understands that we need to respect that and also find a balance between their tradition and meeting the deadlines, which they do because we plan in advance and organize ourselves to be on time with our deliveries. On top of that, we also recognize the importance of keeping the ancient textile techniques, which are unique and part of Royal Knit’s identity. It is everyone’s best interest to keep these incredible traditions alive; that is why we invest a lot in training and try to also recruit as much young adults as possible. In addition to that, we believe that the children of the current adult artisans we have helped over the years will also feel inspired by their parent’s work and success and, if interested, they could easily learn these skills and be part of our company in the future, when they are legally able to work (see Principle #5.)
#4. Payment of a Fair Price
Royal Knit knows that big part of our social responsibility is to pay a fair wage to our artisans because we recognize their skills and believe in their potential. Without a fair wage, our mision and vision would make no sense.The way we establish a fair, mutually agreed wage with our artisans is through dialog. We start a conversation about what their paying expectations are according to their needs (please note that the expenses of someone living in a city is different – and higher – from someone living in rural areas, which is the case of our artisans.) After hearing their expectations, we also share with them our expectations and together we talk and mutually agree on an adapted price for both. We believe this has been a positive practice of Royal Knit. We have several cases of artisans and workers who have achieved economic independency through their work with us. Paulina Grande, for example, who has been working with RK for several years, has worked in several departments and today is a main artisan leader. She became orphan at the age of 14 and today has 3 children and owns a big house for her family. Through her work with RK she is able to send their kids to the university, which is a big deal – specially coming from a disadvantaged region in Peru. We know more stories like this will keep coming!
#5. Ensuring no Child Labour and Forced Labou
In Peru, unfortunately, there still is a big social problem in regards to child labor. It is a challenge that the country still needs to improve greatly. That is why we at Royal Knit, as Peruvian advocates for change, make sure there is
no type of child or forced labor in the supply chain. We regularly visit our artisans in their workshops and are able to control that only the allowed people to work are actually working.
We also understand that there is a big difference between the artisans’ children’s curiosity about what their parents are doing and willingness to learn some basic aspects of traditional textiles – in fact, that is how the second generation of Royal Knit got involved and passionate about textiles – but this curiosity should never take the kid’s well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play. That is why we offer flexible working hours for the mothers to take care of their children.
#6. Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment and Freedom of Association
We at Royal Knit are happy to have as much diversity as possible in our company. Please note that Peru is divided in 3 main different regions – cost, highland, and jungle – and that unfortunately some discrimination still happens because of this difference. But we do not share this concept and in fact, over the years, we have had had workers and artisans from different regions who have been treated equally. As most countries in Latin America, Peru is still a sexist country, who tends to think in the ‘natural superiority of men’ over women. However, in Royal Knit we reject this point of view and try to fight against this discrimination by hiring mostly disadvantaged women; treating them well, and helping them achieving independency. On top of that, we are also proud to say that we have had people of different sexual orientation working in our team as well as people of different religious believes. We understand each human being is different and should be treated equally and well.
#7. Ensuring Good Working Conditions
We follow the national laws to assure our work environment is legal, save and healthy. We have them inspect us twice a year to make sure we are following the prerequisites such as having save electricity system, exit signs, extinguishers, security etc. If any of there requirements is not being followed, we need to change it accordingly. For example, last year we needed to change the size of our main door to the office because it was not wide enough and easy to open in case of a fire or earthquakes. Yet, we recognize we still need to make small changes in the company to improve this principle.
#8. Providing Capacity Building
The way we do this is by offering consistent training to new artisans. We invest about 10% of our expenses in 3-month training programs for beginner and advanced artisans which happens once a year. This is how we do it: we start it by advertising in the communities that we will be holding a training program for textile enthusiasts and we encourage everyone to give it a try. These training programs take place mainly in Cusco and Puno, regions where are known for its wonderful weaving and knitting traditions. The programs are led by main, specific artisans who have additionally been trained to be leaders and trainers of the programs: we have one trainer for around 10 or 20 attendees. Around 80 people join the program at the beginning but because some find it too hard to keep up with the high quality we teach they choose to make low quality for cheap companies, only 30 approximately finish the program. But these 30 persevering people are great artisans who we guarantee are skilled to crate high quality products. Today we kindly count with international investors’ help to sponsor these training programs (70% their, 30% ours), like Belgium Corporation. But in the past we did not have their help and had to do it ourselves; so we had less people and less trainers. Thus, we are happy to have their help so I could improve our training programs, train and help more artisans. But if in the future they cannot help us anymore, we need to do it ourselves again, look for new partners, or try to get the government’s support to keep this capacity building cycle going.
#9. Promoting Fair Trade
It is essential to raise awareness about the fair trade movement in Peru and in the world. Royal Knit is part of the World Fair Trade Organization – Latin America (link). Thus, we participate in conferences every month; we get together with other fair trade companies in Latin America and talk about our future plans, share experiences from previous plans, divide tasks, update ourselves about new WFTO’s regulations, discuss if wether we agree with it, vote for president etc. In addition to that, we also share about the fair trade concepts with our artisans, employees, current customers, and potential customers, specially in our booths when we participate on different national and international fairs. We believe that is a great way of raising awareness about the movement.
#10. Respect for the Environment
We try to buy from the most eco friendly suppliers, who can offer raw products such as organic cotton, pima cotton, and alpaca fiber (biodegradable). We are conscious about water and electricity saving and try to promote this in the artisan’s practices. In regards to the alpacas, which are sheared once a year, we can assure they are well treated because they are very respected and seen as sacred by their owners, once the alpacas are their tool for getting food and living. Our tags are made of recycled paper and are FSC certified (Forest Stewarship Council.) We could improve our packaging and look into a plastic substitute and implement other eco friendly practices such as recycling.