I was laying in bed last night thinking about "ethical consumerism" and my mind was spinning. As a owner of a company that strives for this very thing, I have strong feelings on the matter. However, I'm saddened and a bit tired of claims from businesses who aren't practicing ethical consumerism use the term as a marketing ploy. Don't get me wrong, working on the front lines in Guatemala and meeting other business owners around the globe, I have seen some really amazing brands that follow through with their claims. I've met other business owners who are inspiring, honest, and are truly doing good. Sadly, I don't think this is the norm.
Having my feet firmly planted in both third and first world countries has been and is eye opening. Speaking as a consumer, I would hope we all want to feel good about what we purchase and where we purchase it from. I believe every time I buy something I am casting a vote for what kind of world I want to be a part of. Unfortunately we have entered an era where some businesses now pull our "ethical heart strings" and phrases like "ethically made," "fair trade," "handmade," and "artisan made" dangerously are catch phrases. Shame on us to allow this to happen. I now practice fact checking and I encourage you to do the same. Don't be afraid to dig a little and ask the hard questions. Hold people and businesses accountable. I enjoy when people ask questions about our mission, the artisans we work with, how much money goes where, how exactly products are made, and so on. It keeps us accountable to what we are preaching.
I've met too many artisans who tell me countless stories of being taken advantage of through photography and low wages due to lack of ability to negotiate fair wages. Heck, I even work with a few artisans who have done work for western businesses and never been paid, which I believe is flat out robbery. I know it would be nice to believe everything we are told but that has never been the world we live in, especially when money is involved. I know this sounds cynical, but if its the truth, then you and I have an obligation to do our part to help change it.
I've committed the last 6 years of my life to building a business based on actual principals and ethics. I am working with amazing people who's talents and work ethic are unparalleled. We've been blessed to grow this business over the years and I'm able to live a good life while supporting my family. I'll never become a millionaire working with artisans in Guatemala, and I'm beyond happy about that. You know why? Because my company pays our artisans fair wages, 25% of our retail profits to be exact. We have long standing relationships with co-ops and help send over 90 children to school. We care immensely about culture and art and truely take the time to only make products by hand (all of our products are signed by the maker). As Ixchel Triangle continues to grow, my promise is, more and more people will continue to profit, not just this lady. I'm already blessed beyond measure.