Seema Patel

“Uniting the World through Compassionate Trade” – One World Projects

One World Projects was founded by Phil Smith, a pioneer in the Fair Trade world before it was hot. Originally conceived as a sustainable alternative for communities living in rainforest areas, Phil worked directly with communities to create crafts from renewable resources and then sold them to the US market.

The company has grown and changed over the years to become an established player in the Fair Trade crafts arena. Phil and his partner, Liz Wald, now work with more than 11,000 artisans in more 20 than developing countries. OWP has been working longer than most of its competitors, creating long-lasting relationships that truly transform communities.In the now-trendy world of fair trade, OWP penetrates deeper and has a more holistic approach than almost anyone else. From a development perspective, they treat producers as partners rather than just suppliers, working closely with them on issues of quality and design rather than dropping them or not accepting shipments if they aren’t right the first time around. From an environmental perspective, they mainly source products from renewable or recycled resources.

From a community perspective, they are willing to support artisan groups with funds for structure or expansion without asking to be repaid. They give money where it’s needed, when it’s needed. One World Projects has funded a health care program in Peru, donated dolls to Burmese refugee children in Thailand, donated snake anti-venom to a village in Ecuador, funded a roof for a ceramic workshop in Bolivia, donated funds to a partner for safety tests required to expand to Europe, and manage a program that has donated thousands of goats to women in Rwanda.

So what makes One World Projects truly unique in a world where Fair Trade is STILL considered trendy? The true definition of ?Fair Trade? has been skewed by people unconvinced of its social benefits. End-product quality is sometimes questionable, and buyers can be confused or put off by the multitude of fair trade advocates injecting guilt and stories of injustice into the dialogue.

I believe One World succeeds due to their strategic approach:

  • Purchase high-quality products that have positive social impacts and environmental benefits.
  • Pay artisans fair wages for their work allowing them to provide for their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, education, and health-care for their families) and contributes to a better quality of life.
  • Provide support to artisans through opening markets, suggesting product designs, improving artistic and technical skills, educating group leaders about the demands of the market, and the like.
  • Develop long-term relationships with based on respect and fairness, and the promotion of self-determination.
  • Reinvest in artisan groups and communities through economic programs and/or donations.

Thanks to NextBillion reader Miriam Stone for suggesting this story.