Just Trade is a fair trade, design-led jewellery and accessories brand built around the interests of the people who make its products. For the last 16 years Just Trade has collaborated with artisan makers around the world to create best-selling core ranges and bespoke products for museums, galleries and heritage sites.
Director Laura Cave believes that fair trade is not just about avoiding bad practices – it’s also about actively seeking a positive social impact, and an ongoing long-term commitment to a form of trading that prioritises producers, communities and the environment.
Earlier this year Just Trade was the deserving winner of the Cultural Enterprises Best Supplier Initiative Award for its incredible work supporting artisan makers during the pandemic. Laura takes up the story for us:
“Just Trade now collaborates with nine groups of artisan makers in Peru, Ecuador, India, Vietnam and Indonesia. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused extensive hardship to individuals, businesses and economies worldwide. The teams and communities we work with have all been highly affected in many ways, receiving minimal support from their own governments.
“Both Peru and Ecuador have experienced huge problems within their infrastructure, resulting in a lack of oxygen supplies and overwhelmed capacity in hospitals. In Ecuador there were hospital waiting lists of 80 people per ICU bed and anyone over the age of 50 was refused treatment, as they were considered unlikely to survive the virus. Without a national health system the costs of medical care can be overwhelming; one family we work with have been left with debits of $20,000 for 10 days of hospital treatment for a family member who sadly then went on to die from Covid-19.
“In Peru oxygen was stolen from hospitals and sold on the black market for the equivalent of two months’ salary for a two-day supply. Even more worryingly was the fact that many unscrupulous individuals set themselves up as medics to charge desperate locals inflated prices for unnecessary “tests” and “medication”.
Just Trade Response
“As soon as UK retail shut down in March 2020, nearly all our wholesale orders were cancelled or postponed, so we went into survival mode and looked to how best we could support the people we work with around the world.
“Just Trade helped sponsor a creative initiative from the Flowering Desert Project in India that included making facemasks for local frontline workers and sanitary products, initially for the local community, then for export using fabric from cancelled orders.
“It became clear in April 2020 that the communities in Peru and Ecuador were going to require long-term support; this is when we organised our first round of emergency food parcels. These food parcels have continued on a monthly basis throughout the pandemic. Infection rates rose within the communities we work with long before there was any sign of a vaccine roll out. We continued to offer financial help for food, medical care and funeral costs. With the help of our project coordinator in Ecuador we encouraged artisans to start establishing microenterprises within the communities, to create more financial stability long-term. For example, one community bought watermelon seeds and has started to harvest watermelons to sell locally.
“We didn’t have the reserves or income that would fund this in normal trading times, let alone in the pandemic. Therefore we used our full business rate grant and set up a Just Giving Page to fund these projects. We were overwhelmed with the generosity of our customers and buyers, many of them from the heritage sector, who contributed to this fundraiser.
Supporting the Sector
“Fair trade is about long term trading relationships – not only with the producers that we work with, but also with the customers we supply to. The support we were able to give the teams around the world ensured that when heritage sites re-opened we were well positioned to make and ship products again. We always offer a free design service, low minimums and short lead times for bespoke products. By keeping everyone fed and as safe as possible we were able to be agile in our response to get back to work.”
I have faith that we’ll get through this crisis and I hope people will value the work of artisans more highly; our products are handmade and this means we put our heart and soul into making them.Vilma Allauca Rea, Project Leader, Ecuador
As the Cultural Enterprises Awards Judges said, when you hear stories like this, it feels good. Remembering that our supplier communities are not just functioning in the good times, they also need help in the bad times.
With thanks and congratulations to Laura, Ali and all the team at Just Trade. Find out more and browse their gorgeous selection of jewellery and accessories at justtrade.co.uk