Unique Products, Unique Business
Fair trade provides under- and unemployed artisans with an opportunity to earn vital income and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their handcrafted products. Ten Thousand Villages is a founding member of the WFTO - the World Fair Trade Organization, a global network of more than 350 fair trade organizations in 70 countries.
As one of the world's oldest and largest fair trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages has spent more than 60 years cultivating long-term buying relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to unique gifts, accessories and home decor from around the world.
Cash Advances and Prompt Final Payments
Artisans receive up to 50 percent in cash advances when an order is placed, and payment in full when an order is shipped.
Ten Thousand Villages promptly pays artisans in full for each order. We provide artisan partners with the opportunity to receive 50 percent of an order's price when the order is placed, which functions as an interest-free cash advance. We pay the remaining balance immediately following notice that the order has been shipped.
This capital allows artisan groups to purchase equipment and raw materials without going into debt by taking out loans with high interest rates. Ten Thousand Villages works with Shared Interest to deliver punctual payment to artisan groups.
Once the products arrive in the United States, Ten Thousand Villages is responsible for marketing them. Artisans' wages are not affected by product markdowns or discounts because they have already received payment before the products arrive in our warehouse.
A Fair Price
Artisans and Ten Thousand Villages agree on a fair price that covers the cost of labor and materials and enables artisans to earn fair compensation for their work.
A fair price ensures that artisans are adequately compensated for the time, labor and material resources invested in making each product. Pricing varies according to the economic and social context in which an artisan works. A fair price is determined by the artisan in conversation with Ten Thousand Villages buyers and staff, and is based on the cost of materials, and a fair wage for the production time and skill level required to make each product. Fair wages enable artisans to meet their needs for food, clothing and shelter.
Artisans can plan for the future with consistent orders from year to year.
Fair trade is not just about prices-it is founded on a commitment to long term relationships that provide mutual benefits for our business and those of our artisan partners.
When Ten Thousand Villages starts trading with an artisan group, we stay committed to working with the group in the long-term and to building its capacity to become successful with both commercial and fair trade buyers. We are committed to sustaining consistent purchases each year, and we strive not to decrease purchases from an artisan group from year to year.
Artisan groups often remark that our commitment to long-term purchases is more important than the fair prices we pay. Long-term relationships give them a sustainable source of income that enables them to plan for the future-investing in technology and skills training in order to reach their full business potential.
Our designers and buyers work with artisans to build on their traditional skills with trend and color information and new product suggestions.
Ten Thousand Villages offers artisan partners a spectrum of design assistance that varies with the unique challenges of each group. Our in-house designers help artisans adapt traditional artistic skills to create a product that appeals to U.S. consumers. Our buyers make regular visits to artisan partners, where they collaborate to produce best-selling products and enable our partners to develop their businesses and design skills.
We encourage our staff and artisan partners to employ sustainable practices and to use recycled and natural materials when possible.
At Ten Thousand Villages, our goal is sustainability—not just for our artisan partners, but also for the environment. From our company headquarters to our artisan workshops around the world, we strive to minimize our carbon footprint while maximizing our impact on disadvantaged artisans. Our new store concept takes a conscious approach toward minimizing environmental impact in order to meet the "triple bottom line" of economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Sustainable, Responsible Practices
Ten Thousand Villages has been nationally recognized for its commitment to social and environmental responsibility. We received the Co-op America Award for Green Business of the Year in 2005, the Longtime Leadership Award in 2006, and have been named one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies" by the Ethisphere Institute and Forbes Magazine 2008-2013.
Ten Thousand Villages' retail network features recycled flooring, environmentally safe paints, recycled fixtures and efficient lighting. Unique fixtures made from natural materials bring originality and cohesiveness to the store. Our promotional materials are printed on recycled and FSC-certified paper whenever possible. We offer gift wrap, available online and in stores, handmade by artisans in Bangladesh.
Our e-commerce website serves as an environmental alternative to a print catalog. Our fair trade gift registry is a valuable resource for customers to plan green weddings and special event celebrations.
Sourcing Sustainable Resources
The majority of our goods are produced in the most environmentally friendly way possible—by hand. Many artisans recycle materials such as newspaper, post-consumer magazines and glass to create innovative and functional products. Our product line includes a wide range of items made with natural materials, from bamboo to water weeds.
Groups source renewable, natural materials to keep resources in balance. We encourage artisans to use local raw materials whenever possible, and many artisans use natural dyes.
Several artisan partners also source sustainable wood, or "good wood," from farms that replant trees after they are harvested.
Ten Thousand Villages uses sea shipments whenever possible, which uses significantly less fuel than air freight. We consolidate shipments as much as possible to reduce the number of shipments and overall transportation load-up to 13 artisan groups share one container at a time.
We use United Parcel Service for transportation needs within the United States. The UPS alternative fuel fleet—at 1,500 vehicles and one of the largest in the United States—currently includes trucks powered by compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, electricity and hydrogen.