the cause behind the craft

Fair trade proves that greater justice in world trade is possible. It highlights the need for change in the rules and practice of conventional trade and shows how a successful business can also put people first. It is a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty, climate change and economic crisis.

—World Fair Trade Organization

  • How does fair trade improve lives and strengthen communities?

    how fair trade helps
    Economic uncertainty inhibits planning for the future
    Sustainable and inclusive long-term relationships and transparent communication create stability and allow
    Rigid social structures limit individuals and communities from reaching full potential
    Job opportunities for marginalized people help elevate their socio-economic status and quality of life
    Few opportunities for women
    Promoting gender equality and empowerment of women and girls strengthens households and communities
    Child labor exposes children to unsafe environments and often gets in the way of educational opportunities
    Child labor is prohibited and fair wages help parents afford education, food and healthcare for their children
    Unsafe working conditions and practices make work dangerous or even deadly
    Safe working conditions promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, resulting in fewer health issues or work-related deaths
    Harmful environmental practices
    Environmental responsibility reduces the carbon footprint and recycling keeps useful materials out of landfills
    No local market for crafts made by traditional methods limits the value of ancient expertise
    Design collaboration leads to innovations that use time-honored skills in new ways for new markets
    Makers lack access to capital needed to invest in equipment and purchase raw materials
    Interest-free cash advances and prompt payments allow makers to create their products, avoid debt and invest in their communities
    No opportunies for people with disabilities
    Skills training and other programs empower makers with disabilities to become contributing members of society
    Human trafficking
    Women are taught about basic human rights and given skills training to help them start earning money and become independent, thriving members of society
  • How does Ten Thousand Villages calculate a fair wage and pay artisans?

    When it comes to ethical business models, Ten Thousand Villages follows a formula that makes sense for everyone involved. It's just doing the right thing.


    It all starts with the maker. Sometimes a cooperative of artisans. Sometimes it's just one person. All of our makers are working towards improving their communities with sustainable business practices. These makers present us with a product sample built on their skill, tools, available materials and market design.

    conversation & agreement

    We talk with makers to figure out how to ensure sustainability for both of us. Quantity and timing are discussed, and we make sure that the makers' profit is factored in when we agree on a price that works for everyone.

    advance payment

    When the product order is placed, we pay 50% of the agreed price (as an interest-free advance) to help cover the cost of materials. The maker group then produces enough quantity of the product to fill our order. Once the order is shipped, they receive the other 50% of what is owed, and we become wholly responsible for the product, relieving the maker of all liability should something happen to the product during transport. This system ensures that the maker is always paid in the full amount that was initially agreed upon. On time. Every time.

  • Where do my purchase dollars go?

    All the things that go into making the product available to the customer are factored into the retail price. Any profit on an item goes toward paying artisans for their next product order.

    maker’s income

    We talk with makers to figure out how to ensure sustainability for both of us. We make sure that the makers' profit is factored in when we agree on a price that works for everyone. In cases where the group's business model is not complete, we provide business guidelines that help them reach fair trade standards.

    shipping & importation

    The landed cost is calculated by how much it costs to bring an item from the country of origin to our warehouse in Akron, Pa.

    operational costs

    We then add the costs of warehousing, marketing, sales and distribution as well as rent, wages, utilities, and maintenance costs for our stores and ecommerce site.

  • Does it matter where I buy my gifts?

    Absolutely. The global market has become a very competitive place and that has put enormous pressure on craftspeople all over the world to make their products cheaper and faster. Choosing to purchase fair trade is a way of saying that it’s important to you that the person who made your purchase is not exploited. By your action, you are supporting the dignity of others.

    Ten Thousand Villages’ mission is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn incomes by bringing their handmade crafts and their stories to you.

  • How much does Ten Thousand Villages “Give back” to the people who make the product?

    Nothing. We turn the entire business relationship upside down so that the craft makers are paid first and paid well.

    As a fair trade buyer, Ten Thousand Villages takes the risk off of the artisans who make these beautifully handcrafted items. We work as a business partner to provide fair and consistent incomes for the work artisans do.

    We provide an interest free advance of 50% when the order is confirmed, which makes it possible for workshops to purchase materials and pay employees without having to take high interest loans. Then, when the product is ready to depart from the place of export, we send the final payment.

    The people who craft the items you find in our stores do not wait for months for a sea shipment to cross the ocean, for a quality control inspection, or for an accounting cycle. Typically, the person who makes the gift you purchase was paid in-full weeks or months before it arrived in the United States.

  • How does Ten Thousand Villages define a fair wage?

    Artisans tell us what they want to be paid for their work. After they give us their price, we will dig deeper to confirm that they are covering their costs and building sustainability into their businesses.

    Our buying team works with the same people over many years to develop an understanding for what a fair income is in their local community. We talk to the people making the product and ask them what they are being paid, how it compares to their neighbors, and what their wage means for their family.

    If the price the workshop asks for is untenable in the market, then we work together to adjust the product or the materials. It’s a dialogue that builds incomes that help families thrive.

  • Do artisans have safe working environments?

    Yes. A safe working environment is essential to improving the lives of people in developing countries where there are few jobs. It is a guiding principle of fair trade.

    Many of the products that Ten Thousand Villages offers are made in people’s homes, on their porches, or in small workshops. Women artisans often take materials home with them in order to balance childcare with their work. Most of the working spaces are not fancy, but they are safe and everyone is free to come and go as they choose. Formal workshops have fire extinguishers, and dedicated drinking water and toilet facilities.

    As a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization, Ten Thousand Villages regularly visits the workshops where the handmade crafts are made. We see the artisans do their work and provide feedback for ways to improve safety and health standards.

    Through our capacity building efforts, Ten Thousand Villages has paid for water effluent treatment plants, improved tools, lighting and ventilations systems at some workshops.

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