Traidcraft Shine the Spotlight on: Earth Squared
You may have noticed our ever-growing range of bags, purses and accessories from our fair trade suppliers, Earth Squared. If you’re interested in finding out more about this forward-thinking fashion brand, join us as we shine the spotlight on exactly who they are and what differences they continue to make to the lives of many Vietnamese communities.
Who are Earth Squared?
Ethical, North Berwick-based company, Earth Squared, are passionate about their products, their customers and the entire supply chain. They are accredited by the British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTS) and their partners in Vietnam are members of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO).
As well as addressing injustices throughout the supply chain, Earth Squared are also on an ever-evolving journey to minimise their carbon footprint, and as of this season, have removed single-use plastics from their bags completely.
Earth Squared: A Brief History
Earth Squared started out almost 20 years after founder, Alison Henderson, returned from two years’ volunteering in social projects in Guatemala. Passionate about social justice and with a head for business, Alison wanted to start a fair trade business with an emphasis very much on quality and design.
Sourcing the globe for potential suppliers, Alison decided to focus on Vietnam which, at the time, was struggling to export overseas, and after some trial and error, Alison was delighted to forge a relationship with a supplier who shared Alison’s vision for distinctive, ethical products to appeal to mainstream consumers. As a result, they are able to combine contemporary designs with fantastic craftsmanship and offer a huge range of timeless pieces.
How Do Earth Squared Make a Difference?
The majority of artisans who make Earth Squared’s products were originally rice farmers earning an irregular and inconsistent wage. The rice farmers in Vietnam are very dependent on the weather and other environmental factors which are out of their control. They also have unfair supply chains to contend with; even working all day long, these farmers are still unable to earn enough money to feed their families sufficiently, or send their children to school.
The artisans working with Earth Squared have retrained, and now have multiple new skills to their names. Working as a seamstress or in quality control, for example, a person can earn a good standard of living and can also afford to send their children to school and fund them through higher education. Earth Squared’s partners also pay National Insurance for each staff member, covering medical costs and a pension for retirement, all of which is above the national legal requirements.
Unlike many non-fair trade working environments in Vietnam, the working conditions within the workshops are safe, clean and regularly audited, with employees being given regular breaks and days off. These workshops are also extremely beneficial for workers with children, as they are allowed days off to look after ill children and there is flexibility for mothers who are breastfeeding. Once on the pay roll, employees are encouraged to learn new skills and work their way up the career ladder.
Earth Squared have also worked with their partners to create specialist workshops for women with minor disabilities, who may have otherwise found it difficult to find work and receive a regular and fair income. Their partners give these women the opportunity and support to improve their lives through secure work, training and a healthy working environment, giving them financial security as well as boosted self-confidence. Read on to hear from some of these women, who share their fascinating and inspiring stories with us – and give us even more reason to invest in their effortlessly stylish pieces!
Earth Squared: Meet the Makers…
Meet Dzung. She’s been working with our supplier since 2004 and tells us it’s really improved her quality of life, artisan skills, and her confidence levels.
In the past, Dzung found it difficult to integrate into society because of her disability. Over the past 16 years, she has been encouraged to develop her skills and has now reached the prestigious position of Technician Manager; teaching others tailoring skills, creating samples and managing production.
Bright and bubbly Oanh joined Earth Squared’s supplier in 2008. She started her career as a buyer, purchasing new and exciting fabrics for the company, and was responsible for ensuring that these fabrics were of the highest quality, before they were distributed to the artisans to be made into products. Two years later, she reluctantly left the company, upon her father’s request, to move into a state-owned company, as he believed this would be a more stable job for his daughter.
Unfortunately for Oanh, her new role was not what she or her father had expected; she was made to work long hours with no breaks. After realising her mistake, she went back to her first place of work in the hope she would be welcomed back – and, of course, she was welcomed with open arms! Her new role within the company is within the production management department, where she’s loving being part of a solid team. She encourages artisans to meet deadlines and gives them a helping hand whenever they need it.
Growing up in a remote province of Vietnam, from an extremely poor family, Diu’s parents could not afford to send her to school. She travelled to Hanoi in search of work to support her family’s low income, and ended up working in poor conditions, washing dishes for an unimaginably poor wage.
Since then, Diu’s world has been turned around; she has worked at one of Earth Squared’s partners since 2006, where she began as a packer and spent some time in the quality control department, before working her way up to managerial level in a relatively short amount of time. Diu now, along with many other responsibilities, trains her colleagues to improve their skills.
Not only has this meant that Diu been able to move up through the company and gain many skills and much confidence throughout her journey, but the company have financed her studies, too. She now has enough money to be financially self-sufficient, provide for a family of her own (she has recently had a beautiful baby boy with her husband of two years) and has enough left over to send to her family back in her home province.
Keep an eye out in our Spring Summer 2020 Catalogue for a huge range of Earth Squared bags, purses and accessories, made by people just like Dzung, Oanh and Diu.