As a social-impact driven company, our primary goal is to provide opportunities for employees and their families to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Long-term job security, being paid a living wage on a consistent basis, and having a stable income allows our team to better plan for the longer-term and invest in the future of their families.
When we acquired the Visible Tailoring Centre in 2015 we made a couple of major internal commitments that we have kept even during slower seasons.
We spent a considerable amount of time making an adjustment to the status-quo model so our whole team would be paid on a salary structure. While not particularly novel, it is surprisingly rare in the clothing sector where most workers are paid a piece rate or daily rate.
Being paid a salary allows our ethical clothing tailors to know each month what they are going to get objectively paid (excluding any incentive bonuses). We have invested a lot of time listening to our workforce to try to ensure we pay everyone a living wage proportional to their skill set and in the appropriate cultural context.
Secondly, we adjusted the business model to try and ensure there is always enough work for our team to do, even during the quiet times when direct orders are not as high. We have consistently produced high-quality, but lower-margins products to ensure there is enough work to do, even if that means profits aren't as high.
Although we could likely generate a larger profit by having less regard for our employees and just focusing on our monthly bottom line, that is a sacrifice we are not willing to make.
By owning our tailoring center we guarantee that all our tailors work in an environment that is fair, safe, and non-exploitative. It is a place where they earn a dignified living regardless of their race, caste, religion, gender, or age.
Additionally, we have instituted an inclusive approach with paid leave, maternity/paternity leave, and a structured system that pays for the school fees of our employee’s children.
Employees are encouraged to mentally `own the business`. While equity ownership can often have negative consequences for marginalized communities (with more struggles at home, especially in cultural contexts where equity ownership is unusual), we try to ensure through a variety of ways that team members think of the business as theirs.
As principal owners, we believe it is critical to be held accountable to the same standards that we expect in our team. We consistently have regular reviews (both formal and informal) and on our regular visits - at least every quarter - we schedule reviews with various team members.
Our literal and figurative open-door policy (giving everyone access to our WhatsApp number) allows for anyone on the team to be able to meet up to discuss whatever issues they have. Rather than undermining our leadership structures, this policy has provided a great opportunity for positive encouragement and reinforcement.
Our hope is that pro-actively developing a culture of fairness allows us to not only do the right thing in how we treat people but to also build a more stable and sustainable organization in the long term.
Quotes like this are what means so much to us and why we take a different approach to business:
“I left an abusive marriage and have been able to rebuild my life
because I have the ability to provide for myself and my future
and I know how much money I will get each month.”
Eternal Creation is a member of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand.
The Visible Tailoring Centre is a full member of the Fair Trade Forum India (affiliated with the WFTO).
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