© U. Roberto Romano, Courtesy of GoodWeave International
Last year a friend and I toured the Museum of Civil Rights in downtown Atlanta, where upstairs they had an entire exhibit dedicated to ongoing civil rights cases. Many of these had to do with fair trade obstructions, which included many products we all use on a daily basis: cocoa, tea, oils, clothing – the list was overwhelming.
One organization we ran across is working to change the trade around one of these products: GoodWeave, a non-profit that certifies rugs free of child labor. We spoke with Cara Hagan, business development associate, to find out how the interior design industry can help.
KBB: How did this organization get started?
C.H.: Our story starts with an Indian activist named Kailash Satyarthi, who rescued children working in carpet factories. The raids were dangerous, and for every child he rescued, another one soon took his or her place at the loom. Kailash realized that to make a lasting difference, he needed to change the whole system and get rug companies and consumers on board.
When Kailash founded GoodWeave (then known as RugMark) in 1994, there were one million children working in South Asia’s carpet industry. Now thanks in part to our efforts, this number has dropped by an estimated 75 percent. GoodWeave has directly rescued more than 3,800 children and provided life-changing education for many thousands more. We work to continue Kailash’s vision of a world without child labor in any global supply chain – starting with carpets and now expanding to new sectors.
KBB: How has Goodweave helped end illegal labor?
C.H.: GoodWeave works through a holistic approach to ending forced, bonded and child labor. When a company is licensed with GoodWeave, our team conducts random, unannounced inspections in that company’s supply chain to ensure that labor conditions are fair and that no children are laboring at the factories and loom-sheds. Companies that comply with our Standards receive GoodWeave certification labels that show consumers that no children worked to make that rug. If children are found, they are immediately removed from work. GoodWeave then supports these rescued children as long as is necessary; they are reunited with their families if conditions allow or brought into rehabilitation and education programs.
GoodWeave also works beyond rescues with community-wide education programs and facilities to help adult weavers find fair wages and working conditions. With this approach, GoodWeave unravels the system that forces children into work in the first place.
KBB: How does a rug company receive Goodweave certification?
C.H.: While the impact of becoming GoodWeave licensed is profound and far-reaching, the process is straightforward. The importer would first need to sign a few agreements governing the relationship between GoodWeave International and an importer that sells GoodWeave certified carpets. These agreements outline a variety of issues regarding the relationship, balancing clear guidelines with a mutual commitment to ending the use of child labor in carpet production and to improving the lives of children and families in the weaving communities.
Once the importer has signed these agreements, GoodWeave country teams can begin licensing the exporter. Each exporter goes through an application process and initial inspection. Given that they successfully become licensed, GoodWeave then provides the exporter with labels to begin issuing certified rugs. GoodWeave makes regular, unannounced inspections of all production facilities to verify compliance with the GoodWeave Standard. The Standard is based on three Certification Principles covering child labor, forced labor, and bonded labor, and the transparency needed to verify compliance. The Standard also includes four Progress Principles which are designed to address a broader set of labor rights and environmental issues. The exporter license is valid as long as the company continues to work toward a higher standard and addresses any issues that arise.
KBB: How can interior designers help to join this effort?
C.H.: GoodWeave’s approach to ending child labor is twofold: it works in the factories of India, Nepal and Afghanistan and in the retail stores and design studios in the U.S. and Europe. Each is essential in ending forced, bonded and child labor around the world. Interior designers can help by guiding consumers toward ethically produced rugs and becoming socially responsible consumers themselves. Through public outreach, media coverage and the active participation of socially responsible importers, designers and retailers, GoodWeave raises awareness of the child labor epidemic in the handmade rug industry and inspires consumers to take action.
When consumers become aware of their ability to purchase products that are not made by children and thereby create a market demand for such products, they can be a part of the solution.
For more information about Goodweave and to find a list of certified companies, visit https://goodweave.org/.