May 06, 2013
Ten Thousand Villages ~ an example and a solution
The Bangladesh garment factory tragedy that killed over five hundred has initiated discussion about the ethical nature of where we get our clothing and all the other stuff corporations will us to buy. The Gap and Crate & Barrel, Canadian Tire and Mark's, Hudson's Bay and Walmart, are all full of products of varying degrees of quality and value, and nearly all come from a factory in China or Pakistan, India or Philippines. The factories aren't owned by the retailer. Nor are they usually owned by the maker of the actual product: Ralph Lauren for example, or Joe Fresh. Most often these factories are contracted to produce items for Canadian Tire, or Nike, or Starbucks. True enough, our Canadian and European companies, including retailers, nearly always have codes of conduct and certificates of some sort of standards. No one should expect a Canadian company to be party to unfair labour standards, nor unsafe working conditions, yet through contractors and sub-contractors the issue can, and does, become blurred. To its credit Loblaw Cos. Ltd., maker of Joe Fresh clothing (a company directly implicated in the Bangladesh disaster) has taken an approach worth applauding; it will, in future, put monitors on-site, to ensure standards of safety and labour.
There is a company that has operated for many years in Canada offering quality gift items at reasonable prices and with standards of safety and fair trade: guaranteed. Ten Thousand Villages is a not-necessarily-for-profit company run by the Mennonite Central Committee, the people who brought us the best selling more with less cookbook series.
The global economic crisis of 2008 caused problems for Ten Thousand Villages throughout its operations in Canada and the USA; stores have closed and head office functions have been consolidated. Their mandate remains the same, regardless of the situation; they remain true to their values and mission. The stores are always worth a visit.
The Granville Island location in Vancouver is always busy and fun, and like all the other Ten Thousand Villages stores they are part of the solution to the way we look at global trade and how we should act as responsible consumers.