Last week, we took you on a tour of our Fair Trade Certified furniture factory in Vietnam. Today, we’re venturing to another Fair Trade Certified facility, this time in Ghaziabad, India, where products like our Hayden Dining Table, Industrial Storage Coffee Table, and Roar + Rabbit Diamond Rhombus Dresser are crafted. A partner of west elm’s since 2009 and officially Fair Trade Certified since February 2015, this factory has the distinction of producing west elm’s first Fair Trade furniture items.
“Four or five years back, on a visit to the New York office of west elm, I saw a poster promoting artisans from India,” says Punam, a director at the factory. “Six months later, west elm came to us and told us about the Fair Trade program. That’s when we started thinking about Fair Trade. We thought, ‘since West Elm is doing so much for workers, so much for the artisans in India, why are we not participating?’ That inspired us.”
Flash forward to 2017 and the factory has already made significant strides since its compliance with Fair Trade specifications. One of the biggest changes was bringing workers who were originally operating as independent contractors onto the company payroll, qualifying them for all of the benefits of typical employees. Additionally, each Fair Trade certified facility receives a special premium as part of its partnership with Fair Trade USA, a financial award that goes back to workers who can use it to invest in the benefits of their choice. At this particular factory, workers have already chosen to invest in medical care and nutrition programs, setting up both an on-site doctor’s office and a canteen that supplies hot meals for staff. “A lot has changed,” notes factory carpenter Bhikhari Shah. “Now the company provides food and water; we have a medical center where a doctor comes and gives us medicine.”
Part of the process of becoming Fair Trade Certified includes the establishment of a factory-specific Fair Trade Committee of worker-elected representatives. In addition to acting as a direct channel to factory management, these committees help to engender a strong sense of community. “Workers are not changing their jobs,” Punam notes, “they want to stay here. They want to work for the organization, for the company, for the benefit of the company. I see more dedication from the workers—they’re now very open, they come up to us with their problems. They’re basically becoming a part of the management.”
Last May, our team traveled to India to get a closer look at this pioneering factory and workplace. We got to take a direct look at how our products are made and get to know the people that make them. Take a peek at our visit below!
↑ A truck gets loaded with mango wood that is brought to the factory in Ghaziabad.
↑ Before they are altered in any way, boards are treated for a number of hours to remove any impurities and to prevent warping.
↑ Mango wood before and after being treated.
↑ Drawers for the Roar + Rabbit Diamond Rhombus Dresser
↑ The 3-dimensional surface of the Diamond Rhombus Dresser being machine carved.
↑ The metal sheathing for the Diamond Rhombus dresser is made from hand-hammered metal that is then affixed to the dresser’s surface.
↑ The brass accents on the Roar + Rabbit Brass Geo Inlay are hammered into the piece by hand.