All Namaste products are traded fairly

Namaste is still a relatively small business with a strong ethical policy at its core. We are not perfect but we believe our policies are consistent and transparent. We aim to buy from small scale producers who use largely natural materials and traditional techniques to produce beautiful and interesting articles. All Namaste products are fairly traded. We believe that the best way to reduce poverty is through trade.

Namaste seeks to support marginalised small producers and we aim to help workers to move from income insecurity to economic self sufficiency. The manufacture of goods for Namaste generates income for the local community and we hope that these benefits should enrich the quality of life of the local community.

In developing markets, such as Nepal, Indonesia and Thailand, we deal with only primary producers. Many do not have the capital to be able to fulfil the order, so we make an advance payment for materials, workers and whatever else is necessary. In 2002 we provided our Nepalese clothing supplier with a large advance for him to buy land, machinery and the building for a new cotton knitting workshop. These advance payments have enabled him to survive despite bad debt problems with other Western customers.

Namaste also buys from some larger enterprises. From the point of view of the workers there can actually be advantages in working for a larger organisation such as greater job security and extra benefits. These might include free healthcare for the worker and their family and free or subsidised education. Many larger suppliers are also able to support community projects. One of our suppliers in India provides the financial backing for an impressive and well resourced school in Rajasthan. Another in Nepal supports an orphanage providing, amongst other things, a water tank, food and blankets. He also gives his workers grants for festivals, clothes to wear for work, some sick pay and holiday pay. As most of our suppliers are small scale businesses with limited resources, we usually make advance payments for raw materials, workers and whatever else is necessary. We often provide additional funds or make payments earlier when suppliers need money for particular reasons. This has included funding for capital purchases such as land, workshops and machinery.

We invest heavily in travelling to see our suppliers several times a year and speak to them regularly. In addition each supplier is asked to fill out a comprehensive questionnaire which details 38 questions relating to fair trade production standards. We hope that this ensures that all Namaste suppliers meet internationally recognised fair trade standards. We are currently setting up an Indian Office to perform spot checks to back up our own visits and ensure that questionnaires are filled in with integrity and honesty and that fair trade standards are actually upheld. Namaste is recognised by BAFTS, the British Association for Fair Trade Shops as a fair trade importer.

All Namaste suppliers ensure that their workers are paid a fair price per piece, which is at or above the national average or in accordance with national laws, and we strive to make sure that men and women are paid the same rate. Employees should have security of employment and freedom of association. Namaste tries to order regularly from each producer to maintain continuity of demand. We aim to ensure that no children under the age of 16 are involved in factory based production for Namaste. Many Namaste items are produced by home workers which provides useful additional income whilst allowing them to look after their homes and families.

Namaste provides advance payments for orders when they are asked for or when they are necessary. This ensures that producers do not have to take on debts in order to complete our orders.

Namaste seeks to minimise our impact on the environment. Namaste products all use azo-free dyes. These create a safer working environment and are better for the environment in general. Many of our products are made entirely from recycled materials, which are used wherever possible. We also encourage suppliers to source raw materials locally and to use recycled packaging on their products. Many are now using recycled plastic and recycled cardboard and we aim to get them all doing so.

Namaste supports the Esther Benjamins Trust (www.ebtrust.org.uk).