Based in Petrópolis, a city in the Brazilian southeastern state of Rio de Janeiro, textile mill Razão Social (Social Reason) has found in fair and ethical trade the opportunity to grow and reach out to markets beyond the borders of Brazil. With only two years of existence, the manufacturer has already opened its own store and exports to France on a regular basis. Now, the aim is to reach new destinations.
"We are prepared to expand production and conquer new customers throughout the world," asserts í‰rica Santos da Costa, one of three partners in Razão Social.
"People are increasingly concerned about knowing the origin of the products that they are consuming, so there is a huge market to be won," she claims. And, as it is made clear by the system's name, everyone wins in fair trade.
Before organizing themselves and operating under the fair trade principles, the professionals used to earn from 0.50 to 0.80 Brazilian real (US$ 0.31 to US$ 0.49) per T-shirt sewn, which was the price paid by middlemen. After the changes were effected, they were able to charge, without any intermediation, 1.50 real (US$ 0.93) per item, exporting directly to France with the support of NGO Onda Solidária (Wave of Solidarity).
Another important lesson, according to Costa, is to seek support from organizations such as the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service in the State of Rio de Janeiro (Sebrae-RJ), which collaborated with the group by supplying market concepts, price formation principles and guidance in obtaining funding for purchasing equipment.
"We acquired a new business mentality. Now, we are able to better assess the value of our work, our customer relations have improved and our production has expanded," says Costa.
Razão Social employs 12 seamstresses and produces 3,000 to 4,000 units per week. The group manufactures T-shirts for men and women using organic cotton and natural dyeing only, as well as PET fabric and bamboo fiber. "Quality raw material that is ecologically correct is also a requirement in fair trade," says the businesswoman.
Fair and Ethical Trade, which involves sustainable production of goods by groups outside the mainstream trade system, is growing continually around the world. Created in the 1960s to provide economic, social and political development opportunities to these groups, the practice currently brings together approximately 1 million producers in several sectors, in more than 50 different countries.
The basic principles of fair trade production are: eliminating layers of speculative commercial intermediation and race, gender and religious discrimination, eradicating child and slave labor, preserving health and the environment, ensuring that fair prices are paid to small producers, sustaining long-lasting relations, respecting workers' rights, establishing long-term demands and adopting policies for ethical, transparent and co-responsible relations between the various stages of the production chain.
According to data supplied by the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations (FLO), certified international fair trade grew at annual rates above 20% in the last five years. Brazil currently counts on 31 FLO-certified operators.
Telephone: (+55 24) 2280-0580
Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International