After hundreds of requirements and a merciless audit process, a Canadian company is the world’s first Fair Trade USA certified shoe retailer in the world.
Oliberté, a Certified B Corp and 1% for the Planet member, with warehouses in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, earned the Fair Trade USA certification just in time for its fall and winter line. The company makes sustainably produced leather shoes, boots and bags in Ethiopia.
“Becoming the world’s first Fair Trade Certified footwear manufacturing factory was a rigorous process, but we did it because we believe this partnership will make us better as a company and employer,” company founder Tal Dehtiar said. ”Our goal is to be a voice for ethical manufacturing so that factory workers around the world can provide a better life for themselves and their families.”
Oliberté’s Addis Ababa, Ethiopia factory employs 59 workers. The factory had to meet 255 Fair Trade USA standards and requirements, in addition to passing a two-day audit that evaluated environmental stewardship, working conditions, safety, wages, maternity leave, weekly doctor visits and employee handbooks. Fair Trade USA also examined the company’s adherence to anti-child-labor regulations, equal-opportunity employment and employees’ right to form a union.
Another Fair Trade USA requirement for Oliberté was to pay an additional premium to a worker-controlled fund. Factory employees can split the money or vote to fund community building and purchasing projects like wells or computers.
“Fair Trade USA is proud to be working with Oliberté, an exceptional company committed to producing high quality, stylish footwear in Ethiopia that directly benefits factory workers and their families,” said Maya Spaull, director of New Category Innovation at Fair Trade USA.
Oliberté opened the factory just over a year ago. The company expects to produce 25,000 pairs of shoes in the next year.
“Tal Dehtiar founded Oliberté in 2009 to create sustainable jobs for skilled artisans in Africa, building rugged casual leather goods and footwear using natural rubber outsoles and hand-picked natural leather,” according to the company’s website. “Each pair of hand-crafted shoes uses an average of 1,000 stitches and materials sourced from Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo and Liberia.”