The ecological definition of sustainability originated with the Brundtland Report in 1987, which describes sustainable development as one that satisfies the needs of the present without adversely affecting the conditions for future generations.
- Economic, social and ecological processes are interconnected. The actions of both public and private stakeholders cannot be considered as isolated, one-dimensional aspects; instead, one must consider the interrelationship between the three dimensions of environment, economy and society.
- Sustainable development means more than just environmental protection. To satisfy our material and immaterial needs, we need economic well-being and a society based on solidarity.
- The effects of today's actions on the future must be taken into account so that future generations can also satisfy their needs.
- Sustainable development requires a long-term structural change in our economic and social system, with the aim of reducing environmental and resource consumption to a sustainable level while maintaining economic performance and social cohesion.
How Nkuku fits into this….
At Nkuku, we understand that economic, social and ecological processes are interconnected.
Our Founding Principles
The founding principle of Nkuku (Est 2003) was and is, to support and work with artisans throughout the world with a particular focus on handmade techniques and traditional skills and to consider our impact on the environment. We choose to work with natural and recycled materials, with a focus on traditional methods of production and these materials shape the look of our product collections.
The pillars that underpin the Nkuku brand are:
Ethical, Eco-Friendly & Handmade
We work with independent businesses, fair trade enterprises, social projects and co-operatives with a focus on building strong business relationships with all of our suppliers, so that we can work together towards mutual success.
We follow the standard globally recognised 10 Principles of Fair Trade, and have our own procedures for the management of our supply base. We have made the conscious decision to develop our own structure for the accreditation and development of our suppliers.
A primary focus is transparency. We see our suppliers more as partners and encourage open dialogue and communication. We have good, long-lasting and direct relationships and know our suppliers well. Many have grown with us over the years.
We audit all of our suppliers and take care to only develop business relationships with a long-term view. We make regular visits to our suppliers and employ agents who support this process. We allow long lead times to ensure that no unnecessary pressure is placed on production and that capacity is not exceeded.
We believe that personal relationships and having a clear understanding of our supply chain is key to maintaining our founding principles.
Trading fairly provides our artisans with an opportunity to build a future. It helps businesses develop and creates sustainable employment.
We consciously work with sustainable and natural materials with a focus on traditional methods of production, and this shapes our collections.
We do not follow fashion but have our sense of individual style and our aim to is to make timeless products for the home. We are careful to introduce new products that complement existing lines to encourage continuity and longevity of collections.
We assess the sustainability of our products based on the raw materials used to create them and the process in which they are made.
We are careful to work with natural materials and eco crops including hemp and jute. These are sustainable crops that grow with little need for pesticides and crops with a sustainable lifecycle of regeneration.
We also work with sustainably grown rattan, corn husk and water hyacinth.
We choose to work with sustainable mango wood, this makes use of a harvested crop allowing space for replanting.
Our journals are made with recycled cotton paper, created with cotton t-shirt fragments leftover from the garment industry.
All of our glassware and Christmas bauble decorations have always been and will continue to be made from recycled glass. Recycling allows us to create new and beautiful products with less impact on our environment.
The leather we work with is a by-product. We use natural vegetable dyes to tan the leather.
We use the raw materials of brass and iron in the creation of our collections. These materials can be easily recycled.
We are committed to developing new products that incorporate other eco-friendly materials taking into account our impact on the planet and future generations.
There is a synergy between traditional handmade methods of production and sustainability. Many of our products involve traditional hand loom weaving, metal sculpting and craftmanship, jewellery making, basket weaving, traditional carpentry and traditional pottery making. These artisan methods of production are naturally more sustainable.
Our Challenges, Goals and Ambitions
Transparency is really important to us from our supplier relationships through to our customer relationships. We hope that by sharing information with you, it will allow you to make a more informed choice on the products that we sell.
Despite our best efforts we are still limited by fundamental aspects of our business model. Our mission to work with artisans from different parts of the world means that we have the need to import the goods that we supply. To address this, we minimise our carbon footprint by using sea freight and avoid air freight. We are careful to consolidate all shipments of products and we only ever ship full containers. We are reviewing ways that we can further reduce our carbon footprint.
The packaging of our collections is not yet as environmentally considerate as we want it to be. We are committed to removing all polystyrene and bubble wrap from our packaging by January 2021. We have a packaging team whose objective is to research alternative sustainable solutions. Please read more on this over on our Environmental Policy and discover some of our successes.
We are conscious of our failings and constantly challenge ourselves on how we can improve. It is a journey we are still on…
The Principles of Fair Trade
Opportunities for Disadvantaged Producers
Poverty reduction through trade forms a key part of the organisation's aims. The organisation supports marginalised small producers, whether these are independent family businesses, or grouped in associations or co-operatives. It seeks to enable them to move from income insecurity and poverty to economic self-sufficiency and ownership. The organisation has a plan of action to carry this out.
Transparency and Accountability
The organisation is transparent in its management and commercial relations. It is accountable to all its stakeholders and respects the sensitivity and confidentiality of commercial information supplied. The organisation finds appropriate, participatory ways to involve employees, members and producers in its decision-making processes. It ensures that relevant information is provided to all its trading partners. The communication channels are good and open at all levels of the supply chain.
Fair Trade Principles
The organisation trades with concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalised small producers and does not maximise profit at their expense. It is responsible and professional in meeting its commitments in a timely manner. Suppliers respect contracts and deliver products on time and to the desired quality and specifications.
Fair Trade buyers, recognising the financial disadvantages faced by Producers and Suppliers of FT products, ensure orders are paid on receipt of documents or as mutually agreed.
Buyers consult with suppliers before cancelling or rejecting orders. Where orders are cancelled through no fault of producers or suppliers, adequate compensation is guaranteed for work already done. Suppliers and producers consult with buyers if there is a problem with delivery, and ensure compensation is provided when delivered quantities and qualities do not match those invoiced.
The organisation maintains long term relationships based on solidarity, trust and mutual respect that contribute to the promotion and growth of Fair Trade. It maintains effective communication with its trading partners. Parties involved in a trading relationship seek to increase the volume of the trade between them and the value and diversity of their product offer as a means of growing Fair Trade for the producers in order to increase their incomes. The organisation works cooperatively with the other Fair-Trade Organisations in country and avoids unfair competition. It avoids duplicating the designs of patterns of other organisations without permission.
Fair Trade recognises, promotes and protects the cultural identity and traditional skills of small producers as reflected in their craft designs, food products and other related services.
Fair Payment & Fair Prices
A fair payment is one that has been mutually negotiated and agreed by all through on-going dialogue and participation, which provides fair pay to the producers and can also be sustained by the market, taking into account the principle of equal pay for equal work by women and men. The aim is always the payment of a Local Living Wage. Fair Payment is made up of Fair Prices, Fair Wages and Local Living Wages.
A Fair Price is freely negotiated through dialogue between the buyer and the seller and is based on transparent price setting. It includes a fair wage and a fair profit. Fair prices represent an equitable share of the final price to each player in the supply chain.
Fair Wages & Living Wages
A Fair Wage is an equitable, freely negotiated and mutually agreed wage, and presumes the payment of at least a Local Living Wage.
A Local Living Wage is a remuneration received for a standard working by a Worker in a particular place, sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the Worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transport, clothing, and other essential needs, including provision for unexpected events.
Ensuring No Child Labour and Forced Labour
The organisation adheres to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national/local law on the employment of children. The organisation ensures that there is no forced labour in its workforce and/or members or homeworkers.
Organisations who buy Fair Trade products from producer groups either directly or through intermediaries ensure that no forced labour is used in production and the producer complies with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and national/local law on the employment of children. Any involvement of children in the production of Fair-Trade products (including learning a traditional art or craft) is always disclosed and monitored and does not adversely affect the children's well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play.
Commitment to Non–Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment and Freedom of Association
Fair Trade means that women’s’ work is properly valued and rewarded. Women are always paid for their contribution to the production process and are empowered in their organizations. The organisation does not discriminate in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, HIV/AIDS status or age. Where women are employed within the organisation, even where it is an informal employment situation, they receive equal pay for equal work. The organisation recognises women’s full employment rights and is committed to ensuring that women receive their full statutory employment benefits. The organisation ensures that representatives of employees are not subject to discrimination in the workplace.
Ensuring Good Working Conditions
The organisation provides a safe and healthy working environment for employees and/or members. It complies, at a minimum, with national and local laws and ILO conventions on health and safety. Working hours and conditions for employees and/or members (and any homeworkers) comply with conditions established by national and local laws and ILO conventions. Fair Trade Organisations are aware of the health and safety conditions in the producer groups they buy from. They seek, on an ongoing basis, to raise awareness of health and safety issues and improve health and safety practices in producer groups.
Providing Capacity Buildings
The organisation seeks to increase positive developmental impacts for small, marginalised producers through Fair Trade. The organisation develops the skills and capabilities of its own employees or members. Organisations working directly with small producers develop specific activities to help these producers improve their management skills, production capabilities and access to markets - local/regional/international / Fair Trade and mainstream as appropriate.
Promoting Fair Trade
The organisation raises awareness of the aim of Fair Trade and of the need for greater justice in world trade through Fair Trade. It advocates for the objectives and activities of Fair Trade according to the scope of the organisation. The organisation provides its customers with information about itself, the products it markets, and the producer organisations or members that make or harvest the products. Honest advertising and marketing techniques are always used.
Respect for the Environment
Organisations which produce Fair Trade products maximise the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges, buying locally when possible. They use production technologies that seek to reduce energy consumption and where possible use renewable energy technologies that minimise greenhouse gas emissions. They seek to minimise the impact of their waste stream on the environment. Buyers and importers of Fair Trade products give priority to buying products made from raw materials that originate from sustainably managed sources and have the least overall impact on the environment.
All organisations use recycled or easily biodegradable materials for packing to the extent possible, and goods are dispatched by sea wherever possible.