Respecting Cultural Identity in the Marketplace

 

 

 

Last Fall, we announced our membership into the Fair Trade Federation. With that honor came the commitment to uphold the nine principles on which FTF was founded. Over the following months, we took a deeper look into each of those topics. “Fair Trade” means many things. It means creating opportunities for marginalized producers, developing transparent relationships, cultivating safe & empowering working conditions, ensuring the rights of children, being kind to the earth, and lastly:

 

Respecting Cultural Identity

 

Fair Trade celebrates the cultural diversity of communities, while seeking to create positive and equitable change. Members respect the development of products, practices, and organizational models based on indigenous traditions and techniques to sustain cultures and revitalize traditions. Members balance market needs with producers’ cultural heritage.

 

At GOEX, we share the story of resiliency that runs through Haiti. We champion Haitian culture and desire to take customers to Haiti to experience their culture and see the lives that make their apparel. Along with the product, our main selling point is the story behind the apparel. We do everything we can to amplify who makes the product and how they make the product. We tag our t-shirts with the GOEX label because we want all customers to know where their shirts come from and that they’ve lifted lives through the power of purchase. We exist to champion Haiti.

 

 

Here are a few examples how:

  • The main form of communication at LIFE is in Creole, Haiti’s official language.
  • Within the facility, we celebrate locally made artisan goods and decorate the grounds with Haitian flags.
  • Haiti is a relationship-driven country, so we allow time for fellowship and community building
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  • All Haitian holidays are recognized to ensure that employees can spend time with their friends and families during special occasions.

 

 

 

 

Open for all!

We want everyone to see and know Haitian culture, so we implemented an open door policy. We believe open door policies play a vital role in reforming the industry and creating transparency in the apparel manufacturing sector. Here’s how else GOEX opens the door (literally) to reveal all the things you’ve wanted to know or never even thought to ask:

 

SEE INSIDE

 

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Cultivating Environmental Stewardship

 

The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.

—Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

 

Cultivating Environmental Stewardship

If we work hard to practice Fair Trade principles, but fail to cultivate environmental stewardship, we have missed the mark. If we work hard to make things better for this generation, but in turn, make things harder for the next generation, we have missed the mark. We must value the producers, empower the workers, defend the rights of children, AND be mindful of the earth while doing it. This is the Fair Trade Federation’s 8th key principle.

 

Fair Trade Federation members seek to meet their own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This requires active consideration of the environmental impact of every decision the company makes and creative adaptations in business practices that advocate responsible stewardship of resources.

 

Simply put, members reduce, reuse, reclaim, and recycle materials wherever possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three key ways GOEX implements healthy environmental practices.

 

1) Responsible Sourcing:

We incorporate sustainably grown materials into our products by sourcing our fabrics from Carolina Cotton Works in South Carolina — they offer a variety of recycled materials. We use Repreve, a recycled polyester yarn and then spin our tri-blend shirts from US-grown cotton, recycled polyester, and rayon. Every tri-blend shirt contains the equivalent of approximately 6 plastic water bottles!

 

 

2) Responsible Use:

A large part of environmental stewardship is the day-to-day operational practices we have established. Our screen printing facility in Kansas City operates from an environmental and sustainable neutral position. We work with local authorities and agencies to ensure that the disposal of all waste/excess is in accordance with our positive environmental policy. We have an electric car charging station at our office and print shop to encourage electric cars. We recently moved into a new industrial building with large windows and low dividing walls to capitalize on the natural light, thus conserving electricity.

 

The main challenge we face is screen printing effluence. We are currently evaluating a system to capture all of our effluence from printing in tanks and to recirculate them and dispose of them. Attention is given to our suppliers to ensure the types of chemicals included in their products are friendly to the environment.

 

 

3) Responsible Waste:

When we can, we take extreme care to avoid waste in the first place, but it’s near impossible to be a Zero Waste print shop. Instead, we focus our attention on how we want to responsibly handle the waste we can’t avoid. We go back to the elementary school basics: reduce, reuse, recycle.

 

When it makes sense, we gift extra materials from the production facility in Haiti to the community. For other materials, like plastic, paint, cardboard, etc., we diligently recycle! We also reuse screens, boxes and ink containers in an effort to reduce our overall consumption.

 

 

 

Shop tees made with you in mind.

We’d love to get you started with a better basic tee today! Choose from our many styles, colors, and fits to make the perfect garment for your next group event — something you can feel proud to wear. Browse our Digital Catalog today!

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The Right of Every Child

 

Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education and play. What we really mean, is that kids have a right to be kids! Fair Trade Federation members are no exception to this fundamental rule. Members must respect and support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms. This means: zero tolerance for child trafficking or exploitative child labor.

 

 

 

Defending the child is the core of who we are. It’s the reason we exist.

 

GOEX is fully owned by The Global Orphan Project, a nonprofit that began investing in the lives of vulnerable children in 2004. As they continued to care for kids around the world, they learned a few things along the way.

 

The best form of orphan care is orphan prevention, and the best form of orphan prevention is a strong job. They dreamed, “Was it possible to create a sustainable model of ministry in which commerce played the biggest donor?”

 

 

 

It starts with the workers.

If we can give parents the opportunity to care for their own kids, that is our first choice. Many times, family breakdown is a result of the lack of opportunity. Parents want to love and support and provide for their children, but without a job, it’s just not possible. So, let’s create some jobs. Let’s create jobs that pay more. Let’s create jobs that make it possible for parents to put food on the table and love in the home. Let’s create jobs that keep families together.

 

 

 

And ends with the kids.

We are giving it all away. Every penny. 100% of the profit from every sale goes to care for kids through The Global Orphan Project. Their partnerships with local churches empower local leaders to be the hero to their own community. Whether it is family strengthening programs, medical care, access to education or all the little things in between — each vetted need pushes a child’s story forward.

 

If you print with us, use our garments or just advocate for our story — you have already made a difference. Real stories of real impact on real families!

 

SEE THE IMPACT

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Supporting Safe and Empowering Working Conditions

 

Fair Trade means a lot of things, to a lot of different people. But if we get down to the nitty gritty, it means “better”. Better standards, better treatment, better pay, better conditions, just better. Member’s of the Fair Trade Federation seek to do “better” as they follow principle #6: Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions.

 

 

 

“Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment free of forced labor. Throughout the trading chain, Members cultivate workplaces that empower people to participate in the decisions that affect them. Members seek to eliminate discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status. Members support workplaces free from physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.”

 

— Fair Trade Federation

 

 

Empowering Workers

Our first priority is our workers — they are the reason we exist. When major changes are necessary due to adjustments in government labor policies, we update our rules to comply and then meet with employees to educate them on those updates. Our urgent priority is to make sure we have engaged with all questions or concerns. Employees are invited to work on strategizing and implementing key business objects. This requires regular team meetings to get input on specific business needs or decisions, as well as overall strategic direction. Both in Haiti and in Kansas City, all employees are hired and retained based on skill regardless of race, sex, union affiliation, religion or any other factors.

And Keeping Them Safe

For our producers at LIFE in Haiti, we regularly participate in audits or reviews of our workplace and policies. This is done through third party companies like BetterWorks Haiti and the Fair Trade Federation. At our printshop in Kansas City, we practice similar disciplines in working with our employees. We update policies annually and review with employees. We pay attention to industry standards and requirements for workplace safety for both warehousing and screenprinting.

 

 

 

Travel with us to Haiti

See for yourself.

You play a big role in keeping us accountable — so come visit our facilities first hand! We know Haiti isn’t a “drop everything and head down next weekend” kind of destination for everyone, so start planning now. Check out our trips calendar, find a week that works for you, and then say “yes!”. Travel with us to meet the makers of your tees and see their facility conditions in person. We promise to let you have the aisle seat on the plane.

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Pay Promptly and Fairly

Fair Trade Apparel — Living Wages

Arguably, one of the biggest challenges with Fair Trade business is convincing the world to accept those few extra dollars on the price tag. We are conditioned to paying undercut prices, and change is hard to accept — especially when that change is not a tangible difference to the consumer but instead, a tangible difference to the producer.

 

Those few extra dollars empower producers, who commonly get taken advantage of, to set prices within the framework of the true cost of labor, time, materials and sustainable growth. This is the motivation behind the fifth principle that GOEX and other Fair Trade Federation members must follow:

 

 

 

Pay promptly and fairly.

 

This practice begins by examining international, national, and local minimum standards, and then complying with or exceeding those standards for employees and producers. Once fair wages are established, it’s equally important to ensure prompt, impartial payment. While our shirts sport a slightly higher price tag than the warehouse down the street, we offer that Fair Trade difference.

 

Fair Trade Apparel — Living Wages

 

 

 

Not just fair wages, but living wages.

We looked at the minimum standards in our producers home nation, and realized it was barely enough to make ends meet. We wondered, “Could we charge a little more to pay a little more?”. Daily wages at Life S.A., our apparel manufacturing facility, are 65% higher than the sector minimum and our employees have the ability to earn 140%+ of minimum based on production. In other words, they get paid a LIVABLE wage. All operators are paid the same rate based on production and time worked regardless of age or sex. We understand the challenges of cash flow in manufacturing and strive to be dependable partners — never wanting our makers to miss a pay day.

 

 

 

Prices that are fair to both you and our producers.

In selecting vendors, we do some competitive shopping to ensure our pricing is fair and will give the best value to our customers, but we do not request extended terms or push for heavy discounts. In addition, GOEX management has spent countless hours with our team in Haiti to help analyze costs, employment and tax law, and production benchmarks. We want our local team to have the best training and skills possible to maximize production and create high quality garments for you.

 

 

 

Fair Trade Apparel — Living Wages

The Story Behind Your Shirt

We don’t exist to make money. We exist because a nonprofit, The Global Orphan Project, had a dream that commerce could make a sustainable difference in a hurting world. They quickly realized that many children living in residential care did not lack family. Rather, their parents lacked opportunity. The answer? Create opportunity.

 

To make this dream work, we needed a creative team, premium product, and a community of customers ready to use their purchase power to create life-giving alternatives within the apparel industry.

Use Your Purchase Power

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Fair Trade Federation Principle #4

 

Promote Fair Trade.

Part of our mission is to make sure you understand the role you play in world trade and the possibility of greater justice within that global economic system. This is also the heart of the Fair Trade Federation‘s fourth principle: Promote Fair Trade.

 

Your purchase speaks. It tells businesses what they can and cannot do. It can be a positive force for improving living standards, health, education, distribution of power, and the environment.

 

Your purchase speaks, but what do you want it to say?

 

 

 

 

 

5 questions we want you asking before making your next purchase:

 

 

Who made this?

Fashion Revolution coined this phrase and started a conversation around it, begging people to think about the invisible makers. It’s a topic near to our mission. As simple as the question is, the answer goes deep. If a brand knows, and is willing to tell you, who made their clothes, it means there is a real relationship with their producers. We love the quote by The Good Trade, “There should be no hidden faces within the fashion industry.”

 

 

Is that a fair price?

We have come to expect cheaper and cheaper clothes. Those prices feel good, but are they fair? Unfortunately, that low price tag probably correlates with warp speed production. Your $10 dollar tee is a layer of stories — from growing the cotton, to turning it into fabric, to sewing it into a shirt, to printing the design, to a store selling it to you. All of these people are trying to make a profitable living, but it’s usually those at the bottom who are left with the least. “By asking whether a price is fair, we can begin to recognize a garment’s true value” — The Good Trade

 

 

What is the garment made of?

This is where things get murky. We don’t expect you do be a fabric connoisseur, but we hope we do our part in educating you. You first have to think about the fabric itself, and then you must consider the production process. Even with an plant base option like cotton, there can be shady practices going on behind the curtain. Choosing a natural or recycled fiber is a good first step, and then looking for Fair Trade or Organic certifications ensures you won’t be messing with those murky, big businesses practices. 

 

 

Is this brand open and honest?

Ask. Ask. Ask questions. Take a minute and think about your three favorite brands. What do you know about them? Where are their clothes made? What were the conditions of the workers? How much did those employees make? Are they willing to tell you about the money? Whats the breakdown cost of each shirt? These questions matter and the power is in the consumers hands to keep brands accountable. 

 

 

What is the true value of my purchase?

You benefit each time you make a purchase, that’s a given but some companies offer more. It’s a question you need to ask yourself now, “Am I willing to spend a little bit more?”. From social justice to environmental activism, there are a wide variety of causes your purchase can support. With GOEX, you are championing the family. You are giving parents the chance to support their families through the dignity of work and a living wage paycheck. Value goes beyond what it adds to your wardrobe when it positively impacts every hand involved. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get to shopping!

 

With all that preparation, you are ready to shop! It can be overwhelming at first, so we made you a little cheat sheet. Here is where you can find fair trade:

 

  • Stores and cafes in your local community: here
  • Purchase from Fair Trade Federation members online: here
  • Find FTF wholesale suppliers: here
  • Share or learn about fair trade: here
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Fair Trade Federation Principle #3

It’s exciting to hear all the fair trade buzz! However, this buzzword often misses the mark. When rubber hits the road, do all of these “fair trade” companies stand the test? As a Fair Trade Federation member, GOEX is dedicated to following the nine FTF principles established to maintain integrity. The third principle protects the independence of farmers, artisans, producers, and their communities.

 

 

 

 

 

Building Capacity

 

This is what it looks like for businesses to actually care for one another.

 

Protecting a producer’s independence means we have a call to invest our time and resources to help them grow. Success at this third principle might even mean growing apart from us as their capacity increases. It means creating sustainable supply chains. It means sharing marketplace insight. It means spreading best practices and encouraging skill improvement.

 

When healthy, respectful, and long term relationships like these are built between a business and their producers, space is created for growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Producer’s Journey: Life S.A.

 

Life S.A. is a sewing facility new Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where our products are made by skilled Haitian apparel makers. While GOEX is a shareholder in Life S.A., and the largest investor, our goal has never been to own a factory. We have worked over the past three years to train and empower local management to run day-to-day operations, while GOEX functions as a manufacturer’s rep — bringing new customers to the factory.

 

Our primary, quantifiable goal is to generate at least 1,000+ jobs in living wage conditions at Life S.A. and in Kansas City over the next five years.  

 

Achieving this goal requires a portfolio of customers both for manufacturing in Haiti and for custom garments in Kansas City. While the two businesses function as partners, we want them to be independently sustainable and supported by customers that meet the unique capabilities of each. This goal requires continued empowerment of local management and creative ways to attract new customers. It also requires excellent coordination and communication between teams in the U.S. and in Haiti, ensuring we all understand capacity, strengths and forecasts.

 

If we’re successful in our goals of generating demand for our products and services, and therefore creating 1,000+ jobs, our profits will fund the care for thousands of vulnerable children in the U.S. and in Haiti. Ultimately, we seek to break the cycle of poverty by providing jobs and supporting the care and education of local children in the communities where we make.

 

 

 

Follow the Story

 

 

 

We strive to be bold with our words and represent the ideals we believe. If you like what we stand for, we want to share more! Stay in the loop by signing up to receive our newsletters, following us on Instagram, or liking our Facebook page.

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Fair Trade Federation Principle #2

Print Shop Staff- Kansas City

 

Developing Transparent and Accountable Relationships

Wouldn’t it be nice to know where the fabric of your shirt came from? Wait… what’s even in this fabric? Who made it? How much were they paid? Were they treated fairly?

 

What story does my shirt tell?

 

 

The second principle Fair Trade Federation members must exemplify is radical transparency.

 

 

Transparency creates accountability from customers to make sure companies maintain open, fair, consistent, and respectful partnerships. The entire trading chain must be shared through proactive communication to ensure that producers and customers feel actively involved in the process. Maybe most importantly, when we make mistakes, we must work humbly and cooperatively with partners to implement solutions.

 

Here’s how GOEX opens the door (literally) to reveal all the things you’ve wanted to know or never even thought to ask:

 

 

LIFE Apparel Staff – Haiti

 

USA Fabric —

We pay more for USA fabric because we can verify the origin of our goods from the cotton fields to finishing. We can visit any of the manufacturers involved in producing our raw materials.

 

Open Door Policy —

We have an open door policy both in our sewing facility in Haiti and in our print shop in Kansas City. When you visit either facility, you’re encouraged to talk with employees and get a better understanding of how we support the people who make your clothes.

 

Working Cooperatively —

Making a difference in entrenched systems is hard. The Fair Trade space is full of trial and error and we’re not the exception. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned many lessons.  And we’re always willing to share those lessons with other Fair Trade companies. From pay scales in Haiti to sales strategies in the US, we see the value in dialogue with companies working alongside us to make a difference for marginalized workers.

 

Employee Empowerment —

We want employees at every level of our organization to feel respected, engaged and part of the team. We send all employees in Kansas City to Haiti so they can understand our manufacturing and the impact it has on workers there. In Haiti, we work closely with the employees, union representatives and line supervisors to ensure any issues are addressed and resolved quickly and with respect.

 

Pricing Model —

We are completely transparent with our pricing model. After costs to produce premium apparel and provide living wage jobs, all GOEX profit — every bit of it — goes to fund projects set in motion by The Global Orphan Project.

 

 

 

You’re invited!

 

So, we invite you to come visit us — in Kansas City or in Haiti. See first-hand where your fabric came from, who made it, or how was printed. And keep putting the pressure on businesses to remain fair, honest, and transparent.

SEE OPEN TRIPS

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Fair Trade Federation Principle #1

 

We recently announced our membership into the Fair Trade Federation. The term “fair trade” is claimed by many, but fewer than 200 companies have been screened, verified and accepted by the FTF. This honor is followed by a commitment to uphold the nine principles on which FTF was founded.

 

We work each day to prove we are a business who does business differently. 

 

 

 

 

Principle #1: Create opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers.

 

 

Poverty alleviation and sustainable development begins with thoughtful, careful partnerships. Makers, developers, producers, farmers, suppliers — they are the soul of craft and trade. However, these producers often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods. FTF businesses should recognize this disparity and seek to create long term partnerships that prioritize the producers and their communities before anything else.

 

 

Over the years, as we fought with genuine hearts to break the orphan cycle, we learned many humbling lessons. One of the most important truths we have learned: The best form of orphan care is orphan prevention, and the best form of orphan prevention is a strong job.

 

 

 

 

Creating partnerships — in Haiti and in Kansas City

 

 

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with an 85% unemployment rate. Workers in the apparel industry in Haiti work six days per week for a minimum wage that barely covers their daily expenses. It is our goal to disrupt that thought process and prove a company can charge more and pay more, therefore elevating the lives of their employees allowing them to care for their families and build a better future.

 

 

In Kansas City, we partner with the Full Employment Council to provide internships for disadvantaged young adults in the urban core and then connect qualified candidates with job opportunities within our network or hire them ourselves if we have openings.

 

 

The Story Continues 

This story started with a child, grew into an apparel company, prioritized the worker, and now continues with you. 

 

When you purchase a GOEX tee or select GOEX for fulfillment services, you are assured your choice supports marginalized people in both Haiti and the United States. And, because we’re solely owned by The Global Orphan Project, 100% of our profits are reinvested to support families in the U.S. and around the world. 

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GOEX Accepted Into Fair Trade Federation

We are excited to share GOEX is now a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation. With fewer than 200 members worldwide, the Fair Trade Federation’s (FTF) acceptance of GOEX reflects our deep commitment to the highest standards of fair trade and the pursuit of a more just and sustainable world.

 

 

What does GOEX’s membership mean?

Behind every product you purchase from any business, there are faces, names, and futures. For GOEX and other Fair Trade Federation members, the heart of our business, our primary goal, is to improve the lives and communities of the people who create our products.

 

Fair Trade Federation members go through rigorous screening evaluating our business sourcing, practices and mission. The FTF calls it 360° fair trade, meaning we’re committed to being fair and responsible in everything we do — socially, economically, and environmentally. 360° fair trade means not only fair wages, but also long-term, holistic partnerships that empower small businesses, entrepreneurs, and artisans to strengthen their communities and grow their businesses sustainably.

 

How do we qualify?

Our entire business undergoes extensive evaluations to ensure we source all products in compliance with the entirety of FTF’s Code of Practice.  Here are the nine Fair Trade Federation principles:

 

  1. Create Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers
  2. Develop Transparent and Accountable Relationships
  3. Build Capacity
  4. Promote Fair Trade
  5. Pay Promptly and Fairly
  6. Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions
  7. Ensure the Rights of Children
  8. Cultivate Environmental Stewardship
  9. Respect Cultural Identity

 

Learn more about the 360° fair trade principles and FTF’s eligibility requirements.

 

Why are Fair Trade Federation members different from other companies that sell fair trade?

“Fair trade” now means many things. It is important to distinguish between fair trade certified products and fully committed fair trade companies. Fully committed fair trade companies have built ethical behavior into their DNA. It is part of every decision and process. Companies that sell certified products sometimes source only a small percent on certified terms.

 

The Fair Trade Federation is a membership organization, not a certifying body. Rather than certifying individual products, businesses must go through a rigorous screening process in order to become members. This screening is a holistic evaluation of GOEX’s fair trade practices.

 

Thank you for doing your part.

We would not be sharing this news without you! Thank you for choosing to care for others and our world through the power of your purchase.

 

We are committed to every person who plays a role in producing your t-shirts, committed to the children and families who benefit from 100% of profit, and committed to providing you with complete transparency and a product you’re proud to wear.

 

Keep an eye on our blog to learn more about of Fair Trade Federation membership and 360° fair trade.

 

Shop GOEX.

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