Ten Thousand Villages

Harmony. Made by Hand.

Tuesday 5 June 2012, by Anna Remacha, António Lynch, Manel, mramirez

7 inspired

A. How did you find this company? What are the main facts about its activities?

Ten Thousand Villages (TTV) is by itself a Sustainability-related company, because it tries to improve the sustainability in a fair trade between those who can offer and those who can buy. Thus, this nonprofit organization performs two main roles. It creates work for people from underdeveloped countries, improving their life conditions, and, on the other hand, it provides North American people to access artisans’ products, from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, easily and with a fair price. Also, it is founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), a global network of fair trade organizations. Moreover, Ten Thousand Villages shows an enhanced responsibility by encouraging their artisan partners to incorporate environmental concerns in their processes, while using the resources.
The company provides a vast range of products such as jewelry, home décor, toys, art and sculpture, musical instruments, textiles, among others. These products can be acquired in shops around North America, in Festival Sales, and through the internet.
The whole business system of the company fulfills their values: Artisans receive up to 50% of the final price when an order is made and the other 50% when it is shipped. The price is agreed upon artisans and TTV, so it covers material and labor expenses plus a little margin.
The company does not print a catalog, because that is not environmentally sustainable. Instead, they put the catalog online where people all over the world can buy the different products. Even transportation has been considered so as to minimize environmental impact by using shipments whenever possible.

B. What are the Ethical challenges this company is addressing?

We consider that the main ethical challenge the company is facing is related to the current business goal of maximizing profits, which can promote negative discrimination on job conditions and strong pressure to the producers in order to get better deals for the products. In developing countries, this situation is even worse because most of the producers depend on their handmade products and do not have enough power to opposite big enterprises. Ten Thousand Villages is trying to offer a fair price to the producers, so as to give them an opportunity to maintain themselves and their families and to create wealth. They also value their products enough so producers have good job conditions. The main challenge of the company is trying to be successful economically in this environment, in order to show to the world that this kind of business can be the chosen one for a better future.
Furthermore, the company also has the ethical challenge to operate with environmental considerations. Therefore, the company has to worry about aspects ranged from materials used by producers to store designs even.
Finally, given that the company has succeeded in growing and being profitable in the market, maintaining its initial goals is another challenge. Relaxing its values in order to increase profits is something they have to avoid constantly. If that happened, it would mean that the company has lost their inspiring and ethical component.

C. What makes this company really inspiring to you and why would you trust it?

The main reason why Ten Thousand Villages is ethical is that it has maintained its original ethical goals since its foundation in 1946. Furthermore, the company has never been involved in labor problems such as bad job conditions or scams which show us that the company leaders behave ethically.
Ten Thousand Villages is designed in a way that makes it simple to see how ethical they actually are.
Honesty and transparence are key factors. The company is clear about its accounting and also offers its truthful information to the producers, in order to show them that the transaction is really fair for them.
Generosity is also an important aspect. Ten Thousand Villages offer prices to its suppliers much higher than what they would find in the market which emphasizes how the company worries about their living conditions.
Social commitment is vital. Since its foundation, the company has focused its activity in achieving an important goal: giving better opportunities to artisans in developing countries.
We have not found any unethical behavior that might lead us not to trust Ten Thousand Villages and we consider its goals regarding developing countries a really ethical purpose. So given that, we both think it is ethical and trustworthy.

D.What are the possible challenges facing the company in the future and how do you think this company may improve?

The company faces two kinds of challenges: those referred to business itself and those related to ethical issues.
As any other business, they work within the market. Ten Thousand Villages has to face changes like Ups and downs of demand, new competitors and many other obstacles that any business has to face. It is a successful idea that could be copied, so it can become a serious challenge for Ten Thousand Villages. It might be positive for the world that new business like this company are created, but part of its success is to be sustainable as a business and new competitors might difficult it.
Moreover, they continuously face ethical business dilemmas in their day-to-day activities. Maintaining their values, fulfilling their mission and being economically sustainable is a challenge that they face every single day, and it is not going to change in the future but keep increasing.
The company can improve by learning every day from their mistakes. Sharing with other similar companies can be an improvement both because they emphasize their values to others and because they can learn from others’ mistakes as well.



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2 Discussions / 2 Messages

  • Ten Thousand Villages 5 June 2012 at 22:12 , by Manel

    What do you think about searching a marketplace in the developed countries for the handmade products of the artisans in developing countries? I really think it’s a way to redistribute the whole wealth, to bring an opportunity to people in developing countries to "catch up" and stop increasing the gap between rich and poor.

  • Distribution and brand recognition 16 June 2012 at 14:40 , by Elisabeth

    I never heard about this company before but I thought it was very inspiring when you presented it and I found the concept of redistributing wealth between developed countries and developing countries very attractive. I would like to add a comment regarding the distribution process of Ten Thousand Villages, I believe they could differentiate from new competitors that could easily copy them by improving their distribution system and maybe reduce costs of shipment for artisanal products to the developed countries, as well as increasing their brand recognition in Europe. Since it is not a well known company name in Europe it could easily be introduced and known only for its ethical purpose and not for activities only related to profit maximization like most established companies.

Location: Akron, Lancaster (United States)

Sector: Wholesale and retail trade

Official website: www.tenthousandvillages.com

Key figures:

74 Stores
351 Alliance accounts
294 Corporate staff members
4,500+ Volunteers
6,013 Net income
,976,821 US Sales
35 Countries from which TTV has purchased
123 Artisans groups
647 New items introduced
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh principal crafts producers
.5 millions crafts purchases from artisans
(31/03/2011 data)

Nbr. visits: 1302

Nbr. inspires: 7