2022 has been an exciting year for our team — from a full-scale return to in-person events to receiving another large shipment of honey and beeswax from our partners in Haiti. However, our biggest announcement was yet to come until this week — we are officially a member of the Fair Trade Federation!
We spent much of this year completing the detailed application process to earn this status — the Fair Trade Federation is a global network of “fair trade enterprises fully committed to equitable and sustainable trading partnerships” and endeavors to create equity, justice, and dignified livelihoods for all. Fair trade verification status means that a company has demonstrated its commitment and ability to uphold the nine Fair Trade Federation Principles at every step of its operations; this is something we have done for many years as we scale our work and relationships in rural Haiti and felt we were ready to formalize with outside review from a reputable fair trade organization.
For us, fair trade verification is both a celebration of our progress so far and a humble rededication to the values that have brought us here. Since 2016, we have proudly partnered with farmers in Moreau to grow a poverty-free Haiti, starting at the root. From vetiver grass to beekeeping, we have spent the last six years supporting these rural farmers as they develop sustainable agricultural practices that protect the environment and create new income opportunities in their community.
In addition to being a public-benefit corporation in the state of Minnesota, we are committed to upholding the Fair Trade Federation Principles in everything we do. These include:
Cultivating new market opportunities
Since day one, we have understood that we bring resources, connections, and funding to the Farmers’ Association of Moreau that they may otherwise not have access to. We are not agricultural experts — we rely on the farmers’ vast knowledge and experience in tending their land and local ecosystems for that. Instead, we have the unique ability to create, nurture, and grow new market opportunities for their natural products; we can help them finance sustainable farming practices by finding profitable uses for raw goods like honey, and beeswax.
This is especially useful since honey competes with sugar cane in local markets (thus, the price is undercut by this much cheaper alternative), and beeswax has no wide use in Haiti after harvesting from the hives (giving us the opportunity to create an entirely new income source for the farmers).
Developing transparent and accountable relationships
Vetiver Solutions would not exist or have grown without individual, business, and community relationships at each step of what we do. From our earliest days as a group project at the University of Minnesota to our years-long partnership with the Farmers’ Association of Moreau, we rely on open communication, transparent business practices, and accountability to our promises to do our work every day.
- In Haiti: We maintain constant contact with the farmers in Moreau to keep them updated on our business operations, decisions, and performance. During visits to Haiti, we hold discussions, in both small and large groups, to allow members of the community to ask us questions, provide feedback on our operations, and discuss their worries or criticisms
- In the US: We pride ourselves on being transparent with our supporters, customers, and retailers about our processes, products, and financial expenditures. From our digital presence to our annual reports, we keep our followers updated on our work and welcome questions, feedback, and ideas at all times.
Cultivating environmental stewardship
Since our founding, our company has held the core belief that poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability are interconnected goals that can be achieved together. At the beginning of our partnership, the Farmers’ Association of Moreau made it clear that they struggled most with soil erosion and deforestation in their mountainous region; over time, this has led to fertile topsoil washing away, less food production, and less biodiversity in the area. We have worked together over the past several years on initiatives like beekeeping that provide the farmers with new sources of income and increased food production.
This is long, slow work that relies on the generational knowledge of the farmers to tend to their crops, animals, and trees in geographically and culturally appropriate ways. We further uphold our commitment to environmental sustainability in our operations in the US. All of our products are packaged in materials that are either compostable or recyclable (cardboard, paper, glass, metal, etc.) and we thoroughly vet our suppliers’ environmental impact before we purchase from them.
Respecting cultural, racial, and ethnic identities
Haiti has a long, complex history of colonization, enslavement, revolution, and globalization. Whether within our executive team or in conversation with the farmers, we ensure we have nuanced, context-driven dialogues that center equity and justice. We often have to make big decisions about our operations, and always discuss our options and impacts with our partner farmers before we move forward. We are dedicated to always respecting the cultural, racial, and ethnic identities of the farmers we work with. Our team always own up to and fix our inevitable mistakes along the way. We are also committed to these values in our interactions with our supporters, customers, and retailers; as a corporate citizen of Minnesota, US, and the world, we hold ourselves accountable to ethical and transparent engagement from the first step in our supply chain to the checkout line.
As with our public benefit corporation status, these outside verifications of our business are important to us and represent a rededication to our values. We are excited to continue growing our company, our relationships, and our impact over the coming years — and recognize the thoughtful steps we must take to ensure this growth happens ethically and sustainably for the communities and partners we work with. Thank you for being a part of our journey, we look forward to what the future holds!