Marko Metzinger/Studio D
During travels in the 1980s, the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, learned that many of the communities she visited were not getting paid fairly for their ingredients or goods often not enough to cover the cost of production or wages. Inspired by the early fair-trade movement happening with coffee and tea, Roddick started a Community Trade program working with undeveloped countries that were otherwise powerless in securing a fair price for their products. Twenty-one years later, The Body Shop spends more than $12 million buying ingredients as well as gifts and accessories, like wooden massage tools and tote bags, from suppliers in more than 20 countries. One of those suppliers is a cooperative of sesame farmers in Achuapa, a village in Nicaragua. When Roddick met the farmers in the 1990s, they were struggling to make a living by exporting sesame oil. Roddick worked out a fair price for the sesame oil (now used in more than 40 Body Shop products, including the Moringa Milk Body Lotion, $16) by calculating how much it costs to grow, as well as the community needs: the cost of living, the cost of education, etc. The cosmetics company then gave the farmers a forecast somewhat of a contract that projected how much sesame oil the company would purchase over the course of, say, a year, giving the farmers a newfound sense of stability and the ability to invest in their community. "We're not about charity," says Graham Clewer, global head of ethical trade at The Body Shop. "A hand up is always better than a handout."
Since this relationship began, the co-op has built eight primary schools that educate 400 children. And it's currently building a boarding house in Achuapa so 40 kids (mostly children of single moms or those who live in neighboring communities) can attend secondary school. There have been other improvements as well: 13 sanitary water wells built; an acupuncture and natural medicine clinic opened by a single mother of six; a bank, which offers low-interest loans and encourages community members to save money; a model farm, to test organic farming methods; and even family workshops to educate the community on complicated social issues like gender equality and domestic violence.