Mercado Global has tapped into this major opportunity by empowering indigenous Guatemalan women, while also expanding socially responsible sourcing within the fashion industry. By empowering indigenous women, one of the world's most marginalized populations, with the tools, skills, and market connections they need, they can use international market access to break the cycle of poverty.
With support from Mercado Global design and sales professionals, artisans gain unprecedented access to higher-value markets with major companies and current Mercado Global retail partners such as Anthropologie, Calypso St. Barth, Red Envelope, and Holt Renfrew. These new income-earning opportunities allow artisans to earn up to three times the national average daily wage, and through business development programs, gain tools to expand their businesses.
Mercado Global commits to changing global sourcing practices by doubling its annual sales over two years and aggressively expanding retail partnerships, securing an additional 12 specialty retail chains, catalogs and department stores, and 50 independent boutiques. These partnerships will be formed through a comprehensive account acquisition program, including participation in international trade shows.
Mercado Global will also partner with an additional 112 indigenous women artisans by building 8 new co-operatives in rural Guatemala. With the increase in high-volume orders, artisans will be able to work at their desired level of employment and invest in self-identified areas of need, especially their children's education.
To empower artisans to participate in orders, Mercado Global will also facilitate microloans and technical training to 40 artisans over two years. With these low-interest rate microloans, artisans may purchase previously prohibitively expensive industrial-quality sewing machines and floor looms. These machines and looms, coupled with training, will enable artisans to work more efficiently and on more complex orders.
By 3/1/2014 Mercado Global will have:
Acquired 4 retail partnerships with chains, catalogs and department stores, and 15 independent boutiques
Brought on an additional 2 cooperatives and 28 artisans
Distributed 10 microloans for industrial-strength sewing machines and looms
By 9/1/2014 Mercado Global will have:
Acquired an additional 4 retail partnerships with chains, catalogs and department stores and 10 independent boutiques
Brought on an additional 2 cooperatives and 28 artisans
Distributed an additional 10 microloans for industrial-strength sewing machines and looms
By 9/1/2015 Mercado Global will have:
Acquired an additional 4 retail chains, catalogs and department stores and 25 independent boutiques
Brought on an additional 4 cooperatives and 56 artisans
Distributed an additional 20 microloans for industrial-strength sewing machines and looms
Charitable efforts to decrease global poverty, at only 6% of US private giving, is a fraction of the great potential that the $15 trillion a year US economy holds to positively impact poor communities worldwide (Giving USA, 2013; Heritage Foundation, 2013). Market-based models that leverage this larger pool of resources are needed in assisting marginalized populations, such as the indigenous Mayan women of Guatemala, to access this market and create win-win sourcing relationships for the fashion industry and indigenous communities.
The fashion industry finds itself at a crucial and opportune moment. Events such as the recent tragedy in Bangladesh at Rana Plaza, coupled with heightened-conscious consumerism and a growing market share of fair trade goods, have provoked a sea change in thinking about apparel and accessories sourcing. However, at the same time, highly-skilled artisans and cooperatives around the world still live in poverty because they lack the tools, capital, and business acumen to access higher-value international markets.
Furthermore, while a greater percentage of the fashion industry may now be ready to incorporate more sustainable sourcing methods, fair trade organizations and businesses, as well as skilled artisans, must also evolve to appeal to a wider range of major retail companies and consumer demand. Just as international retailers should incorporate more ethical supply chains into their business model, the fair trade community must make a greater investment into higher quality design to access contemporary markets and connect artisans to more ambitious sales opportunities.
Women hold disproportionate potential to break the cycle of poverty in rural underdeveloped areas worldwide, and if the fair trade community scaled its business with retailers and removed barriers to access for artisans, such as indigenous Guatemalan women, these women could not only change global sourcing practices, but break the cycle of poverty in developing countries.
Mercado Global would like to offer the CGI community the opportunity to form a partnership with an innovative social enterprise that goes beyond the traditional model of retail and apparel fair trade, working to create and scale sustainable market access for indigenous women artisans.
Mercado Global is willing to share expertise and best practices in sustainable sourcing on-site and virtually with other nonprofits and socially minded businesses. Mercado Global can also offer its experience in successful public-private partnerships, such as Mercado Global's partnership with Levi's, which entails fusing sales, philanthropy, sponsorship, volunteer opportunities, and speaking engagements.
Additionally, as Mercado Global's work targets an underreported demographic population, its social impact assessment data could be useful to organizations working with indigenous artisans in and outside of Central America.