An Outstanding Idea
When our team got the news that Ethletic had been nominated for the Fairtrade Award 2016 back in January of this year, it was already a huge surprise. We were delighted and enormously honored to be chosen as one of the top three companies out of 40 candidates vying for the prize in the “Manufacturer” category.
The Cologne, Germany-based TransFair organization began presenting the prize back in 2009 as an “award for outstanding commitment to fair trade” honoring companies and groups from civil society “which have distinguished themselves as role models for the Fairtrade idea”.
Yeah, OK – that’s a good fit. : )
After all, Ethletic is indeed a pioneer in fairly traded fashion products. The cotton for our sneakers is 100 percent Fairtrade-certified, while our natural rubber has the added social component of FSC-certification. And when we discovered that our production employees in Pakistan were not adequately included in the bonus system, Ethletic immediately founded its own “Welfare Society” our employees there. In addition, we were also involved in founding Pakistan’s first Fairtrade organic cotton cooperative, at the beginning of this year.
So yes, we have a pretty good track record. But would it be enough for 1st Prize?
The award ceremony was held during a gala dinner event at the Ellington Hotel in Berlin on the evening of March 3rd, 2016 and hosted by acclaimed German comedienne Anke Engelke. Irreverent and entertaining, Anke was in top form. From our white seats positioned behind large Fairtrade floral bouquets, we sat in excited anticipation as the prize winners in the “Manufacturers” category were announced. For second-place, Breitsamer Honig and the Jan Spille jewelry studio were both called on stage – which meant there could only be one prize left for us…1st Prize?
“YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” : )
Charlotte Britz, mayor of the role model Fairtrade city of Saarbrücken, presented Ethletic boss Marc Solterbeck with the carved wood award, while our designer Johanna Balzer received a very avant-garde floral bouquet and copy editor Annika Langhagel was warmly embraced by presenter Anke Engelke. Needless to say, all three Ethletic team members were speechless (as you can unfortunately see on the above photo!).
“With a small budget but with innovative products and communication measures, Ethletic constantly informs its customers about the situation in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, thereby maintaining a transparent supplier chain. Ethletic is doing pioneering work, which the Fairtrade Award jury honors tonight with 1st Prize in the Manufacturers category.”
These were the jury’s words regarding the award.
Ethletic’s Marc Solterbeck enthused, “We are so happy to receive this magnificent distinction”. He went on to comment that it even feels a little too early, maintaining that “we still have so many plans”. He thanked everyone who believes in the brand and who has supported it in the past. He continued his praise saying, “Without the dedication of our partners in Asia and the support of innumerable voluntary helpers, artists, our employees and our trading partners, we would never have come this far”.
Marc Solterbeck is dedicated to the idea of making Fairtrade a matter of course. He explains, “Why not fight to ensure that only products bearing a seal of approval for fair working conditions are sold?”
And if established brand name manufacturers are unable or unwilling to offer this kind of seal, “then we’ll make our own brand which guarantees that the raw materials and products are manufactured under fair conditions”.
For fashion designer Johanna Balzer, this award honors “all the pioneers who have put so much commitment and passion into building up the supply chains for the Ethletic brand”. As examples she cited Assad Bajwa, whose work in Ethletic’s “Welfare Society” in Pakistan involves reinforcing and protecting the rights of the local production employees, along with James Lloyd and Dr. Martin Kunz, the founders of the transparent, sustainable raw materials supply chain which Ethletic continues to build on today with unerring persistence.
Johanna explains, “We live in and profit from a globalized world, and that brings global responsibilities. These are not empty words for me. They are the basis for how we work”. But she also advocates infusing this approach with a touch of “friendship, an easygoing attitude, fun, style and diversity”.
In summarizing all the speeches and discussions held during the evening, it’s true to say that Fairtrade has now broken through, but there is still much to do. There is still a large gap between the consumer willingness to buy Fairtrade products expressed in surveys and the actual purchasing decisions made on the ground today. People continue to be highly susceptible to brashly advertised alleged “bargains”.
Ethletic’s priority is to make it as easy as possible to choose ethically credible products. And if the reactions from the award ceremony are anything to go by, we’re doing a pretty good job of it. Many guests expressed great interest in the product portfolio and were genuinely surprised that the shoes look so modern and “un-green”! Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Ethletic shoes are not more expensive than comparable sneakers from well-known brand name manufacturers.
In this spirit, we would like to give very special thanks to YOU – our customers and supporters. It is you who spread the word about Ethletic among your friends and thereby ensure that the idea of fair sneakers can continue to grow and grow.
So this Fairtrade Award also belongs to you – the best “Fair Family” in the world. : )