The business ethics of this popular gift wholesaler are very honest and open, and backed up by the founder’s weekly blog showing his visits to their very many producers around the world. As they are not a member of any external fair trade organisations, we tend to limit our purchases from AW to things we cannot find elsewhere, but would still choose to purchase from this ethically-minded company rather than the scores of wholesalers out there who are primarily geared towards maximising their own profits at any cost.
Ancient Wisdom break down their business ethics into four catergories, “Animal Testing”, “Child Labour in Developing Nations”, “Fair Trade”, and “Ecological, Recyclable and Sustainable Products”.
I have been against animal testing since I first became aware of it back in 1985 when I saw a BUAV poster on the back wall of a walk-in cupboard at school in my English Literature class, so it is important to me that the products we sell at Near & Fair are not tested on animals either as a complete product or as the individual ingredients that make up the items. Ancient Wisdom feel the same, stating that they “condemn any act of cruelty” and “no product we stock has been tested on animals”, continuing to reassure us that “as far as possible we use natural, pure ingredients, we use only reputable suppliers who hold similar principles to ourselves, and who endeavour to produce entirely cruelty free product”.
Child Labour in Developing Nations
A sticking point when it comes to ethical trading with developing nations is child labour. With images of young children with bare feet working long hours in factories for little reward, we naturally find such practises abhorrent and unacceptable, and at Near & Fair we would never knowingly sell products made in such an unethical manner. Picture instead small family businesses with traditional skills being passed from generation to generation. Happy children coming home from school and joining in with the grown ups to spend quality time with their family and learn skills that will carry them through lives. If these children are willingly and happily participating in the production of the items their parents produce for us to buy, it is difficult to view this as exploitation. David, the founder of Ancient Wisdom, visits his producers regularly and assures us that no exploitative labour is used, child or adult, and that children of the crafting families attend a morning school and enjoy spending time with their parents whilst helping with the family business and learning skills that could be useful to their own financial security when they become adults. Take a look here to find out what happened when David visited an outlying village in Calcutta in 2006.
Whilst we would prefer for all of our suppliers to be registered with an external fair trade organisation, we are assured by Ancient Wisdom that no exploitative labour is used and that suppliers, including larger companies are visited regularly. If any exploitation is apparent, Ancient Wisdom will simply take their business elsewhere.
Ecological, Recyclable, and Sustainable Products
This supplier assures us that as a minimimum they seek to ensure raw materials used are sustainable. We have, however, found some of their gift items to contain too much plastic for our liking, and we have made the decision to avoid these items moving forward, and stick to more traditional items that tend by their nature to be more sustainable.
Overall, we feel that AW are a lovely bunch of people who want to do what is right, but we do feel more can be done. Perhaps one day they will join a fair trade organisation, and we are hopeful that they will develop their enviornmental policies further. In the meantime, we will continue to buy from them just a few of the most popular products that to the best of our knowledge don’t put a strain on the environment.