Saturday, November 19, 2011

Worldstock: A Model for Social Responsibility

American firms have always been more than just profit-maximizing ventures. In the past, companies like General Motors gave birth to the "Social Contract," an implicit understanding between employees and employers, by which employees would receive excellent remuneration packages including generous benefits like health insurance, and job security, and companies got in return the utmost commitment and loyalty of their employees. In today's globalized world when competition is stiff, imports are high, and the economy is not exactly booming, companies sometimes find it hard to persist with the so-called social contract but social responsibility is very much alive and kicking.

Worldstock, an offshoot of online retailer, is an excellent example of such social responsibility. And it is a social responsibility that transcends geographical barriers.

How is Worldstock achieving social responsibility? Most importantly, by partnering with artisans from around the world. Worldstock often finances the endeavors of these artisans through micro-credit programs so that they could source the raw-material needed to produce their output, and it pays the artisans a fair price for their efforts. The logistical support is important for these artisans, who also benefit by directly dealing with Worldstock so middlemen do not eschew much of the profits by buying from artisans at very low prices and then selling the goods to Worldstock at highly inflated ones. 

Worldstock's fair trade model is good not only for artisans but also for the environment. The company prides itself on its focus on sustainability and eco-friendly products, many of which are made from recycled, sustainable and organic materials.  Also, since Worldstock buys in bulk, it is able to reduce carbon emissions as lots of products arrive in one shipment. Moreover, Worldstock offers carbon neutral shipping thanks to its partnership with This helps offset the environmental footprint of its retail shipping.

Consumers benefit too. Thanks to Worldstock, they can choose from a wide selection of good quality handicrafts ranging from Peruvian ponchos and Polish teapots to Native American jewellery and Nepali hand-knotted rugs. The diversity of  handicrafts, sourced from around the world, is not something brick-and-mortar stores are able to offer in most places. And in the past, connoisseurs looking for such wares would inevitably have to pay more, much of the profit going to the high-end speciality stores catering to niche audiences. Worldstock in a way democratizes 'global shopping', giving its customers a wide range and relatively inexpensive prices while ensuring that the makers of the goods it sells get a fair payment as well. 

And the profits generated from Worldstock's sales? They go to Solace International to further assist underdeveloped artisan communities, creating a virtuous cycle, so to speak!