Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alaffia/Agbanga Karite - Sustainable & Responsible Business of the Week

Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care Company (Olympia WA) is the North American retail and wholesale distributor of fair trade shea butter, African black soap, and tropical oils from the Alaffia/Agbanga Karite Cooperative in Togo Africa.

The company follows a triple bottom line approach (people, profit, planet). Alaffia's relationship with the Cooperative brings income to and empowers communities in Togo. Additionally, Alaffia and Agbanga Karite donate 10% of sales proceeds (or 30% of income, whichever is greater) to community empowerment projects, AIDS and malaria outreach, and educational scholarships in Togo.

Alaffia sponsors Bicycles for Education, donates school supplies and uniforms, funds reforestation projects, and started the Alaffia Women's Clinic in Togo. Alaffia also provides scholarships to Washington students, donates soap and lotion to women's shelters, offers Fair Trade talks and tours of the Washington facility, and community outreach and education on Fair Trade. With the help of others, the nonprofit Global Alliance for Community Empowerment (GACE) was formed to oversee community projects that focus on self-empowerment, the advancement of fair trade, education, sustainable living, and gender equality in Togo.

The Cooperative's website describes it's own triple bottom line approach:

Social Development:
We do not hire based on age, ethnicity, sex, color or religion. We work to improve the positions of disadvantaged groups, such as women and ethnic minorities. Also, we pay our members a salary that is 30% higher than the national standard and provide them with a pension plan, vacation, sick and family leave, and overtime. Our members are free to organize and are provided with education and training on how to do this. Our work environment is comfortable, well ventilated and lit, with potable water provided to all members. Finally, our revenues are invested back into the community as educational scholarships, ecological restoration projects, and renewable energy programs.

Economic Development:
Our members undergo extensive training in all aspects of our business, including production, marketing and management. The purpose of this training is to enable them to begin their own businesses in the future. A percentage of our revenues are dedicated to educational scholarships for local students to study within Togo and abroad.

Environmental Development:
We plan to switch to renewable energy sources for all our energy needs as our organization becomes established. These include solar powered grinders, presses, and office equipment. We have also converted our diesel powered trucks to use vegetable oil, which in our case is unmarketable shea butter. We do not condone the use of chemicals and actions that harm other species. We have designed our production facilities and harvesting practicies to minimize our impact on the natural environment.

Through work individually and with GACE, Agbanga Karite Cooperative has provided more than 300 children with books, uniforms and supplies for the 2004-2005 school year, paid the school enrollment fees for these children, donated desks and chairs to a local primary school in the village of Adjorogo, and donated and installed new school roofs on rural schools in central Togo.

Alaffia was founded by Olowo-n’djo Tchala.

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