The fair trade movement has come a long way since its inception but One World Flowers strikes a different chord. Owner of the fair trade flower company, Alaina Paradise, spoke with SocialBusiness.org about how her religion has influenced her business and the necessity to stop and smell the roses.
Four Questions with Alaina Paradise
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
I graduated in 2006 with a degree in International Business Management and knew that I wanted to start a business that reflected my Christian values and made an impact to improve people’s lives in developing nations. I studied Fair Trade as part of my degree program and developed a firm belief that capitalism and the free market can be harnessed as powerful tools for positive change in the world as long as the principles of Fair Trade are applied. In 2007 I set to work to explore different opportunities for offering expanding Fair Trade in the US market and One World Flowers was born.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I was working as an International Marketing Director for a local startup healthcare company when I started One World Flowers. The idea for the business came from a phone call that I had with staff at TransFair USA (now called Fair Trade USA). They gave me a list of product options that I could import… coffee, tea, fruit, etc. Someone mentioned that Fair Trade flowers would be launching later on in the year, and that sounded like the perfect option for me. I wanted to be part of a new program that was going to reach additional farming communities and expand the Fair Trade product offering in the United States.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I’m a Christian who believes in living in a way that reflects Jesus to the world so I want to run my business that way. I read a report by Oxfam International titled Trading Away Our Rights: Women in the Global Supply Chain and learned about the massive injustice that exists in the global economy. Workers, especially women, are cheated out of wages, forced into overtime, coerced with physical and sexual abuse, and left unprotected from harmful chemicals that poison them and their children.
The Bible is clear that God detests injustice and oppression. The book of James says “Now listen you rich oppressors, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you… Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty. “ (James 5:1,4) This is just one place where it speaks of unfair treatment of workers who have earned their wages through hard work but are not paid. Unfortunately, as the Oxfam report found, this is an injustice that is happening all over the world.
In contrast, Fair Trade is a powerful and practical model to help build economic justice, promote human rights, and support responsible stewardship of the earth -– all things that I believe God expects from businesses. Fair Trade ensures that workers are paid a living wage, which is far beyond the minimum wage in most countries. Human rights are protected and guaranteed. Workers are able to report abuses and receive remediation through an overseeing human rights organization. In addition, the most harmful agrochemicals are banned from use and replaced with integrated pest management. In the event that a chemical or pesticide must be used, workers are provided with protective gear to prevent chemical poisoning, and proper precautions are taken to close the fields until it is safe to enter.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I take time to smell the roses, Fair Trade of course. :)