With permission from Dr. Bronner’s, we are pleased to reprint Lisa Bronner’s blog on Dr. Bronner’s sourcing of organic virgin coconut oil certified Fair For Life by the IMO. Lisa’s blog is an impressive testament to the importance of supporting brands like MELT® Organic and Dr. Bronner’s who go the extra mile to source the highest quality ingredients that also foster excellent labor practices in Third World countries. Both brands source our coconut oil from Serendipol in Sri Lanka.
The Bronner Mom is far from home. In fact, I could hardly be further. Kuliyapatiyia, Sri Lanka. A 12 ½ hour time change. Site of Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade coconut oil project Serendipol. And before you go off thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sri Lanka. I bet she does that all the time”, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t.
I am learning firsthand what Fair Trade is all about. In a nutshell (coconut shells, to be exact!) Fair Trade is a certification that verifies all the practices you hope your favorite companies already do. Fair Trade is about people – paying living wages and providing community benefits for farmers, workers and their families.
“I buy organic. Doesn’t that mean it’s all good?”
Organic means a lot of good things: no petrochemical pesticides, no synthetics, no GMO’s to name a few. But Organic is completely silent about the issue of labor. While it is better for laborers not to be exposed to all that, they could still be paid pittance, work in slummy conditions, and live in near poverty while providing us with our organic goodies. This is where Fair Trade comes in. Organic certification is a pre-requisite for Fair Trade certification.
What Fair Trade looks like at Serendipol
A witness to worker well-being at Serendipol is the employee retention rate. Workers stay. They don’t find better work elsewhere. What they have at Serendipol is very good.
Guaranteed year round work.
Daily production incentives
Fixed monthly salaries
Direct deposit bank accounts
Eye care and medical benefits
school books , uniforms and shoes annually for all employee children
Grants for employee personal home improvement projects.
There’s also a physiotherapist on site twice weekly to assist workers in worker-related muscle fatigue or strain. There are morale boosting annual family celebrations with cricket, badminton, and other competitions. There are educational opportunities for workers and farmers to provide advancement or increased yield.
Here’s one [example] of the improvement in the socio-economic well being of the workers:
Initially, the factory provided a shed for all the employees’ bikes. Now, more space is needed for their motorcycles. Some employees already have tuk-tuks (local three wheeled vehicles) or even cars. Gordon de Silva, Serendipol’s Managing Director, joked, but seriously, that he’s soon going to have to buy additional property for employee parking.
Serendipol is a state of the art facility whose goal in 2014 is to process 20 million coconuts. They’re on track. They receive 17 truckloads of nuts every day.
These gleaming silos hold the oil before final filtration.
That’s a lot of coconuts!
Here’s an on-site vegetable garden whose produce is all given to employees.
The buildings at Serendipol are beautifully constructed.
The grounds are lush and manicured with landscaped paths, flower beds, and even a badminton court. There is also an employee canteen to provide a comfortable place for them to eat their meals.
I’m going to stop here for the day and I haven’t even gotten to the multitude of Community Improvement Projects Serendipol has funded. Stay tuned.
Fair Trade is not as widespread as it should be. It’s a concept many consumers as well as suppliers and manufacturers are still finding out about. You won’t find all your products available with Fair Trade options. But the ball has started rolling. Help it pick up speed by
Asking companies to pursue Fair Trade certification
Buying products from companies with strong Fair Trade certification
Educating friends and associates about what Fair Trade is and how much it does.
Check out more information about Serendipol on the Dr. Bronner’s website, www.drbronner.com, including the Coconut Rock video. Also, our Serendiworld site shares about all of our Fair Trade operations worldwide.