Our first Sustainability Report
When we started compiling this, our first complete sustainability report, our primary goal was to share with you Mifuko’s product sustainability efforts and our diverse work in sub-Saharan African. We have been radically sustainable from the beginning, and now we have grown enough to be able to compile a full report.
For the full sustainability report, click here.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, this report and our on-going work has taken on even more meaning. Like in many countries, Kenya was locked down during spring, rode out an uneasy summer, and faced a new wave of cases late in the year. Fortunately, at least so far, the number of cases and mortality rate remain low in Kenya.
Nevertheless, the social and economic impact of this pandemic are severe. Teenage pregnancies are on the rise, while domestic violence and mental health issues are becoming more prevalent.
Despite the 2020 hardships, there is hope. With promising vaccines on the horizon and the efforts aid organisations and Fair Trade businesses like Mifuko, the future looks better every day.
Mifuko is determined to be a part of building a better, sustainable future. We want to contribute to solving the issues humanity faces, such as poverty, gender inequality, pollution and loss of biodiversity.
The following is a short summary of our sustainability actions.
The backbone of Mifuko operations is an inclusive business model that makes creating positive change in low-income communities a fundamental strategy for success. The starting point is establishing a fair income in exchange for the products artisans produce. We determine what is a living wage using the Living Wage Ladder tool provided by the WFTO. In practice, payments for Mifuko orders are agreed upon together with the local community in Kenya.
In Kenya, climate change has led to recurring droughts making farming, traditionally the primary source of income and sustenance, an unreliable foundation for a stable livelihood. Many of the artisans we work with face this dilemma. The income they earn from Mifuko helps ensure families are fed and cared for when crops can no longer provide security.
Mifuko provides 50% advance payment on placed orders, and the remaining half is paid when the order is completed. Further, we never cancel orders or reject deliveries. We negotiate and agree on compensation for lower quality products as Mifuko understands new artisans need some time to reach the required quality standard. Mifuko also buys the substandard products, encouraging experienced artisans to pass on their skills and help artisan groups employ more workers.
In 2019 Mifuko started its journey with MADE51, founded by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We partner with Kapya Kitungwa and his workshop in the production of ornamental wooden birds. Mr. Kitungwa is a Congolese refugee now living in Nairobi, Kenya. His workshop employs other Congolese refugees living in Kenya. Through this collaboration Mifuko is able to expand its support to communities beyond women in rural Kenya.
Mifuko is a social enterprise that fuses Nordic design with African handicraft. Our products bring joy and utility to customers while empowering women in rural areas of Kenya. This is the essence of our social impact.
We work with over two dozen self-help groups that play a significant role in our social sustainability goals. Some groups Mifuko has helped establish (12 to date), while others organised themselves first before starting to work with Mifuko.
Self-help groups are formed for various purposes, usually for saving money together for future needs. Group members regularly contribute a small part of their salaries to the common fund. This fund they supervise together, which means the members have access to the savings when needed. The purpose of these self-help groups is not only to function as additional economic support, but also to provide social and emotional support.
Non-profit Mifuko Trust
To further support the social mission of Mifuko, the non-profit organisation Mifuko Trust was founded in 2012. Through donations and projects, Mifuko Trust improves the quality of life of artisans and communities in the Machakos region.
Climate change and the loss of biodiversity are arguably the greatest challenges of our time. Mifuko strives to minimize the environmental impact of our products. To date, we have primarily focussed on two areas: materials and transportation.
The materials used in Mifuko products are locally sourced from Kenya, both to promote sustainable Kenyan industries and to minimize transportation emissions. The plastic and paper used in our baskets and bags are designed together with local factories. Organic materials are primarily locally grown sisal and palm leaves. The handles are made from locally sourced vegetable tanned leather, a process that avoids the harmful chemicals of traditional industrial-scale tanning. Our ornaments are made from fallen branches of jacaranda trees. Wood for produces such as boxes and spoons are responsibly sourced with the assistance of MADE51.
The transportation of goods from Kenya to Finland generates the majority of our emissions. We use sea cargo to ship the products to our warehouse in Helsinki, Finland. Air transport would be much faster, but the emissions are significantly higher. Fortunately, we use air transport for goods only rarely.
Throughout the supply chain, careful attention is paid to packaging materials. In bulk shipments, Mifuko products are folded or flattened and stacked to minimize empty space and make the shipping boxes as compact as possible. We avoid single-use plastic whenever possible, for example, by wrapping the entire shipping box rather than wrapping individual products inside the box.
As we continue to work on improving the sustainability of our operations and our products, our strategy for 2021 and beyond includes exiting developments. We will be incorporating other African countries into our artisan network and building new partnerships with local Fair Trade businesses. Part of this new business development includes providing targeted small business training for women in Africa.