Creating a market to support fairly produced products

The Rugmark label, now known as GoodWeave, has become a known trademark to identify and promote hand-knotted carpets made without child labor. GoodWeave awards licenses to carpet exporters who agree not to use child labor, and who voluntarily submit to a monitoring system that includes surprise inspections and cross-checking of export records and looms. Children who are found to be illegally working during inspections are rehabilitated and schooled by GoodWeave.

GoodWeave implements a three-step process of investigation:

  1. License approval after a series of inspections. Inspectors are hired and trained by GoodWeave, and measures are taken to ensure the investigations are carried out properly. The inspectors either approve the manu­facturers or, upon finding evidence of child labor, give them a limited time to stop the practice.
  2. Random surprise inspections, only after which carpets made in that period will be certified.
  3. Carpet tracking whereby each Rugmark carpet can be tracked by maker, location, and exporter.

GoodWeave has faced challenges in its efforts. Due to the widely scattered location of looms in India, regular inspections are difficult. The structure of the industry is not uniform. While some exporters are closely connected to the looms, many employ intermediaries, making it difficult to enforce the tracking component of the certifi­cation process. Nevertheless, upwards of 4,000 children in India, Pakistan, and Nepal have been rehabilitated through GoodWeave programs and, from the publicity generated by Rugmark/GoodWeave, thousands of other children have been prevented from working at the carpet looms altogether.

Essential to GoodWeave’s success is the understanding that there is an increasing demand for products made without child labor. Because GoodWeave deals with carpet importers, not directly with consumers, it must convince importers that there is a market for these carpets. Exporters pay 0.25 percent of the export value of each rug, and importers pay a licensing fee of 1.75 percent of the shipment value. Licensing fees go toward monitoring, inspections, and a portion goes to rehabilitation and education programs for the children. In return, GoodWeave promotes the retailers carrying their carpets. These retailers are mentioned in GoodWeave’s outreach materials and at events in which GoodWeave plays a role, such as the World Day against Child Labor. Retailers are also provided with promotional materials explaining the importance of purchasing GoodWeave carpets. GoodWeave tells importers and retailers that carrying certified carpets not only helps them reach the consumers who wish only to purchase child labor-free carpets, but enhances the public im­age of their stores.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Sometimes consumers, lenders, shareholders and others who are far removed from the abuse itself — from the use of child labor, from unfair labor practices, from the environmental degradation in another country — have incentive to change their behavior. They may also feel that they have no alternatives or they lack the information needed to make humane and just choices. One foundation provides people who are far away from the sources of their purchased products with the information and alternatives they need to make choices that support human rights.

The Rugmark / GoodWeave label, like many other labeling systems created in the last decade or so, provides consumers with the information they need in order to avoid contributing to human rights abuses. At the same time, it raises awareness of the problems associated with a particular product, and creates demand for products that are produced and moved to market humanely. Because producers want access to that market, they have an incen­tive to participate.

Such programs risk dilution of the meaning of their “brand” if they are not associated with a suitable stringent monitoring process — which can be complicated and resource-intensive. They may also need to be used in conjunction with other awareness-raising tactics in order to inform consumers and producers and convince them that they have a reason to care about changes in the production process.