Building on its 15 years of protecting children and promoting ethical carpet production, this September RugMark and its industry partners launch GoodWeave™, a new brand label for its expanding certification program.
Like the RugMark label it replaces, GoodWeave stands for a deep commitment to the deterrence of child labor and the education and rehabilitation of rescued child workers in the carpet industries of India and Nepal. While RugMark’s core mission remains the same, GoodWeave represents an enhanced set of values coinciding with the expansion of the label’s humanitarian and environmental certification criteria.
As an associate member of ISEAL Alliance, a global leader in social and environmental standards setting and certification, RugMark is advancing its operations to another level by strengthening its governance to comply with ISEAL’s Standard Setting Code of Good Practice. Standards for the GoodWeave certification will be more clearly defined, rigorous and transparent, giving consumers even greater confidence in the label.
Despite laws prohibiting child labor in the rug industry in Nepal and India, the practice is rampant. “Exploitation tends to happen in places where workers don’t have rights, and pollution and depletion of resources occurs where people have no infrastructure or opportunity to function any differently,” explains Nina Smith, executive director of RugMark USA. “Creating better social and environmental conditions leads to greater control over economic choices that can lift communities from poverty.”
Over the past year, RugMark has worked with a group of Nepali rug exporters to document industry labor and carpet weaving practices that affect the environment. Based on these observations, plans are underway to institute progressive standards to improve wage, health and safety conditions for workers and to reduce water and air pollution related to rug washing and dyeing. Technical assistance will be provided to GoodWeave members to help them make these improvements.
“We endorse the move to GoodWeave and we’re proud of our progress toward eliminating child labor in partnership with the rug industry,” says Stephanie Odegard, founder of Odegard Carpets and founding member of RugMark USA’s board. “We’ve provided critical educational opportunities for former child weavers. I am confident that the expanded GoodWeave program will allow us to progress in the area of social and environmental sustainability, too.”
RugMark USA industry membership includes nearly 70 rug importers who sell their rugs through roughly 1,500 showrooms, retail outlets and Internet shopping sites. Sales of certified child-labor-free carpets represent nearly 4 percent of the total U.S. market of handmade rugs. In three years, RugMark’s Most Beautiful Rug campaign against child labor contributed to a significant increase in sales of its certified rugs by nearly 100 percent, with imports growing from $7.2 to $13.1 million.
Since RugMark began its voluntary labeling program in 1995, the number of children trapped in exploitative carpet-making work has dropped from 1 million to 300,000. The goal is for GoodWeave to become the industry standard for doing business and, in turn, bring the incidence of child labor down to zero. Educational programs funded by certified rug sales and donations ensure former child laborers receive rehabilitation, daycare, formal schooling and vocational training. For more information, visit www.goodweave.org.