Today, we are honored to share a Q&A with one of our valued Fair Trade partners, Oliberté. Tal Dehtiar is the founder of Oliberté , the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear business. At their factory in Ethiopia, Oliberté works to empower African workers by creating jobs emphasizing environmental sustainability and workplace equity for men and women. Read on to learn more about Oliberté’s unique vision and their ongoing efforts to bolster Africa’s middle class with the help of Fair Trade.
1. What is Oliberté? How is it different from other shoe companies?
Oliberté believes that with the right partners, each country within Africa has the means to grow and support its people. So we partner with factories, suppliers, farmers and workers to produce premium footwear in Africa, but we do more than that. We work to create fair jobs, with the goal of contributing to the development of a thriving middle class.
It is generally accepted that a thriving middle class is a key component to the success of any country. In Africa, the middle class is increasing in size, and one of Oliberté's goals is to support that growing middle class by building a world class footwear brand that can create thousands of jobs and encourages manufacturers from other industries to work in Africa.
2. When did Oliberté become Fair Trade Certified? Why did you decide to go Fair Trade?
Since day one, we have striven to work with our teams in Africa with the utmost respect. We have aspired to respect the environment and local community. We believe that every business is only as good as it treats each and every employee, no matter where in the world they are. In 2009, this meant partnering with factories we thoroughly vetted. But we soon outgrew this potential, and in 2012, we founded our own footwear manufacturing factory -- and it is here that we aim to set the precedent in fair manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa.
Just a year after opening, our factory in Addis Ababa became Fair Trade Certified. Fair Trade is an incredibly empowering model for the entire supply chain: factory workers trying to improve their lives, brands like ours that want to do the right thing, and customers like you who want to make every purchase matter.
3. What does it mean for Oliberté to be Fair Trade Certified? What were some of the adjustments you had to make to get the factory certified?
The main thing was getting people on the same page and aware of how becoming Fair Trade Certified benefitted them as employees as well as the company. That said—we had to add a few more bathrooms to serve the female/male ratio. We were asked to relocate one of our machines that was producing some dust to a more open environment, away from workers who were not properly protected. We also ensured that we had fire evacuation procedures.
4. What do the Oliberte employees think of Fair Trade? Have you noticed any changes?
At this point, it’s been hugely beneficial in terms of additional income. The team is still considering how best to divide/use the Fair Trade community premiums, but we’re excited to see what and how they spend it, and we will continue to support them in any way can.
Show your support for Fair Trade by trying out some footwear at Oliberté  today!