Many professional crafters have thought about outsourcing their production at one time or another. But if you’re a “solopreneur”, you probably don’t have the time or money to visit factories or cooperatives overseas. So how can you tell which manufacturers are responsible companies, and not toxic sweatshops employing underpaid toddlers? One way to start narrowing down the list is to look at international manufacturing certifications. These certifications are awarded by independent, international, non-profit auditors, who inspect manufacturers’ operations so you don’t have to.
There are number of different international agencies that provide myriad certifications, but here are a few of the most relevant ones to get you started:
- The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) provides several well-known certifications: ISO:9000 certifications address “Quality Management” issues, such as product quality and factory management, and ISO:14000 certifications address “Environmental Management” issues, such as greenhouse gas emissions and chemical toxicity.
- The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Provides “Chain of Custody” and “Controlled Wood” certifications, among others, for wood and paper products that are manufactured sustainably.
- The ICTI (The International Council of Toy Industries) provides a certification through its CARE Foundation (Caring, Awareness, Responsible, Ethical) that ensures “safe and humane workplace environments for toy factory workers worldwide.” It is currently focused on Asian factories.
Though the ISO no longer publishes an annual list of certified companies (which blows, by the way–please fix this ISO!), many national and state governments/NGOs publish their own lists, which are easily Googled. Here are some (not always current) lists for the U.S., Canada and Thailand.
The ICTI does have a database for factories that are CARE-compliant, but the search fields don’t seem to work very well. I recommend clicking “Submit” without entering or choosing anything, and just browsing the list.
The FSC has a fully functioning, searchable database. Hallelujah!