Peaches & Eaches supply ethically produced developmental baby toys. As such, during our initial brainstorming phase, we made a decision not to source products from China. However, this all changed when we came across Global Affairs - a Dutch company dedicated to Fair Trade, working with people in China and Peru.
As conscious consumers, we often recoil at the 'Made in China' tag, but it's worth pausing to remember that unethical and exploitative production can occur in any country of the world - and so, too, can empowering employment opportunities, using high quality, sustainable raw materials.
The opportunities available to the majority of people in China are no greater than those in countries we more frequently associate with Fair Trade handicrafts, such as Nepal or Peru. Yet, to think of any country as a homogenous entity is clearly erroneous, and when it comes to China, it couldn't be more so. Peru could fit inside China 8 times; Nepal, a mind-boggling 67 times. It is easy to imagine the high-tech lifestyle of Shanghai and Shenzhen and the factories of Guangzhou and Tianjin as representing China as a whole, but in a country so vast, for many communities these developments may as well be occurring on another planet.
Yet there is no denying the visual imagery conjured up by a "made in Nepal" tag is very different from a "made in China" one.
Globalisation should work for everyone
Globalisation is increasingly in the news as of late, with criticisms of communities "left behind," both at home and abroad. At the end of the Cold War, globalisation was seen as an answer to the world's problems. Indeed, it was during this period of optimism that many proxy wars ceased, South African apartheid came to an end, and many of the world's longest-running conflicts were "resolved" with peace in Northern Ireland, between Israel and Jordan, and the Israeli-Palestinian agreement in the Middle East. This period of (arguably misplaced or at least very premature) optimism is, for many, epitomised by Fukuyama's publication of "The End of History."
As Johnathan Freedland discusses in his more aptly named 'A Holiday From History,' this period witnessed a wilful ignorance of growing inequality. Even domestically, as New Labour reigned, many of its traditional supporters found their voices drowned out, and discontentment simmered. Freedland calls this period "the steady building up of dry tinder."
As the post Cold War optimism began to fade from 2010 onwards, the failings of globalisation at all levels began to be exposed, and global instability became the order of the day. In this way, the seismic shocks of Brexit and Trump can be seen as part of a much longer trend; if political sentiment could be plotted in the same way as market sentiment, these events would be considered a predictable breakout; a market correction.
The opportunities and responsibilities of buying Fair Trade
Fair Trade is certainly one way of using the powers of globalisation to include people who would otherwise be 'left behind' or even exploited by the forces of globalisation.
With the Internet and our access to global markets, we can now choose to reject many mainstream toys which are created without concern for the environment, sustainability, or workers' rights. We can choose not to buy toys that commodify our planet and our children, from companies that knowingly restrict exposure of boys and girls to certain stimuli, for profit.
In our position of privilege and power to choose, we can definitely make much better decisions for our planet and for our children's futures. Yet, even these well-intentioned choices are not free from prejudice: a truth we came face-to-face with when we came across Global Affairs.
Global Affairs forced us to reconsider our stance on toys made in China. If one trusts in Fair Trade (and this will be examined further in another article), then country of origin is of little consequence. As a company dedicated to sourcing the best developmental toys for young children, toys must be truly picked on their merits (provided they meet all of our ethical criteria).
As such, Peaches & Eaches is excited to introduce a number of handmade, 100% organic crochet toys into the range, available as standalone products and also in our kits. Our kits aim to target each of the key areas of development per age group, but also to provide an exciting selection of toys from Fair Trade manufacturers across the world.