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Fair Play, Fair Trade: These Soccer Balls from Pakistan Support Ethical Supply Chains

Fair Trade soccer balls by Senda are a way to explore why fair trade isn’t just a stamp of approval – it represents a story worth talking about.

Fair Trade certification is based on the idea that every purchase has an impact. At Designed Good this week, we’re featuring Fair Trade soccer balls by Senda as a way to explore why fair trade isn’t just a stamp of approval–it's a story worth talking about.

“Fair Trade” means that every person in the supply chain associated with these balls receives at least the national minimum wage. But it also means something beyond the basic economic transaction: everyone who helped make Senda soccer balls a reality also works in a healthy and safe environment.

Senda takes great responsibility for the investigative component that has to be in place for any brand that takes ethical supply chains seriously. We inherently think about Fair Trade products as coming to the U.S. from far-away places, but Fair Trade relies on local community efforts as well as brands and designers who are willing to visit factories and work sites in person.

In fact, we found Senda Athletics last summer at the very point when founder Santiago Halty had just finished traveling to the production site. We published his first-person account of his trip to Sialkot, Pakistan, where the Senda soccer balls are made, and saw that products are not founded solely on ideas: they’re founded on the people who produce them. Soccer balls—which bring team spirit and fun to kids and adults universally—should come from a team of people working in good spirits.

Incidentally, that’s also why Senda partners with nonprofits like Soccer Without Borders and BORP, to provide equipment, training, and sports curricula to people in the U.S. and around the world.

But the way the balls themselves are made will always matter to Senda. Halty began to investigate Fair Trade in 2009 and knew that this was the only way enterprise should work. “I decided on fair trade because I believe it is important to give back to people, and I chose soccer because it connected so many people together,” he said. “I was a bit shocked to see that a soccer ball, something that brought me so much joy, could be developed under unfair conditions.”

When Halty visited Sialkot, he was there to make sure that the workers making the balls had fair wages, worked in a clean and healthy environment, and didn’t use child labor.
At the factory in Sialkot, the Joint Body is the group of democratically-elected workers that decides where to allocate the fair-trade premiums they receive from Senda. Halty sat in on one of their meetings during his trip to learn about the Fair Price Shop that they are building with the premiums—a shop that offers wholesale food and affordable medication to the workers.

“You wouldn’t want the people who work so hard to be unhappy when making a product that makes so many other people happy,” Halty said. Indeed, he said that the most important part of Fair Trade is the opportunity for people to make their own wages. In this way, Senda soccer balls become a means of empowerment.

Senda’s training balls, match balls, and mini balls are all available on Designed Good this week, along with the story of how they’re empowering communities and giving people fair-wage jobs.

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