When we ramped up our Bags For Life business last year, we started to spend more time in West Bengal, India, where our cotton bags and jute shoppers are made and printed. India is an exceedingly friendly, welcoming and open country and we enjoy a warm friendship with our manufacturing partners there.
When we visit, it’s plain to see what a difference a job at our production facility means for employees and their extended families. It’s also clear that while India is a great deal richer than it was, inequality and the gulf between rich and poor still exists and in many ways become greater. There is still tremendous poverty alongside social marginalisation which is an everyday reality for the worse-off.
As an ethical company who trades with India, we find ourselves thinking about meaningful ways we can help. We want to start a charitable foundation to channel funds to those in need, but in a country that has so many basic needs, it’s hard to know where to begin, so we’ve decided to start at home. How can we put something back into the community that surrounds our factory?
Our bag making facility is not an urban sweatshop; it’s on a greenfield site deep in the Bengal countryside in a village called Baduria, around 60km east of Calcutta and just 15km from the border with Bangladesh. We want to find out what the local people there need – what practical help can we give them.