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What we Wish to See in Our Industry // A Vision for Sustainability

By Sara Berks and Manpreet Kalra

Late last summer we started working with anti-racist educator and social impact advisor, Manpreet Kalra. She’s been a fundamental member of our extended team in developing how we think about impact. Join us this Earth Day in conversation with Manpreet and Sara.
Journal | Values

What we Wish to See in Our Industry // A Vision for Sustainability

Lately when we hear the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘ethical,’ we cringe, even though we use them so freely here at MINNA. They are buzzwords, taking on a life of their own, transforming into catch-all terms that are as ambiguous as they are marketable — making it difficult to truly ever know what someone actually means when they say “sustainable” or “ethically made.” And that is the essence of the problem. Sustainable and ethical mean so much, without meaning anything. Which is why for nearly the past year, we (Manpreet and Sara) sit down once or twice a week to have brutally open and honest conversations about what it means to be sustainable and ethical for ‘impact’ driven brands. 

At MINNA’s founding, ethical meant building trust, paying fairly, respecting workers rights, and treating everyone we worked with with the utmost respect. Sustainability meant creating stable relationships, consistent orders, and using natural materials. We’re now broadening our horizons in both aspects and actively identifying what we do well, what we could do better, and what we should probably change altogether. We strive to consider every stakeholder with every decision: artisan partner, community, customers, employees, and the environment. This means instead of trying to maximize profits at each step, you are seeking out ways to be equitable — not just paying fairly, but investing in those you collaborate with and their communities, placing regular orders instead of one-offs that complicate supply chains, sourcing naturally occurring materials, instead of furthering environmental degradation through synthetics.

To create systemic change, we have to look at why exploitation exists in supply chains. We have to come to terms with years of extractive colonial practices leaving countries rebuilding from all their richness and resources being depleted. As a white-owned business from the Global North working with artisans in the Global South, this is complicated work! Fair wages alone are just not enough. We have to think of sustainability across the supply chain from what we source to how we operate.  

I (Sara) am the first to say sustainability in the environmental sense has never been MINNA’s strongest initiative. In order to strengthen it, we have to trace things back further in our supply chain. We’ve built meaningful relationships with the artisans and craftspeople who make our products, and we have a deep understanding of the techniques we use. Now we need to do the same thing with our raw materials. This process might take years to truly do, but we’re getting there region by region and we’ll be sharing more on that in the coming months.

We want to envision a world in which each individual is treated with respect, paid fairly and honored for their individuality, living free of the stereotypes placed on us by society. Imagine a world where caring for the plant and each other is just baked into how we live. That is our vision for sustainability.