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We are proud to announce our latest commitment to improving the working conditions and lives of our artisan and maker partners, and to a more sustainable future. abc carpet & home has partnered with Label STEP, a non-government, non-profit fair trade organization dedicated to progressing the handmade carpet industry with a weaver-centric approach. 

The craft of handweaving carpets is thousands of years old. Though prolific, the process of rug making is historically quite casual, leaving room for unregulated labor. Retailers proclaiming virtues like ‘handmade’ may make products sound more artisanal and desirable, but they don’t capture the whole picture. Those pieces may have been woven in unsafe working conditions, for unfair compensation, or worse, made illegally, by children. Our new partnership with Label STEP takes a solutions-oriented approach to ensure that all manufacturers making abc rugs be in compliance with fair trade standards, continue to prohibit child labor, and meet the universal human rights and needs of its weavers and workers.

A STEP toward greater good

As a certified partner, we pay a percentage of all abc-produced rugs to Label STEP, funding oversight into all aspects of our handweaving. “This isn’t a one-time solution, but rather a sustained commitment to put our resources towards a dynamic, step-by-step auditing and support process,” said abc’s SVP and General Manager of Carpet, Eileen Applebaum.

This includes making sure working environments meet basic standards, such as having adequate airflow and ventilation, functional and sanitary bathrooms with locks on the doors, clean drinking water, and sufficient light. Label STEP goes one step further, ensuring weavers and their families receive financial literacy education, health care, and fair wages. 

Label STEP and abc signed our contract just days before the pandemic became a global reality. This year, rife with struggle, only deepened our resolve to uplift Label STEP — the only non-governmental organization of its kind — and directly give voice to weavers and workers. “I’m delighted to partner with Label STEP to implement the highest industry standards in collaboration with our vendor community,” shares Haynes Robinson, SVP of Product Design & Development at abc carpet & home.

“Together, we will build on these practices over time in support of a more sustainable future” said Robinson. 

abc is proud to be the first major retailer in North America to collaborate with STEP, setting a precedent for others to consider their supply chains and take action.

Label STEP: More than just a label

Founded in Switzerland in 1995, Label STEP addresses the complex issues of the handmade carpet industry at their roots using a rigorous solution-based approach that distinguishes their mission from other fair-trade labels. 

Equipped with the “ten hands of wellbeing,” a comprehensive fair trade system of principles that encompasses universal human rights, Label STEP treats the intricate fabric of the historic industry with empathy and care. From independent and unannounced inspection of production sites to empowering weavers, dyers, and spinners through financial literacy programs, a label from Label STEP translates abc's intention to preserve centuries-old artisanal skills.

To generate greater participation, Label STEP also asks retailer partners to do their part in encouraging their suppliers to join the program. Retailers can leverage their relationships with rug manufacturers to encourage them to effect change for the artisans weaving their rugs. With more retailers on board, more manufacturers will join, accelerating a global change for the better.

abc's history of advocacy

After being in the rug business for more than a century, abc has taken its role as a retailer very seriously, ensuring our products are made responsibly. In 2003, we introduced an icon system which established our efforts to create a world that is more equitable and earth-kind when it wasn’t common practice. We have been having hard conversations with our suppliers for decades, effecting change and supply chain transparency that was difficult to come by in the world of design. For example, abc partnered with the Rainforest Alliance to create a vetting program for our furniture called “goodwood.” In order to receive a goodwood icon, our furniture brands need to supply documentation that ensures the wood used to make our products is sourced from responsibly-managed forests or reclaimed sources that protect old growth and endangered forest species. Environmental activism is an important part of abc’s values as a brand and collective.

All Images Courtesy of LabelStep.