The Fair Trade Revolution: How Solidarium Can Transform Our World


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Tiago Dalvi is an Ashoka changemaker who is using his sharp business acumen to help improve the lives of thousands in his home country of Brazil by connecting local producers with established global retailers like Walmart, JCPenney, Whole Foods, and Target.

Dalvi is the spirit behind the award-winning Brazilian social venture and certified fair trade organization Solidarium: Transforme O Seu Mundo and one of the five winning entrepreneurs in the recent Powering Economic Opportunity competition, organized by eBay Foundation and The Opportunity Project. 
 
Unlike traditional fair trade models that tap into already-established, often grassroots-level fair trade networks, Dalvi connects producers directly with the world’s retailing giants.

 

“We’re creating a movement to overcome poverty. Within four years, we’ll get more than 10,000 local producers out of poverty, and I’m sure that Solidarium will not only redefine the course of poverty in Brazil, but will create a market revolution in our country.”


Brazil is the seventh-largest economy in the world, having narrowly overtaken Italy this year, and the fifth-fastest growing economy among G20 countries. While Brazil is a global power on the macro level, it ranks just 55th in GDP per-capita income, and is near the bottom in terms of social equality — 184 out of 192 countries. Brazil, a country with nearly 200 million citizens, is a country powered by people who live in poverty — more than 39 million Brazilians live on less than two dollars per day.
 
“As a Brazilian, I cannot tolerate that,” Dalvi said during his Unreasonable Climax 2011 presentation, when he was honored as an Unreasonable Institute Fellow this summer. “In Solidarium, we overcome the impossible. Our mission is to get these local producers out of poverty by providing unrivaled market channels for the product they produce.”
 
The Solidarium model is straightforward: The company analyzes market opportunities and works with design teams to facilitate the development of new, profitable products like clothing, purses, or kitchenware. They then source those items from local producers across Brazil, in places as varied as Pernambuco, Paraná, and São Paolo. 
 
Since Solidarium was founded in 2007, it has worked with more than 1,600 producers living in poverty. The overwhelming majority of these are women between the ages of 30 and 60; by connecting them with otherwise inaccessible retailers — the Walmarts and JCPenneys of the world — Solidarium allows its producers to gain access to consumers in much larger markets. As a result, producers are able to boost their average incomes by up to 80 percent in just two years. 
 
When a product is sold, the largest share of the proceeds (35 percent) goes directly to the producer, who earn about $70 on average (Solidarium is working to increase that figure threefold). The balance is shared by the retailer (30 percent), Solidarium (30 percent), and the product designer (5 percent). 
 
Early this year, Solidarium launched the largest e-commerce site in Brazil in partnership with Walmart, which already offers online shoppers 300 different products from more than 40 unique local producers. And, boy, do Solidarium products sell — to the tune of over 100,000 purchases!
 
Dalvi and Solidarium aim to bring in nearly $8 million in revenue over the next four years by distributing “decentralized fair trade” products to more than 1,200 stores in both Brazil and the United States.
 
“We do have a mission, which is not only to make this company successful,” Dalvi said. “We’re creating a movement to overcome poverty. Within four years, we’ll get more than 10,000 local producers out of poverty, and I’m sure that Solidarium will not only redefine the course of poverty in Brazil, but will create a market revolution in our country.”

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