I found out about GoodWeave a few years ago and their mission was really eye-opening. Over 35 million people are enslaved in the world, many of them children. Some of these children work in rug mills where they hand-knot carpets all day. They are kept from their families and from going to school. Inspired by the death of Pakistani rug-slave-turned-activist Iqbal Massih, GoodWeave works with companies to seek out slavery at any level of their supply chain and get the children out of the factories and into school and safe homes, where that’s back with their family or at a GoodWeave Transit Home. If a carpet has reached GoodWeave certification (no forced or unfair labor at any part of its supply chain), it will have a GoodWeave label letting the consumer know it is an ethical purchase. Their method has been so successful that they are working to apply it to other industries to get closer to ending slavery.
The CEO, Nina Smith, said in her TEDx Talk that their system only works when the company and consumer demand it, and they do demand it when they can trust it. We’re so skeptical of people or organizations who make such big promises, but GoodWeave has shown that they follow through and care deeply about their mission. Their Instagram feed is full of pictures of children who have been saved from slavery and beautiful, ethically-made carpets from their partner companies. A video on their website tells a story about a girl named Sanju whose parents were so poor that they had to send her away to a factory, but they never received any pay for her work. Her story has a happy ending: a GoodWeave ambassador came to the factory and took her and the other kids at the factory to a home for ex-“carpet kids,” where she was able to get an education and eventually go back to living with her family.
GoodWeave also pays attention to the ripple effect of its work. Because child labor is intertwined with so many other areas- health and safety issues, wage issues, and environmental issues, to name a few- they added to their certification standard to look into the issues surrounding child labor. Many children are enslaved because their parents can’t afford to take care of them, or are offered money to give their child away to work, so GoodWeave works to solve poverty issues in these areas. When children age out of GoodWeave’s protective services, the organization tries to help them go to college or take other steps to be able to take care of themselves without having to resort to unfair labor.
Nina Smith isn’t exactly a charismatic, flashy, traditional type of leader. However, hearing her speak, it’s easy to tell that she cares about her mission. She isn’t putting up a positive front to make GoodWeave seem more successful or use dramatic ways of speaking to convince people to care about the cause. She is willing to be vulnerable and talk about how her relative’s experience in a concentration camp during the Holocaust changed her and is why she is so moved to support human rights. I think that the way she presents herself as down to earth, without trying to imitate charismatic leaders, just being herself, is a good leadership move. Like one of the interviewees of the CEO Report said, “You can’t have a hidden side and a real side, because that will get exhibited.”