Traveling to Peru is likely to shake you up and inspire you. It's a place of rich culture. Layers of ancient civilizations and history live embedded in Peru's vibrant and chaotic modern society. Yet it's not necessarily a safe place, and not a wealthy one. Extreme poverty lurks down most streets, with hungry children on many doorsteps. It's this kind of poverty that changes your perspective. It's this constant realization that inspires many of us at INDIGENOUS to look for our worth beyond our paychecks. Instead, we have come to measure our worth by how much work we can give to an artisan group. By whether we can spread that work year round, making their jobs and lives easier and their income dependable. We measure our worth by our ability to reinvest in the communities we work with, and the ways we are able to connect individual artisans with micro financing and skills training.
It all began when I first traveled to Peru as a younger man. Alongside poverty as I had never seen it before, I also encountered a rich culture of textile design. Textile traditions that date back longer than anywhere else in the world, thrived throughout the Peruvian communities I visited. That was just the beginning of my journey. At the time I was one of the few pioneers in the organic and fair trade fashion industry. Today, ethically minded companies, in fashion and beyond, flourish, fueled by consumers who want to make a difference--people who can no longer turn a blind eye to how the rest of the world lives.
Today, when we interview for new positions at INDIGENOUS, most applicants come to us straight from mainstream business. Each is eager to buck the claim that their worth lies in the number on a paycheck. They are thirsty for something more: finding self worth in their ability to do good in this world, every day. Through the skills they honed in conventional employment, they are looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of many.
Ours isn't what I would call a traditional workplace in the modern sense. It's more of a family, where we work closely together on every project, and listen to the voices of all employees. Through avid communication about what we do, we stay in touch with our purpose and mission.
Each time we choose which artisan group will make a style, our employees in the States are keenly aware of the economic boon it will create, through fair trade wages and much more. Our partners in Peru contribute to their communities with generous projects ranging from school building and teacher funding in the Peruvian highlands, to much needed clean water infrastructure, to helping small farmers transition from growing conventional to organic cotton. These projects are icing on the cake, and keep our employees motivated, no matter their position or salary.
While ethically minded companies have proliferated in recent years, the number of people looking for such jobs has grown exponentially. At the core of this trend is a cultural sea change. As we become ever more connected to the realities around the globe, social and environmental problems become overwhelmingly apparent and difficult to ignore. We are all becoming idealists, impassioned and inspired to make what differences we can.
Our goal is to give humanity and future generations a more positive fighting chance, extending and reshaping our existence as a species. This is my highest intent, and it gives me, and those I work with, a mission driven purpose. Because your water is my water. Your air is my air. Your children are my children. And our home is worth preserving.
Pathway To Purpose is a new blog series geared towards exploring why employees are putting a greater value on purpose in the workplace, and how employers are responding. How are you taking purpose to the next level in your workplace? Let us know at PurposePlusProfit@huffingtonpost.com or by tweeting with #PathwayToPurpose.