I am a realist, someone who always questions hidden motives and assumes the worst possible outcome. This outlook is not uncommon among my generation, we are more cynical than our parents’ generation and our worldview is skewed by this mindset. So when I heard about Adelante Shoes and its new social impact model, I was hesitant to buy-in.
Don’t get me wrong, when I first heard about Adelante Shoe Co, I was excited. The fresh imagery, craftsmen-oriented focus, and the unique shoe designs were something I could get behind — but I was still hesitant. There are plenty of companies out there who operate with some semblance of ‘social impact’ in mind. Often, this is a fair-trade certification with unclear benefits, or a vague sustainability model obscured by catchy phrases and marketing bluster. To realists like me, these practices are nothing more than a marketing ploy to tug on the heartstrings of consumers. These programs do offer genuine benefits and are a huge advancement over the employment and production strategies of decades prior, but they don’t do enough.
I approached the ‘Living Well Line’ social impact model with similar skepticism, until I saw the numbers. The minimum wage in Pastores Guatemala is $10.50/day; fair trade comes in only $1.00 above this at $11.50/day. The Living Well wage comes in at $16.00/day, one and a half times the minimum wage in Guatemala. This is a salary negotiated directly with the artisans and based on what it actually costs to live well where they live.
More importantly, this isn’t charity. The Living Well Line is based on paying a fair wage for a job well done; our craftsmen are experts in what they do and deserve to be paid as such. Payments go directly to craftsmen, directly enabling them to invest in the betterment of themselves and their families.
It is this realistic model that convinced me to join the Adelante Team. A social impact model that treats people as stakeholders is something I can get behind.
I have been asked many times what Adelante has to do with international relations, a discipline more associated with the foreign service than the shoe business. For me the two undertakings are deeply intertwined.