Behno StandardConsidering the work that millions of people do in factories around the world, progress is often valued not for the quality of the work but for how quickly the product can reach the market. If money is the primary objective, human beings can be endangered in the process. Without teamwork and employee wellbeing as priorities, products will not make it past production and the economic gains will not materialize. One solution to this culture is Shivam Punjya’s Behno Standard.

Punjya is a man who has sought to revolutionize the conditions in which factory workers operate, especially women. During a 2012 research trip on women’s health in India, he witnessed some extraordinary handmade textile work in rural villages. He was appalled to learn that 90 percent of these beautiful artworks were tailored by women who are paid less than $1 per day.

One year later, a tragedy would ultimately push him into advocacy. On April 13, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers, the majority of whom were women. This incident brought intense awareness to factory conditions and the need to support workers.

Behno is a word used to describe love, harmony, and balance in its most beautiful connections with creative solutions. It is primarily an artistic expression used by communities full of like-minded individuals who strive for that harmony and balance with love. It is also the name used for the ethical fashion line that Punjya founded in New York.

Its central focus is on providing these factory workers with an environment to pursue their designs without their health being compromised. Through a partnership with a large nonprofit in rural Gujarat, India, called Muni Seva Ashram, Punjya began The Garment Worker Project. This was debuted in July 2016 as the first implementation of the Behno Standard through a collection of social programs.

The Behno Standard is broken into six categories: health, garment worker mobility, family planning, women’s rights, worker satisfaction and benefits and eco-consciousness. Its crucial emphasis is on offering a new meaning to the label ‘Made in India,’ often synonymous with unspeakable worker conditions. With the Behno Standard, Punjya strives to change that outlook and prove that a healthy working atmosphere leads to efficiency and high-quality products.

In Punjya’s own words, “Ethical fashion is such a collaborative space because the supply chain is massive and so convoluted. We encourage other brands to reach out to us, and we reach out all the time, to collaborate and utilize each others’ platforms.” Due to his inspiration for starting in the fashion business, he doesn’t want Behno to be a brand that tries to compete on the basis of profit. Instead, he wants his brand to be the unique type of team that collaborates with other companies.

Business doesn’t necessarily need to be a competition but can delve into a community goal. In that sense, the Behno Standard is transforming the connotations of factory work and joining together to revolutionize how the fashion business operates through human connections.

– Nicole Suárez

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Oil in KenyaThe county of Turkana, Kenya, is currently situated over an estimated 750 million barrels of oil. From the outside looking in, the oil is a winning lottery ticket for Turkana, with 90 percent of its 1.3 million people living below the poverty line. Jobs and business opportunities have increased due to the oil wells, and the oil is expected to make billions of dollars annually for Kenya in just a few years, 20 percent of which will go to the Turkana County government.

However, many people in Turkana do not see the oil in Kenya to be a glimmer of hope; rather, they fear that the new wells will contribute to conflicts over scarce pasture and water resources. Turkana is home to millions of pastoral animals that now have no access to pasture due to the oil rig installations, and they must be herded long distances to find drinkable water and a specific type of grass.

The oil in Kenya has also been said to be killing goats in the county and has caused a stench problem throughout some families’ homes, making it hard to live. The Kenyan government must address the consequences of the oil as well as Turkana residents’ feelings toward the oil to avoid intense conflict, violence or even a civil war.

Turkana, as a county, has been struggling with poverty and human development for many years. Turkana County has the highest maternal and infant mortality rate in the country, the lowest rates of education enrollment and the lowest life expectancy in Kenya. Turkana also suffers the worst of all the counties in Kenya from the ongoing drought that has now been recognized as a national disaster.

Furthermore, the United Nations and Kenyan government estimate that 2.7 million people in Kenya as a whole are facing a food shortage. With all of these struggles that both the country and Turkana County have been facing, it is easy to see why many people feel the oil in Kenya is a sign of hope for a better future. With regards to the infamous possibilities that could be Turkana’s future, as well as Kenya’s, it is important for the government to have regard for the animals, farmers and land.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

According to MSCI, a research agency for global investments, Taiwan has the third most successful emerging economy in the world. Unfortunately, when compared to all countries, Taiwan’s economic data is less impressive. The need for further economic growth and infrastructural improvements places Taiwan in the gap between emerging and developed nations. However, the penetration of social media in Taiwan is allowing its citizens to bridge another gap: the global digital divide.

Despite the incredible economic strides Taiwan has made in recent years, it is still considered an emerging nation. Shortcomings in its infrastructure, including faulty gas lines and poorly constructed housing developments, contribute to Taiwan’s inability to achieve categorization as a developed nation. National health issues, such as pollution from factories, also play a role in the retention of Taiwan’s emerging status. MSCI states that the biggest hurdle Taiwan has to overcome is making its market more accessible to other countries.

Taiwan still has improvements to make, but it has engaged impressively with the world by embracing social media outlets. The saturation of Facebook in Taiwan is particularly remarkable. Taiwan possesses 82 percent more Facebook users than any nation in the world.

Most Taiwanese Facebook users utilize the website for picture sharing and messaging, but the avid use of social media in Taiwan has more important implications than casual communication.

The Internet and digital media influence the size of the global digital divide. This divide refers to the dearth of informational accessibility in developing nations versus the informational abundance of the developed world. 67 percent of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is comprised primarily of developed nations, have Internet access. Only 3.8 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa has Internet access. The Internet is integral to life in the modern world, in which economic transactions, political ideas and social interactions transpire increasingly via the web.

The prevalence of social media in Taiwan is a testament to its global engagement. The nation’s numerous Facebook users are subsequently gaining access to information they did not have before, communication they could not accomplish before and even business transactions they could not make before. Many Taiwanese companies use Facebook for advertising, knowing it will be seen by thousands of users.

While Taiwan’s enthusiasm for Facebook and other social media outlets may seem trivial, it is proof of the global integration that indicates development. Legislation such as the Digital GAP Act has been crafted with the intention of addressing the global digital divide, so that developing nations may gain the advantage of the Internet. Taiwan is already reaping the benefits of the web and making its way to developed status. That’s worth a “like.”

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

helping_the_poor
One doesn’t automatically think of making money by giving it to the world’s poor, but through the eyes of a business leader, a wealthier population means dollar signs. Millions of new consumers around the globe are always great for business and they come in the form of emerging markets.

Dr. Vladimir L. Kvint, one of the world’s leading economists and strategists defined emerging markets for forbes.com as a society transitioning from a dictatorship to a free-market-oriented economy with increased economic freedom, gradual integration into the global marketplace, an expanding middle class, improved standards of living, social stability and tolerance, and increased cooperation with multilateral institutions.

Simply put, an emerging market is a national market in the early stages of economic development that is expected to grow rapidly.

The four largest emerging markets are often referred to as the “BRIC” economies–Brazil, Russia, India and China. These markets are watched very closely by Multinational Enterprises (MNE) because of the increased availability of whole populations to their products, many of which are U.S. based.

One example of the importance of emerging markets is the sale of iPhones. According to the Economic Times, Apple CEO Tim Cook said emerging markets such as China and India were among Apple’s biggest consumers during the first few months of 2015. The California based company sold 6.12 million iPhones during the first three months of this year, 40 percent of which were sold to buyers in emerging markets.

For someone who has trudged with soaked feet through the floodwaters drowning a tiny village in Cambodia, it might be easy to tell the difference between an underdeveloped and a developed country. For those who don’t, however, it comes down to statistics such as life expectancy rates, literacy rates and per capita income. A nation rated lower in this statistical criteria would be considered underdeveloped and a prime candidate to grow into an emerging market full of Apple iPhone users.

As an underdeveloped nation grows and its population’s quality of life increases, so too does the probability that it will become a contributing member in the global economy.

According to the United Nations, 900 minority families in Vietnam have escaped poverty through projects backed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). With funding from the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Program (GEF-SGP), thousands of Vietnamese minorities are now able to make a living wage through a lost tradition of insect farming, which produces a resin used in food, fine arts and medicine.

Programs such as the ones backed by the UNDP are important examples of aid to underdeveloped nations that can make the difference between a population in poverty and the emergence of a middle class with purchasing power.

Most of the world’s population lives outside the U.S. Foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of the U.S. budget. If this was increased to fund even more programs like those in Vietnam, how many more people around the globe could afford to buy U.S. products?

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: International Invest, Economic Times Forbes UNDP
Photo: Flickr