In 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET at a social good conference. TO THE MARKET is an amazing, creative social enterprise that showcases handmade goods made exclusively by proud and passionate artisans who have overcome the perils of abuse, conflict, and disease. By assisting local partners around the world in bringing these goods “to the market,” the organization takes an active role in equipping the survivors they employ with economic independence, while raising awareness of the challenges that they face.
I have featured TO THE MARKET’s products on my “Gifts that Give Back” page on my blog and have stayed in touch with Jane over the years to see what new initiatives they are working on. I was thrilled to read and review Jane’s recently released book, “Buy The Change You Want To See: Use Your Purchasing Power to Make the World a Better Place“. Together with writer Wendy Paris, the new book discusses how every day people (both businesses and consumers) can use their purchasing power for good and make a difference in the world. Obviously this book is a huge hit with me given my love of gifts that give back and make a social impact with the power of your own wallet. In reading the book, I learned a lot that I didn’t know especially about the coffee and chocolate industries and the power of the ethical supply chain to create a better world for people, the planet and businesses.
Throughout the book there is insight into how Jane created TO THE MARKET as well as great tips on what is behind coffee certification labels, a list of coffee and chocolate terminology, ideas on recycled sustainable products, tips on how to check if clothing is made ethically, and best of all a list of small upcoming chocolate makers producing excellent chocolate and doing good. “Buy The Change you Want To See” offers a wealth of information and tools for those who want to join the bandwagon of being a socially conscious consumer. It is a book worthy of keeping in your bookshelf as a reference on how you can use your personal buying power for good.
Without giving away the incredible content in the book, I opted to do an interview with Jane to discuss in further depth how we as consumers can buy the change we want to see. Here is what she has to say.
Interview with Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of To The Market and Author of “Buy the Change You Want to See”
Your first trip to India in 2013 while working for the McCain Institute changed your life path and career when you realized the huge opportunity to harness the private sector to address long-standing social problems. How have your views changed since you launched TO THE MARKET (TTM)? What has surprised you?
I have only grown more confident in my belief that we can change the world through our purchasing power. Even over the last few years of launching TO THE MARKET, I’ve been excited to see more and more companies come to this realization. Retailers that have been around for decades are coming to TO THE MARKET for help identifying ethical suppliers that aren’t currently a part of the supply chain of big businesses. There is unlimited potential!
You say in the book that “the company I started, TTM, economically empowers vulnerable communities around the world by hiring them to make the kinds of products you and I buy every day”. Not only are you the founder and CEO of TTM, throughout the book we learn that you play a huge role in product development, design, selection, purchasing and marketing. How have you learned all these skills?
I try to be as responsive as possible to what the market wants, so if consumers want organic cotton, we want to create more options for organic cotton products! If clients want more fair trade certified conference bags options, we want to develop those for them. I am also happy to see that so many companies are gravitating towards women-made products. Those are definitely best sellers. Aligning products with consumer values is critical in our ability to meet and anticipate market demand.
You talk a lot about the artisan market around the world and how many of your products are made by hand and with pride. Tell me about a particular artisan group that has inspired you.
I have a special connection with Christelle Paul from Atelier Calla. Her work using upcycling cow horn to create home goods and jewelry is so tasteful. She does such a great job of interpreting what most of us would consider trash (discarded cow horn) and making it into high-end designer pieces.
You talk a lot about getting the retail market and large corporations to become powerful tools of social change by ethical product sourcing ranging from the apparel and handicraft market to coffee and chocolate and more. What other industries do you find potential to make social change?
As technology continues to expand, I think transparency will become more and more in demand for every industry. I would like to see supply chain transparency expand more in the electronics space given how deeply connected we are to items like our phones and computers!
Why do you think consumers are becoming more conscious about what they buy?
We are increasingly talking about political activism and civic duty, particularly reminding people to vote, but we also get to vote every day with our wallet. We help support the type of world we want when we spend money on groceries, our car, and our clothes. If we believe we need more American manufacturing jobs, then let’s look to buy more American-made products. If we want to support women’s empowerment, then let’s seek out women-owned businesses to support. These small actions have big results. Our purchasing potential is like an untapped superpower!
Where do you see TTM in the next five years?
TO THE MARKET’s vision is changing the way that retail manufacturing and sourcing is done to create a better outcome for people, the planet, and ultimately better businesses.
Where do you see the conscious consumer movement going in the future?
The more people learn about how products are made, the more I think people will feel compelled to align their buying choices with their conscience.
There is an incredible amount of research done in this book. How did you manage to research and write the book while also running TTM? I’m absolutely impressed!
I couldn’t have done it without my amazing co-writer, Wendy Paris. We would talk for hours in the evenings about different categories, like coffee, chocolate, or clothes. We would divide and conquer on the research, writing, and editing. Writing a book is a full-time job so I definitely recommend finding help if you can’t take time off!
What surprises have you learned about the industry while writing the book?
The more I learn about the way our clothes have been made in the last 20 years, the more committed I become to changing it. The system is very broken — from a labor standpoint, environmentally, and even operationally. One study found that only 6% of corporations have full supply chain visibility.
What is the biggest takeaway you have learned from writing this book?
That a single person regardless of budget can harness purchasing power for good by aligning buying decisions with personal values. I recommend picking one category (like coffee or chocolate or apparel), researching it, picking a few companies that are operating in a way that reinforces your point of view. If you want to support more small, independent businesses, commit to shopping at a local grocer every other grocery run. If you want to see more manufacturing jobs in the US, find brands that are producing in the States. And if you want to empower women, find women-made products that are easy and affordable gifts. Small purchases can add up to have a BIG impact!
Jane Mosbacher Morris is the founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET, a socially inspired company connecting ethical suppliers with retailers, corporations, and consumers seeking social impact products.
Check out TO THE MARKET and shop their collection of socially inspired goods.