Now more than ever, the rug industry is making huge strides in their commitment to fair labor, sustainable materials, and ethical business practices. Pioneers such as Stephanie Odegard and Rosemary Hallgarten, and the uber-hip Barcelona-based company Nanimarquina have proven that an industry's traditional practices and all-too-frequent reliance on child labor are no match for an ethical, more responsible approach to material selection, labor practices, and the capitalization of localized skills.
Stephanie Odegard, founder of Odegard Inc., has been commited to the development and preservation of traditional craft in the rug industry since the 1980's. One of the largest importers of Tibetan and Nepalese rugs, she is recognized not only for her keen sense of color and style, but more importantly for her rejection of child labor, commitment to local and regional crafts, and use of environmentally sustainable materials and dyes. Outside of her own enterprise, Odegard is also a founder and director of the Rugmark Foundation, an organization that opposes child labor and supports the construction of schools, programs and opportunities within South Asia's carpet industry.Equally as impressive is Rosemary Hallgarten's recent material innovation and use of highly-sustainable alpaca fleece, Nepalese cactus, banana fibers, and hemp. Her Peruvian collection includes rugs that are hand-woven from the fleece of free-roaming alpaca, tended by small cooperatives of local farmers. Hallgarten is also seeking LEED certification for her entire Tibetan collection, which uses some of the most sustainable materials available to the rug industry today.
Nanimarquina, the Barcelona-based company known for colorful and avant-garde rug designs, works closely with Care & Fair, an organization committed to the elimination of child labor in Nepal, Pakistan, and India. Care & Fair also collaborates with manufacturers to establish and support education programs and health facilities to local workers within the industry and greater community.
In an industry easily associated with rampant child labor and sub-standard working conditions, it's great to see enterprises shifting their priorities. The staggering success of Odegard Inc., Rosemary Hallgarten, and Nanimarquina should be proof in and of itself that sustainable choices make sense not only for your conscience, but for business as well.