Case Study: Remei Ltd
In developing transparent processes and pricing under the quality trademark bioRe®, the Swiss trading company Remei Ltd has realised a vision: the production of fashionable textiles from fair-traded organic cotton in a transparent, monitored supply chain.
From organic cultivation and processing to the final product, all stages of production meet strict environmental and social criteria. These are controlled by independent institutions.
In particular, the Remei company pays attention to five principles:
Promotion and conversion to certified organic cultivation and crop rotation.
Decent working conditions for farmers and textile workers.
Respect for nature, meaning inter alia no use of toxic chemicals.
Full product traceability and control throughout all stages of the process.
Out-of-the-box thinking and conscious use of resources, such as the reduction and compensation of CO2 emissions.
A fair chain of cotton
Remei Ltd produces fashionable textiles from fair-traded organic cotton in a transparent and monitored supply chain. The company is active on several continents. The founder and CEO, Patrick Hohmann, organises prices so that everyone involved in the supply chain can meet his basic needs. An ongoing challenge.
Associative economics for fair prices
As practiced by Remei Ltd, fair pricing is a sign of associative economics, but in Patrick Hohmann’s experience it represents a never-ending challenge. He explains: Today’s economy is subject to ever-increasing transparency. This makes associative economics ever more difficult, because the agreements to be taken by a community are extensive and tedious.
Plea for global empathy
We often talk about true, fair prices, and yet we hardly ever pay them. Fair prices are the outcome of a confrontation. The decisive factor is whether the power of the individual prevails or community consensus. In addition, it is assumed that every individual who has participated in the production process is perceived as such. Is this even possible? Given the different cultures of the different continents, it is not easy to work together with the aim of being economically successful, yet truly associative.
Efficiency versus time and quality of life
Associative economics generally requires a high degree of responsibility and competence, both economically and in human terms. The western world, in which life is so strongly defined and ordered, scarcely takes account of other cultures. Our version of ‘time’ and ‘efficiency’ is forever occupying the foreground, eclipsing all others. How greatly we could learn from and complement each other, if only we took account of other ways of assessing these things.
In my life I have come to appreciate different types of cultures. We work with Asians, Indians, Africans, Europeans and Americans. Time and again I experience the main differences between their cultures. If I could use these abilities to better effect, it would perhaps enable me to experience an associative market economy. Let me try to describe this in regard to budgeting.
Every country is different
You have certainly had the experience of wanting to budget your household. It is very rare that all family members get round the table together in order to deal with this issue. One says it's important; the other says, ‘What’s the point? If I have no more money, then I have no more to give.’ A third member wants to save a certain amount and spend the rest; and so on. But there is one thing we Europeans have in common: If we do have to budget, then the budget should be meaningful!
In India: What do you want me to write?
Indians do not think like this. When budgeting, an Indian wonders what his interlocutor wants. He ranks number on number, while unconsciously thinking: I do not know what fate awaits me. I must wait. But waiting is not doing anything, so he asks the question: What does my client want to see? And so he asks: "What do you want me to write in here?"
Africa: When you're done, I'll be back.
Africans see the process of budgeting very differently. An African comes to the office early in the morning, recognizing that I, Patrick Hohmann, like to do budgeting. He puts everything I need before me and congratulates me on my decision, but he means: "It's good that you like to budget." Then he smiles and ends this pleasant encounter with the words: "When you're done, I'll be back!"
Do you know of a people that has better roads than we Europeans? Do you know people that bear their fate better than Asians? Do you know anyone that suffers less from burn-out than Africans? Or rather, do you know any African recovering from burn-out?
And so the three cultures have developed. Europeans have excellent infrastructure, pensions, healthcare and more. Asians have the ability to accept their fate, and even cope with tsunami-style catastrophes. Africans are able to live in the present. Living with the rhythms of nature is their main feature. An African does not think like a European. He cannot organise the way Europeans do. Our judgment against him can be devastating. But in one regard he is always ahead of us: he has time – time to connect with the rhythms of the earth.
What is a fair price?
Associative economies helps us understand our global economic and pricing issues. But what is a fair price? It is not the same for everyone, but it is one that gives everyone space for development, that is transparent, and that while not fully satisfying all parties leaves no one languishing in misery or poverty. Only one thing is certain: at the moment when a price would fully satisfy but one individual, suddenly no further development becomes possible.
I know this sounds harsh, but beautiful things arise when people set limits between themselves or for nature, not in order to hinder one another, but to refine the fruits of collaboration. It is in this way that associative economics will be learned. By constant and conditional practice. The art is to listen to opposites, but without losing sight of the goal – of producing economically in order to meet a need.
To achieve this people need to work together – in the best sense and with the same goal. For this a common vision is needed that is anchored in the spiritual, and which may later manifest in outer discourse and understanding. In future the individual will no longer compete; instead competitive associations will arise. But not until the future! Till then it will remain difficult.