Made with Love
As our series profiling visionary leaders who are mashing up business and giving around the world continues, I am honored to feature Chid Liberty, and his Liberty & Justice sustainable .com / .org model. In his twenties, Chid, who is now 34, returned to his home country of Liberia in 2009 to cofound the country’s first Fair-Trade-Certified company, a clothing manufacturer with a mission to create jobs for women. Today, Liberty & Justice runs factories in Liberia and Ghana, which produce high-volume, duty-free “basics” on a “just-in-time” basis.
“Liberty & Justice is Africa’s leading Fair Trade Certified™ apparel manufacturing company. We specialize in value chain management for high-volume, time-sensitive, duty-free goods for leading American clothing brands, trading companies, and other importers who care about exceptional quality, on-time delivery, social and environmental impact, and geographic diversity.”
After years of building capacity and market demand, some trial and error, and relentless commitment, Liberty & Justice “.com” has two major projects: Founded in 2010, the Liberian Women’s Sewing Project is Africa’s first Fair Trade Certified™ apparel factory – and unique in that it is a worker-owned corporation with 49% of the company’s shares owned by the women. The majority is owned by L&J’s Liberian subsidiary with the profits pledged to the Liberty & Justice Foundation – a nonprofit organization with programs in economic empowerment, education, and healthcare (more information on this below). Chid’s vision is not small – there are over 500 employees in the Liberian factory, making tee shirts and tote bags, and production is in the tens of thousands.
In 2012, Liberty & Justice (Ghana), Ltd. took over operations of an existing for-profit factory, establishing the Ghanaian Women’s Sewing Project, and with over 700 employees, actively supplies basic bottoms (jeans and khakis) under Fair Trade standards. Liberty & Justice is “committed to a future in which producers and consumers are completely aligned in making economic choices that result in the eradication of poverty, the responsible stewardship of the environment, and the empowerment of workers through the fair exchange of quality goods and services” – at scale. A very efficient and professionally run organization, they retain focus on the entire “value chain” generating both “supply and demand” through their development efforts. Chid’s vision is to enable companies like Liberty & Justice in Africa to be seen as having a reputation for quality, delivery and pricing that has long been the reputation in Asia. As China and other Asian countries continue to advance, and prices go up due to higher salaries, energy costs, and more, African manufacturing companies provide an interesting competitive alternative.
When combined with increasingly enlightened buyers and trading companies, being able to source quality goods from factories who treat their workers well, and provide economic support for often oppressed women, Liberty & Justice is extremely attractive on balance. Last year, Chid met with fashion and philanthropy leaders including Donna Karan, Lauren Bush, Tory Burch, and Sara Blakely to discuss growth strategies, according to Forbes and subsequently completed a $1 million funding round (bringing total investment to $4.6 million).
Chid’s “ROI” is ending poverty. The .org Part (from their website)
Liberty & Justice Development Organization was established to help the African apparel industry meet the challenge of global competition by achieving higher output and lower costs, to build the industrial skills of the African work force, and to establish models for social and environmental justice in apparel manufacturing that are transferable to other industries. Our focus is on building local capacity for the future, but our programs and materials are designed to benefit the industry today.
The non-profit foundation focuses on workforce development skills, community investment through Fair Trade premiums and grants, which fund schools, other, non-profit programs and healthcare, and trade financing. As is the case with the businesses Liberty & Justice have established, even the non-profit has been designed holistically and with the entire “supply chain” in mind including the notion that educated, healthy and happy workers create better products and sustainable profits.
Thanks for following this series, and dear friends and followers, please learn more about Chid and his initiatives (www.libertyandjustice.org) and open your networks and ideas to him (I know there are many business people and fashionistas subscribing, and tweeting – so thanks for spreading the good word).
In my next post, I’ll share another exciting story about a social entrepreneur like Chid who is combining science, technology and telecom to diagnose illnesses for more efficient treatment – also focused in Africa.