Press Release: Digital goes Fair Trade
Digital Lions becomes the world’s first Fair Trade digital agency for creative services, paving the way for a more just digital economy.
The German-Kenyan social enterprise Digital Lions today becomes the world’s first Fair Trade digital agency. Digital Lions has now become verified as a Guaranteed Fair Trade Enterprise by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), based on the 10 Principles of Fair Trade. It is a first for the Fair Trade movement to expand the Fair Trade model into digital services. Digital Lions supports and works through economically marginalised individuals to create websites, logos and animations. The Fair Trade status confirms it is fully practicing the 10 Principles of Fair Trade in all its dealings. Founded in 2015, the agency is part of an organisation that trains young people in the marginalised region of Turkana, Kenya, in web-development, design and animation to connect graduates with clients around the world on Fair Trade terms. Together, WFTO and Digital Lions show that Fair Trade principles can be fully embraced in the digital landscape, taking the concept beyond physical products and taking the next step towards sustainable and fair economies.
To further explore the application of Fair Trade to the context of digital services, WFTO and Digital Lions today publish the report Digital Goes Fair Trade, available via wfto.com/DigitalGoesFairTrade
Why it matters
Now more than ever, remote work has taken on an entirely new meaning, with home offices and remote working becoming the norm. This trend has seen a rise in purchases of IT services from other countries, as companies come to realise the full potential of digital connectedness. This creates an invaluable opportunity for many workers in disadvantaged locations, and particularly for digital producers (those who produce digital products) who are economically marginalised. Yet with the lack of regulation in a digitized world, digital producers work in the gig economy without employment law, frequently 7 days a week and with decreasing wages due to high supply and lack of stability.
The Lions’ program
The Lions’ program is based on the three pillars: Learning Lions, Digital Lions and Startup Lions. In Learning Lions, students learn their digital skills in disciplines like coding and graphic design, and when they graduate as creative professionals, they’re invited to stay on campus as trainees of Digital Lions, the fair-trade IT-outsourcing agency. Here, they start working with international customers and gather hands-on business experience. Through selling digital services online (e.g. website designs, design logos, 2D and 3D animations, etc.), they become self-sustaining and can even employ new cohorts of trainees. As an optional, additional step the incubator Startup Lions provides the lions with the necessary funds and tools to launch their own start-up or agency, so they can work independently.
Becoming a Guaranteed Fair Trade Enterprise
As the first agency in the world to seek this accreditation, Digital Lions’ admission into the WFTO took over two years. The two organisations worked together to understand how they could transfer the concept of Fair Trade from bananas, clothes and handicraft to websites, logos and animated videos. WFTO’s requirements are comprehensive and independently audited. To become verified as Guaranteed Fair Trade, organisations must show that they put people and planet first in everything they do, through criteria that include fair pay, fair prices and fair wages; commitment to non-discrimination, gender equality & economic empowerment of women and freedom of assembly; promotion of education and training; protection of the environment; transparency and accountability; no exploitative child labor or forced labor; and ensuring good working conditions.
By being a member of WFTO and a Guaranteed Fair Trade Enterprise, Digital Lions becomes part of a community that impacts over 1 million livelihoods, comprised of companies that support and trade with each other, speak up collectively, meet regularly and collaborate extensively.
What does this mean?
This is good news for supply and demand of digital services. The new WFTO verification will not only protect digital producers and give them additional market access, but will also provide more transparency for buyers of digital products, who thus far have had little transparency about whether digital producers are treated and paid fairly, trained properly and receive the support they need to succeed. Additionally, websites developed by Digital Lions are hosted on double climate-positive servers, meaning the hosting provider not only compensates all its own emissions, but 200% extra. Those servers are all in the EU, so that EU data privacy laws are respected. So Digital Lions positions itself as the go-to-agency for ecological and socially conscious customers from B2C and B2B sectors, mainly targeting NGOs, social businesses and obviously all established fair trade companies worldwide.
An award-winning tech campus in the desert
In 2018, Digital Lions as part of its parent organisation Startup Lions was selected as one of the winners of the first African Google Impact Challenge for its innovative approach to poverty eradication and education. Recently, at the end of 2020, the whole organisation moved to a new dedicated and autonomous ICT campus in the semi-desert at the shore of Lake Turkana, designed by the world-famous architect Francis Kéré. With the new congenial facilities and the recent Fair Trade verification giving the project another boost, Digital Lions hopes to scale up its operations and provide many more future-proof learning and income opportunities to the region and beyond. The location in Turkana, Kenya is meant as a model and pilot project, to be multiplied in other regions and contexts as well.
The report Digital Goes Fair Trade, available via wfto.com/DigitalGoesFairTrade
About Digital Lions: Digital Lions is the world's first Fair Trade verified digital agency, offering a wide range of creative services from websites, logos, image editing, flyers and brochures to videos and 2D animation. The agency operates from a self-sufficient IT campus at the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, and is supported by professional volunteers from around the world for quality assurance purposes. Through its sister organisation Learning Lions, Digital Lions also actively invests in the education of creative talents in the region. In 2018, the overall project was a winner of the 'Google Impact Challenge' for its innovative approach to education and poverty alleviation. Through IT training and the Fair Trade agency business, Digital Lions creates sustainable jobs in rural Africa so that the young talents do not have to give up their home and culture in search of work. Digital Lions is a Guaranteed Fair Trade Enterprise, fully verified by WFTO since 2021, as well as a recognised supplier of the German Fair Trade Association (Weltladen Dachverband).
About WFTO: The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) is the global community and verifier of social enterprises that fully practice Fair Trade. Spread across 82 countries, WFTO members all exist to serve marginalised communities. To be a WFTO member, an enterprise or organisation must demonstrate they put people and planet first in everything they do. WFTO is democratically run by its members, who are part of a broader community of over 1,000 social enterprises and 1,500 Fair Trade retailers. The WFTO focuses on both social enterprise and Fair Trade. Its Guarantee System is the only international verification model focused on social enterprises that put the interests of workers, farmers and artisans first. Through peer-reviews and independent audits, WFTO verifies members are mission-led enterprises fully practicing the 10 Principles of Fair Trade across their business and supply chains. Once verified, all members have free use of the WFTO Guaranteed Fair Trade product label.
Photo credits: Digital Lions