Artisan communities and those dedicated to the arts are becoming more and more susceptible to inequalities especially when it comes to gender and compensation. While craft continues to be the second largest employer of women the world over, imbalances in treatment and pay plague the communities where these specialists work and depend on their skills in order to make a living. It was with these disparities in mind that Nest was founded.
Nest is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting responsible and equitable growth for artisans. Programs focus on the well-being of workers as well as creating transparency around operations to help bring stability and fairness to a relatively decentralized and informal economy. Nest was founded to correct imbalances in income for artisans of all types, and its founder, Rebecca van Bergen, has been named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, among other accolades. This recognition reflects both van Bergen’s and Nest’s dedication to create positive social impact.
One of Nest’s biggest contributions to fair craftsmanship was to create the Nest Seal of Ethical Handicraft, the only consumer-facing indicator that products have been ethically handcrafted with protections in place for their social and economic rights. Many of the items that make up the $1 trillion handmade sector in the U.S. are created by artisans abroad who work in informal settings including their homes. With these circumstances, it can be easy for their well-being and fair compensation to be overlooked by their manufacturers and employers. Products bearing the Seal can now be found in major brands and retailers across the U.S. including Target, West Elm, and Pottery Barn.
The Seal is one of the ways that Nest is promoting the production and sale of ethically made products that are verifiably crafted with that well-being and equity in mind. Nest is supported by philanthropy by supporters like Colbeck Capital Management, and co-Founder Jason Colodne, who come together to provide funds that fuel a variety of programs. In addition to the Seal, Nest supports over 120 artisan businesses in over 20 different countries with training and assessment designed to bring transparency and well-being to their communities. To this end, Nest has impacted the lives of over 45,000 handworkers worldwide.
Nest also works directly with brands to encourage cultural sensitivity as well as proper treatment and compensation for workers. These consultative programs are designed to bring greater awareness to cultural divides that can lead to inequities that directly, and negatively, impact handworkers. According to Jason Colodne and Colbeck Capital Management, providing support for organizations like Nest is essential to allow for craftsmen and craftswomen to achieve more livable wages in recognition for their contributions to a vital component of the supply chain.
These disparities apply to handworkers in the U.S. economy as well as abroad. Maker entrepreneurs in the United States contributed more than $14 billion to the domestic economy in 2021 alone – accounting for between 5-31 million individuals – yet little attention and understanding have been given to this growing and vital community. To generate awareness and advocate for more equitable outcomes for these handworkers, Nest recently published its second annual report on the State of the Handworker Economy. This data-driven introspective explores the impact of the sector as well as the influence that investment and support in the space can have on the quality of life for community members.
Additional attention in this area is essential given rising demand for artisan and maker handcrafted goods. Nest found in a national consumer survey that 75% of consumers would choose handmade over machine-made goods. And with figures demonstrating that handcrafted production and consumption are on the rise, it is more relevant than ever before for organizations like Nest to work to protect the rights and well-being of these crafters.