While a living wage is important, we believe it’s just the first step in creating a thriving community. At Parker Clay in Ethiopia we have brought together the best and brightest from around the world to develop what we call our Center of Excellence. This is where we are able to address the challenges our employees face and provide holistic care for each person ranging from personal to professional development. To start, we employ people who would otherwise be deprived of job opportunities. In fact, 46% of our employees had never worked a salaried job prior to starting with Parker Clay. Through our research and network in Ethiopia, we have found that most of our employees would have never even had an opportunity for salaried employment, and if they were employed elsewhere in Ethiopia they would be paid less than half of the starting salary we offer our employees.
While we at Parker Clay make our living selling high quality leather and textile goods, we believe we are really in the business of community transformation. This perspective has influenced our approach at both the company and the factory we launched in 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In fact, the reason we chose to start our own factory is so we could implement our beliefs and make concepts, like a living wage, a reality for our company and our employees.
Our team of business executives both in Ethiopia and the US have extensive experience in both the Relief and Development and Non-Profit Sectors. Collectively, our non-African Executives have over 65 years of experience working in Ethiopia and other countries in Africa. As a result of our experience, we purposefully integrate development practices into how we do business, which we call “integrating purpose with profit.” As a result, we have developed the Parker Clay Center of Excellence, and because of this program we’re able to hire employees that have no formal work experience, knowing that we will be able to train them to not only do the work we hired them to do, but empower them with skills that will last beyond their employment with us, should they ever choose to leave.
Early in 2019, we conducted a “Basket of Goods” assessment for Southern Addis Ababa, where our factory is located and 95% of our employees live.We couldn’t find reliable data at the macro level and didn't want to put any of our staff in a position where they would earn below a livable wage. That analysis allowed us to set a starting wage for our workers, but we didn’t stop there. In 2016, the Ethiopian Birr (local currency) was devalued by 20%, a common occurrence in most developing nations. Because currency fluctuation can be a hardship for so many, we decided to formally put all of our salary commitments in USD instead of the local currency. As a result, we have stabilized our staff salaries and eliminated the risks associated with devalued local currency.
Below are a few pieces to the foundation of our development plan at our factory in Ethiopia:
- We appoint employees with limited knowledge of a formal working environment and the leather industry sector. With confidence that the Parker Clay Center of Excellence will build their technical and soft skills.
- Our Center of Excellence includes on the job skill training and soft skill training. The center has graduated 16 employees in the last year who were trained and have become experts in Leather Product Stitching, Skiving and Cutting. We have partnered with the Ethiopian Leather Industries Development Institute (LIDI) to provide a complimentary certification recognized in Ethiopia which significantly compliments our employees to have strong credentials if they plan to leave our company.
- We have hired 61 employees who were beneficiaries of an organization which works on rehabilitating women who were commercial sex workers.
- Our monthly Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony events are very important and bring open discussion among our team.
- We formalize contracts in line with the Ethiopian Labor standards and provide additional benefits when compared with the minimum standards.
- We have created a clear path of progress and promotion through our Center of Excellence program.
- We have based all of our employment contracts using USD to remove the impact of devaluation.
- We have conducted our own analysis of a basket of goods & services in southern Addis Ababa to protect against the impacts of inflation.