Nowadays, “ethically produced” is a common descriptor for many companies. While we may have become slightly desensitized to this as a marketing tagline, many companies are hard at work maintaining businesses consciously and we like to acknowledge their backstories. One of our favorite such brands, from their mission to the means of the production, is Alaffia Body Care. This ethical body, face, hair care company specializes in holistic, clean beauty products. Alaffia embodies everything about doing business ethically.

Supporting Togo, West Africa

The Washington-based company was founded in 2003 by Olowo-n’djo Tchala, who grew up in Togo, West Africa. Alaffia supports Tchala’s Togo community, notably its women. No stranger to the poverty of the region, Tchala saw an opportunity for Togolese women to capitalize on skills they already had. Tchala’s story is intimately tied to the company. Growing up in Togo, he shared a single 8’x10’ room with his mother and seven siblings. Like many families, his was unable to afford school tuition past a certain point, and Tchala’s education came to a halt in the 6th grade. His story is a familiar one in a region where families are often stuck in a cycle of poverty and missed educational opportunities. Fast forward several years, where Tchala meets and falls in love with Prairie Rose Hyde, a peace corps volunteer from the U.S. Their marriage and partnership ultimately led to the founding of Alaffia, which is one of the most important brands in the natural products industry, and a trailblazer in ethical business models.

The company works with Togolese cooperatives to help empower these women for skills that, while typical in their region, are highly prized around the world. All of their products are certified Fair Trade. The company has been able to change the lives of Togolese families and help many women and families rise out of poverty as a result of providing fair, living wages. Alaffia is committed to Fair for Life: Social & Fair Trade Certification conditions, meaning they also meet standards concerning fair working conditions, environmental standards, and community relations. Committed to success that is “not simply measured by profit,” Alaffia is committed to their Empowerment Projects, and uses these as a key metric for measuring their success. These Empowerment Projects, all funded by Alaffia sales, include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM Eradication, Eyeglasses, and Reforestation. The company has helped many Togolese families break the cycle of poverty thanks to their culture’s unique skills and knowledge. Togolese shea butter, known as “women’s gold” in the region, became Alaffia’s first hit product.  Shea butter is a great moisturizer for dry skin, a styling aid for hair, and a core ingredient for many DIY body care products.

The famous baskets

Alaffia’s Certified Fair Trade baskets were also a major hit for the brand. They first began a basket weaving program in 2004 and established a weaving coop in 2006. The Alaffia Handwoven Grass Baskets program has expanded massively to include over 260 basket weavers at their cooperative in Sokode, over 1,975 grass collectors in Blitta, and a Ghana-based basket cooperative boasting 4,950 weavers. Those numbers are astounding when you consider the families and children helped by these opportunities. A contract with Alaffia guarantees fair trade pricing, which falls at 87-130% above the market pricing in Africa.

Most importantly, these coops are held to stringent Fair Trade standards, which also ensure that there is no child labor or slavery. In 2014, Alaffia’s Togo basket weaving program was inspected by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification Program, one of “the first and most renowned international bodies for inspection, certification and quality assurance of sustainable products,” according to Alaffia.

Alaffia at Rebecca’s

At Rebecca’s, we carry a large selection of Alaffia products. We love the popular Coconut Pineapple body wash, body lotion, and shampoo. We also sell their Neem infused products: shampoo, conditioner, neem facial cleanser and mist, neem hand and body lotion, and neem deodorants. (Neem is potent and all-natural, with a long history of use for many skin ailments). Other notable Alaffia products that we carry include: Coconut reishi facial cleanser, day cream, night cream, shampoo, and shower butter; Lime Coconut shampoo and conditioner, unscented shea butter, Everyday Shea lavender shampoo,  lavender conditioner, NEW Repair & Restore shampoo, conditioner and curl defining gel; NEW Baobab Rooibos Dry Skin Cleanser and Skin Cream; and their winged baskets and shoulder baskets.

We are proud to carry Alaffia and hope you’ve enjoyed diving deeper into their story! If you’re curious about Alaffia products or Fair Trade in general, we’d love to talk with you in person at Rebecca’s.

Images from Alaffia’s Facebook page.