Making a difference, one fair trade at a time

Story of service • Germany • January 2013

IBM marketing retiree Peter Reichart
Traveling the world as an IBM marketing executive opened Peter Reichart’s eyes to ways of life he'd never experienced in his native Germany. He also came to believe that some things are universal: that people everywhere are better served by Fair Trade than by handouts, and that you can change the world through little things done with good will, persistence, and the right resources.

After retiring in 2001, Reichart began looking for ways to leverage his marketing experiences to "help influence and change things that needed changing around this planet." For him, the right place to do that was "Eine Welt Maichingen”, (One World Maichingen), a volunteer-run, fair trade shop with global aspirations, located in a small suburb of Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart. And the right resources included the rich store of training activities and grants he found in IBM's On Demand Community.

To anyone looking for an opportunity to do good in the world, "I say to you, open your eyes and look around," Reichart advises. "There are so many opportunities to make a difference. I see my engagement with fair trade in coincidence with the IBM Centennial book, "Making the World Better."

Largely through Reichart's determined effort to improve sales processes and increase its visibility, Eine Welt Maichingen has evolved from a tiny purveyor of fair trade coffees, teas and dried fruits. It has moved to larger quarters and quadrupled revenues, while broadening its product lines and trading partners. The not-for-profit has also launched efforts to support local fair trade initiatives and used its profits to support worthy causes in Santiago, Chile, the Philippines, and the tiny village of Si Kunda, Gambia. (see sidebar)

Reichart says he uses sales and communications techniques he learned during his IBM years, and leaned heavily on the resources of IBM Activity Kits. "I've adapted whatever I could to make the shop visible to the public - writing articles, speaking to schools," he says. He uses techniques, such as technology planning, basics of marketing, and use of the Internet, for online shopping and team-building with partners in remote corners of the globe. He'll try just about anything to promote the cause, including creation of the world's "largest coffee table filled with fair trade coffee." ("We succeeded, with a fair trade coffee table of more than 600 meters. But Guiness never accepted it as a world record.")

Increasing use of e-mail and the Internet for on-line shopping and team-building has empowered the small-town not-for-profit in profound ways. The 60-plus volunteers at Eine Welt have (with considerable reluctance in some cases, Peter says ruefully) migrated to communicating by e-mail and spreadsheets, and using a cash register in place of notes scribbled on paper.

"At first, I found some volunteers were present in our shop, but didn't sell. 'How can you sell them something, if you don't talk to the customers?' I asked. I've presented them with all kinds of IBM marketing principles, and we've had great improvements."

Reichart has also persuaded town leaders of Singelfingen to seek the status of "Fair Trade Town," and is working with local stores, churches, flower shops and others to promote fair trade products and practices, and to ensure that more farmers and other suppliers in developing countries are rewarded with fair prices. He also promotes the idea to local school children and senior citizen groups, educating them on the positive aspects of globalization.

Over the years, Reichart has taken advantage of IBM Activity Kits and other resources, translating as needed from English to German; and the IBM-sponsored World Community Grid runs nonstop on Eine Welt's PCs, with about a million points of research time contributed to date. He's also qualified for four IBM grants over the years, "that have allowed us to improve the shop with a server and other equipment," Reichart says. "If you volunteer, take advantage of these resources. These are wonderful tools."

Fair Trade partners

Solar kit sold to villagers on microcredit.
Eine Welt Maichingen volunteers believe strongly that people around the world don't want donations; they prefer fair prices for the goods they purvey. In cooperation with the YIRABAH Gambia organization, they offered the villagers of resource-strapped Si Kunda solar panels to generate electricity for things like lighting and to charge cell phones. "We don't give them away; they buy through micro credits - small loans they can pay off over time. We received an interesting message. They told us, 'If you really want to help us, don't give us a fish, give us a fishing rod.’ They need empowerment. They buy the solar units from us, not a big amount, but fair."

Similarly, in the Philippines, the not-for-profit works with the People's Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (PREDA), dedicated to the protection of children, including abuse of child labor. And in Chile, Eine Welt supports the work of the Fundacion Cristo Vive in vocational training including apprenticeships for young people in the slums of Santiago.

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