The Pacific Islands are home to many artisans using traditional skills to make a diverse range of products, but who don’t have access to a global marketplace where they can sell their wares and earn a living.
Social enterprise Real Impact aims to change this. It was founded in 2010 by Virginia Bruce, an international brand and business consultant who has committed herself to working exclusively on trying to make a difference using her skillset and experience. Bruce is also a former retailer, having run The Real Store in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo, which sold ethical and sustainable products.
“I wanted to focus on what I called ‘high impact’ supply chains, connecting social impact brands and products in a way that delivered positive social outcomes to the communities where these goods were made,” she says.
“For eight years I have explored and worked in what is known as social impact, developing different social enterprises that were all linked to social, ethical and sustainable design.”
She recently launched a homewares line, Considered by Real, which puts this into practice. Through the brand Bruce works in the Pacific helping artisans from Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu to use their traditional skills to make a living.
The debut Pacific Collection launched at Life Instyle Sydney and includes cane furniture and cushions from the Solomon Islands, lights from Vanuatu, carvings and tapa artwork from PNG and mats from Fiji.
Bruce’s vision is to eventually bring together many artisans, not only from the Pacific, but from all informal economies across the world to help them leverage their cultural IP.
This might seem like a big dream but Bruce’s ambition goes even further. Ideally, Real Impact would like to see all retailers allocate one per cent of their open to buy to ‘high impact’ products.
“This is the level of change that is needed and if every retailer did this it could contribute billions of dollars into these informal economies and communities, and it would help stem some of the challenges that we are all facing,” she says.
“The retail industry is one of the few industries that has not yet made a concerted effort towards much needed change, yet as an industry it could have such a powerful impact.”
Real Impact works with the Australian Government and international development agencies to help tackle the challenges facing communities in the Pacific, and Bruce says she is excited by the possibilities of her work.
“[I am] excited and inspired by the potential and possibilities that exist in shifting global supply chains in a way that can benefit more and more communities and people while not compromising design.
“What we are aiming for is to create a fundamental shift in the system of supply that respects the total ecosystem, not just one part of it.”
By Ruth Cooper