Mater maintains local craftsmanship traditions by employing small companies, combining business and sustainability with timeless and beautiful quality design.
Mater develops and sells furniture, lighting and ‘home accessories’ such as vases, jugs, cups, lamps and bar stools. The company employs five people spread across Denmark, the USA and India and has affiliations with nine Danish and international designers. Mater has eight suppliers in India, China and Vietnam. The company's main activities are in India.
Mater's CSR strategy is based on its vision: “to create timeless and beautiful design based on an ethical business strategy”. The focus of Mater's CSR work is on Fair Trade, recycling and responsible use of materials. Mater only cooperates with suppliers for whom Mater's CSR requirements seem achievable, and where the company's long-term expectation is that the suppliers will pass on the CSR requirements to their own suppliers.
Co-financing of CSR improvements
Mater is aware that CSR activities are resource-intensive, but that they must also improve the earnings of both the company and its suppliers.
Mater applies a model whereby the company, together with a local partner in India, lends money to suppliers so that they can improve their conditions in order to comply with the CSR requirements. Mater pays a small premium for the goods until the loan has been paid off. Experience shows that suppliers are not 100% motivated until they can see an improvement in their earnings as a consequence of this process.
By financing some of the improvements made by their suppliers, Mater has come up with a solution that benefits both parties and where both parties invest in the collaboration. In one specific instance, this has led the supplier to be more interested in maintaining the collaboration, even though Mater, as a newly started company, only placed small orders. Today, the volume of some products is so high that Mater accounts for up to 20% of the supplier’s total capacity. The plan is for all Mater’s suppliers to undergo this process.
It is an element of Mater’s business concept to seek out local craftsmanship traditions that are unique to various developing countries. As a natural consequence, Mater’s designers collaborate with suppliers to gain an understanding of the local craftsmanship traditions, using these to develop exciting professional designs. This type of reciprocity has proved to be a viable platform for CSR improvements.
Transparent and open communication
Mater can see a lot of interest in its CSR profile. For example, international department stores that also have a responsibility profile are keen to buy Mater's products. But the basic product - the design - must be in order. However, Mater is also very aware that not only its products, but also its communication, need to be responsible. Transparency and openness are therefore key parameters for their communication on CSR principles with customers, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders.
In 2008, Mater launched a "special edition" of its products, whereby all profit went to sustainable CSR initiatives by their suppliers. The company was extremely aware of making this process transparent to individual consumers and the company’s other stakeholders, so that a detailed account of the entire process was published on its website.