US Sherpa: Merging Ethnicity, Ethics and Environment into Business
Is it possible to run a business that is financially successful, yet also operating with less environmental impacts, and contributing to the welfare of its workers and the community? Find out how US Sherpa, one of our sellers, strives to uphold the principles of cultural preservation, business ethics and environmental protection into their business operations.
Knitting a partnership between Nepal and the US
US Sherpa is a family-owned business that makes handmade knitwear and other artisan products. Products are handcrafted in Nepal, while their company headquarters in Vermont markets the produsts in the US. Ongyel Sherpa, who takes his roots from an ethnic group indigenous to the Himalayan region, founded this company.
The story of how US Sherpa began is not a straightforward one. It began with the meeting of Dr. Geoff Tabin, an American doctor, and Ongyel’s uncle who served as a Sherpa guide when the doctor summitted Mt. Everest. Ten years after, Dr. Tabin would return to Nepal on a mission as an ophthalmologist to restore the eyesight of the Himalayan people who have cataract-induced blindness.
As fate would have it, Dr. Tabin and Ongyel meet that time, paving the way to Ongyel’s migration in the US with the help of Dr. Tabin. After years of support from the good doctor, Ongyel completed his education in the US and eventually launched the US Sherpa.
Fast forward to today, US Sherpa provides sustainable jobs to more than 300 Nepalese. Having been a recipient of the generosity of others, running the US Sherpa is Ongyel’s way of paying it forward. US Sherpa also extends its support to the Himalayan Cataract Project, an undertaking founded by Dr. Tabin, by providing lodging and logistics services for visiting doctors and support staff.
Why we are proud of US Sherpa
SOS Future’s mission to reduce the environmental impacts humans make from their daily activities resonates well with US Sherpa’s business approach. Here’s a rundown of why we are proud of having US Sherpa as one of our sellers.
Job opportunities for economically disadvantaged
US Sherpa provides sustainable jobs for economically challenged artisans, despite many of them have received little education. The artisans receive mutually-agreed and fair wages. Likewise, equitable profit shares through the supply chain provides the basis for setting a fair price.
The company also makes sure that they visit their producers regularly and provide training not only to their artisans but to their families, as well. Building skills for their artisans and their families help create opportunities beyond the shop level. In this way, workers and the Nepalese community move out from poverty to economic self-sufficiency.
Gender equality and safe working conditions
Apart from striving for high quality products, producers of US Sherpa focus on sourcing their raw materials sustainably. Among their efforts is using as much natural fibers such as natural sheep wool and cotton. However, they sometimes incorporate small amounts of synthetic fibers for added functionalities.
They produce traditional lokta paper journals, which is handmade from Daphne, an indigenous Himalayan shrub. Unlike other sources of paper, Daphne doesn’t have to be cut as it regenerates within 5 to 7 years. US Sherpa also markets products made from 100% recycled fabrics, keeping silk and cotton scraps away from the landfill by turning these into bags, headbands and pouches. You can check out their products here.
Furthermore, their artisans use natural dyes and drying process for their fabrics. They use recycled brass and recycled/reused packaging materials such as paper hang tags, cotton or hemp strings to tie hang tags and used cartons when shipping out orders.
Preservation of cultural heritage
In this time of a globalized society when the meeting of people and cultures threaten cultural preservation, producers of US Sherpa have managed to preserve the traditional Nepalese craft. Despite the age of automation and mass production in textile, artisans still exercise their handmade artistry in weaving and knitting.
Striving to overcome challenges
No business is perfect. Balancing economic, social and environmental sustainability within the company makes running the business even more challenging. For instance, difficulty in sourcing biodegradable alternatives for such materials as J-hooks for hats, tag gun plastic bars and plastic bags can restrain the company’s efforts towards using as much biodegradable materials as possible for their products.
Despite the challenges, US Sherpa will continue to stride towards further reducing their environmental impacts. Beyond customer satisfaction, their thrust is to instill environmental and social accountability through direct engagement with the artisans and stakeholders throughout their supply chain.
Like US Sherpa and our other sellers, is your business offering eco-friendly products aimed at reducing the negative impacts we place in the environment? If yes, we invite you to join our family of sellers with a purpose. Learn the benefits of becoming an SOSFuture seller and how you can join us here.