Champion-for-Change: Caitlin Beas

Caitlin Beas {The Little Market}Photo by Alandra Chavarria

Caitlin Beas is the Director of Operations at The Little Market. Prior to joining The Little Market, she worked at the international nonprofit Human Rights Watch, supporting the organization’s fundraising and advocacy efforts. Caitlin has an MBA from the University of California at Los Angeles and a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California, and she currently serves on the board of the Fair Trade Federation.

Please tell us about your role as Board Member with the Fair Trade Federation (FTF).

The Fair Trade Federation is a trade association for fair trade retailers and wholesalers operating in North America. I recently joined the board, and we meet once a month by phone, and then twice a year in person. It is an incredible honor to serve on a board with people who are so knowledgeable and passionate. Together, we help to set the priorities and guide the strategy of FTF, which consists of 250 member organizations. Each member organization is carefully verified to ensure their practices are in line with the nine FTF fair trade principles.

What do you love the most about working at The Little Market?

Our team. I am so inspired by their creativity and intelligence. We are a small team, and we all work to challenge each other to do the best work possible and help each other when we need support. It’s exciting to see how we respond to new opportunities and challenges. I really respect our co-founders for fostering an environment that encourages people to express themselves, respect each other, exchange ideas, and work together. At the end of the day, it’s all toward a common goal of empowering artisans around the world through fair trade. You can’t do that without first starting by empowering your team and instilling those values within your daily operations.

We know you have a strong background in human rights. Do you see a point of intersection between human rights and fair trade?

Absolutely. The core of fair trade is about recognizing and valuing the dignity of people and labor. It’s about challenging companies that ignore the negatives consequences of their operations to boost their bottom line. It’s about building a community of consumers that do not tolerate business practices that use forced labor, pay depleted wages, deny labor union rights, create demeaning and unsafe work environments, or destroy or contaminate resources in local communities. All of these things tie into the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

What excites you the most about the Fair Trade Movement?

What excites me most is that it is a movement. It’s fluid. It’s not something set in time, or stagnant, or finite. It’s constantly evolving. As industries change, as the world changes, and as people move and evolve, it forces the Fair Trade community to evaluate how they engage with businesses and social ventures, and consumers. Fair Trade is really setting the bar and challenging businesses to do better, treat people better and end harmful practices that hurt communities and the environment. More than ever before, consumers are questioning where their products come from and how they are made. And in the digital era, there are so many innovative ways for consumers to get information and advocate for more transparency from companies. It is exciting to see how the Fair Trade community will engage consumers and businesses to challenge and reimagine broader global trade.

What do you love most about being a mom?

It gives me perspective about everything I do in my life, and what really matters. Having a daughter (and in a few months, a little boy), keeps me constantly evaluating the decisions I make and how I spend my time. Is what I’m doing helping to create a better world for them? Is it setting a good example for them, for how to treat others? The best feeling in the world is after having a long or “stressful” day, you come home to someone who is so excited to sing ABCs, talk about birds, and look for rocks outside. It really helps me recognize what is important and filter out the daily “noise” and trivial nonsense. Being a mom reminds me how precious time is. What do you want your legacy to be, and how do you want to look back on your life and be remembered?

Who were your role models and/or mentors growing up?

I was fortunate to work with a lot of really smart, passionate, hardworking women at Human Rights Watch who really helped me grow and develop my skills as an employee, advocate, and person. Elizabeth Calvin is someone whom I will always consider a mentor and role model. She is the Senior Advocate of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, and she works on issues like juvenile justice and foster care. She is an unwavering advocate and a smart, articulate, witty, compassionate person. She has a way of listening to different points of view, and challenging others she might not agree with in a respectful manner based on dialogue and empathy. She’s a strong woman and a supermom. (I admire her so much my daughter’s middle name is “Elizabeth.”)

Do you have a favorite documentary?

I’ve watched a lot of documentaries, especially during my time at Human Rights Watch. Most of them on very upsetting and difficult subjects, so I had to take a break from documentaries for a while. One that sticks with me in particular is “The Hunting Ground,” which covers the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. I first watched it just after my daughter was born, so it hit really close to home. To know this is happening to someone’s daughter, or son, and so often the abuse is ignored, minimized, or dismissed by campus administrations and police, is horrifying. It is like the victim is being revictimized all over again. Fortunately, the producers who made this film helped bring the issue to the forefront and make it part of our national dialogue. They found many brave women and men to come forward and share their stories. We’re lucky to have one of the producers Amy Ziering on our Advisory Committee at The Little Market, and we work to support her advocacy however possible.

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