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VIATRU™ Unveils Website to Level the Playing Field

VIATRU™ Unveils Website to Level the Playing Field

Published 01-18-01

Submitted by Viatru, Inc.

VIATRU™ today announced formation of The Visible Commerce™ Forum (VCF), a collaborative online resource dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs in developing communities. The VCF hopes to level the playing field of opportunity for artisans who meet the criteria of sustainable business practices by providing them applicable business skill information, product design and development, and the chance to participate in the global marketplace.

The Visible Commerce Forum brings together many experienced and influential organizations including Viatru, the Body Shop International, Oxfam Fair Trade Company, SERRV, and the Docey Lewis Designs Studio. The VCF Internet site will pool knowledge and training materials derived from years of extensive experience, and stock a virtual resource center with examples and expert mentoring. Respected designers provide product design information and artisans will have the opportunity to locate materials suppliers, service providers and marketing support via the Internet.

"Small producers and struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries desperately need information about trade laws and regulations, market trend information, accounting procedures and so on," said Elaine Jones, Ethical Trade Manager, Body Shop Community Trade. "If our goal is to help people create sustainable livelihoods, then the VCF is an important step in fulfilling the promise of economic development."

The Visible Commerce Forum will build partnerships in developing communities to disseminate much-needed information from the Internet to the village level. Among the many countries that have already benefited from the outreach of these community-based trade and training programs are Peru, Nepal, Bangladesh, Mexico and India. Many new villages will be touched during the coming months. The information network will build upon the partner organizations’ base of knowledge, and will be given a framework for action with the launch of the new VCF website.

“We at Viatru believe that trade is evolving, or perhaps returning to a more meaningful personal connection,” said Michelle Long, co-founder of VIATRU. “Retailers we work with are interested in giving their customers a transparent view into where and how their products are made. We are completing that loop with the VCF by providing information to artisans about how the people buying their products live and what they want to buy. For anyone to make better choices, whether its our retail customers, someone shopping for a gift or a pound of coffee, or the artisans creating the product or picking the coffee beans, the key to making better decisions is information.”

The Visible Commerce Forum will continue to expand as a resource for improved sustainability in many business sectors from hand crafted products to commodities. The leaders hope the VCF will enable communities to participate in commerce effectively and sustainably, through business development services and tools for providing positive environmental, social and financial returns on investment. Alongside market information, business training and technical resources, the site will include sustainability self-assessment forms, measures for community impact, and how to find an impact certifier or speak with a sustainability consultant.

About the Artisans and Micro-Entrepreneurs
There are nearly two billion people -- over one-third of the entire world’s population -- struggling as self-employed artisans and micro-entrepreneurs around the world. Many of them live in remote villages in Africa, Asia and Latin America and depend on tourism for their economic well-being. While many people have a strong desire to succeed, most lack basic training, information, and much needed access to markets.

About the VCF Partners
The Visible Commerce Forum, at, will serve talented artisans who have had limited access to a worldwide market for their products. The VCF partners are committed to working with these artisans and supporting partners around the world to open opportunities for developing communities to build long-term, sustainable businesses.

VIATRU formerly World2Market and founded in 1999, is a digital media services company focused on socially responsible products. Viatru’s Visible Commerce platform provides retailers with a powerful new way to credibly demonstrate corporate responsibility to their customers at point of sale. Their services enable retailers to sell goods that are produced in economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable ways. Viatru has an award winning in-house team of digital story-telling artists, and has partnered with Peel Interactive Media, The Retail Group, and a network of world-class writers, audio technicians, photographers, and videographers to create state of the art interactive digital content. In addition to Visible Commerce, Viatru helps retailers to design, access and source sustainably created products from developing communities worldwide. Viatru helps retailers create value from their values. And Viatru opens economic opportunities for small enterprises in developing communities, through providing U.S. consumers the information they need to differentiate products based on their values.

About The Body Shop International Community Trade Program
The Body Shop International PLC is a values-driven, high-quality skin and hair care retailer operating in 49 countries with over 1,700 outlets. The Community Trade program is a special purchasing program that is the result of The Body Shop commitment to support long-term sustainable trading relationships with communities in need. In 1999/2000, 27 new products were launched containing ingredients sourced from Community Trade suppliers, bringing the total number to 96. During this time, The Body Shop traded with 37 supplier groups in 23 countries.

About Oxfam Fair Trade Company
Oxfam GB is a development, relief, and campaigning organization dedicated to finding lasting solutions to poverty and suffering around the world. Oxfam Fair Trade promotes sustainable development by improving market access for disadvantaged producers. It seeks to overcome poverty and provide decent livelihoods for producers through a partnership between all those involved in the trading process: producers/workers, traders and consumers. Oxfam Fair Trade works with, and imports products from over 160 producers in 30 countries.

SERRV is a non-profit organization headquartered in New Windsor, MD that markets unique gifts through about 3000 churches, nonprofit groups, and stores. SERRV imports these products directly from community-based artisan partner organizations. They share a commitment to the principals of "fair trade" as defined by The International Federation for Alternative Trade.

Viatru, Inc.

Viatru, Inc.

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