Sustainability report

Koua-Studio’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals


Koua Studio, on the road to 2030’s global challenges is aligning its strategy to meet the UN Sustainable Development goals (SDG). In this article, we are going to discuss which of these goals are being covered and why they are important for the company in the long term. 

SDG #1 Poverty Reduction

Koua Studio is working in one of Mexico’s poorest states, Chiapas. According to Data Mexico,  “in the second quarter of 2021, the economically active population of Chiapas was 2.26M people. The workforce reached 2.2M people (30.9% women and 69.1% men) with an average monthly salary of $4.07k MX. The occupations that concentrate the largest number of workers were Workers in the Corn and /or Bean (310k), Support Workers in Agriculture (286k), and Sales Employees, Dispatchers and Dependent on Trade (114k). Chiapas registered 65.8k unemployed (unemployment rate of 2.91%).” For employed women, most of the work sources are self-employment around the textile, handcrafts and food industries. At Koua Studio, the aim is to equip these women with more opportunities to flourish so they can grow their cooperatives through empowerment, education and better paid opportunities, arriving from the UK market. 

#8 Decent Work and Economic Growth 

We provide immediate job opportunities as well as training that enable our artisan women to become involved across different areas of our supply chain. This considers the way our materials are sourced and harvested. Data Mexico’s research also shows that currently the main international sales destinations in 2020 were the United States (US$153M), Germany (US$6.92M), and Belgium (US$5.89M). Koua Studio’s work is to strengthen the exchange between the UK and Mexico for the long run.

Positive change is around the corner. According to Good Clothes Fair Play, “the momentum required to support fairer supply chains at EU level has never been greater. The European Commission has committed to introducing mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation compelling companies to take action in their supply chains.” Koua Studio is aligning to this initiative by disclosing its supply chain information as much as needed. According to the Mexican Work Secretariat, the lowest wage is around $21.6 MXN per hour (0.74 GBP). When Koua Studio met its Lowest Wage Challenge, it focused on a method in agreement with their artisans which implied doubling the Minimum Salary in order to give workers a Living Wage that can improve their quality of life progressively. This meant paying $40 MNX per hour, instead of the minimum of twenty.  Put simply, a regular handbag made by a local woman in Chiapas takes around 4 hours to be crafted, half of an average person’s working day. That is a competitive salary for a woman who is starting to work with a textile business partnership for a brand. For a person who lives in Chiapas, the minimum wage makes do for basic needs around that community. A living wage, on the other hand, enables the family to meet further services such as health, basic education and savings. Financial health access is important for people in these rural areas, there, women play a fundamental part in the decision making in order to spend their money wisely, according to the family’s needs. Koua Studio is going to be carrying out an annual meeting with its stakeholders in order to re-assess the social, environmental and economic impact of the project’s KPIs. 

SDG #10 Reduced Inequalities

Why doubling and not giving them more than that? It is important to acknowledge the context. First, meritocracy. For local people, living under similar conditions it is important to have access to improved working conditions steadily. Competition is rife, and it is important to create a committed team first and through time helping them to improve their working conditions according to their communities’ needs. Second, it's all about families. People on Chiapas care about their land, their culture and family wellbeing first. This is why Koua Studio’s intervention model focuses on the emotional salary as much as their economy. Third, women empowerment. 
Among the community's key challenges brought by inequality, we find: domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Many of these issues have something to do with the patriarchy. Many young men and women struggle with this within their family circles, where from a young age they are likely to experience substantial levels of stress and anxiety which often cause poor academic performance and even school desertion from a young age.  In Mexican culture, matriarchs are the people who run our families. Therefore, Koua Studio’s vision is to put “women in charge”. By equipping them with soft skills and self improvement strategies, they are able to become the family’s pillar in the mid-term. Therefore, they can work on better decision making, economic stability and healthier relationships for their family members. 
The figure above exemplifies the type of salary a person gets for a month’s work (353.78 GBP). That amount equals a junior corporate salary in Mexico City.  So, Koua Studio’s responsibility is to make sure that a person can earn enough to cover their basic needs, according to the living standards of their community. When the work is done by two people from different families, they work less hours but each of them earns $4,800 MXN (176.96 GBP). This means that two people, the heads of the family, can sustain their children’s basic needs. As women, it empowers them to tackle patriarchy, unsafe and extreme poverty conditions, which are commonly found around the area. 
Which other social aspects do Koua Studio impact? Giving the artisans microcredits in order to support their art as well as the author’s credit and its community's heritage. Creating higher transparency standards and disclosing its carbon footprint on a next phase. 

SDG #5 Gender Equality

Koua Studio is supporting women’s economic contribution and talent development in the village’s workforce. However, within the families and the company back in London, KS supports women and men equally.  The team provides additional life skills that create healthier conditions around their families and communities in order to empower them all to excel at their professional lives. The objective is to create the necessary conditions to give them support, while still keeping the freedom to have a good work-life balance. 

SDG #12 Responsible Consumption and Production

Koua Studio cares about the environment. We produce tailor made, quality-based styles that are based on the local ancestry, and made to last. We source the majority of our materials locally and through our value chain we focus on supporting regional businesses and producers wherever possible. Through this approach, we are able to optimise our carbon footprint through the handmade techniques of our artisans which allow us to avoid the use of machinery. Some of our products have reused or recycled items, all of this while being careful of never sacrificing an item’s quality. Koua Studio is aware that e-commerce carries a carbon footprint, yet, they are committed to minimise the impact of this type of exchange by choosing competitive shipping options. 

Another important aspect to consider within the sustainable development strategy is “cultural appropriation”. A phenomenon that happens often among brands that use certain designs developed by indigenous communities, and do not give them the credit for these designs. There have been  

As was previously mentioned, Koua Studio is joining the #LowestWageChallenge along with other brands that are making commitments with both their colleagues and their customers in order to create healthier communities. Koua Studio is a conscious brand that wants to advocate good business practices and to create business relationships with its allies, clients and consumers for the long run. That is why Koua Studio is also following the brand’s trend #CustomerObsessed. Erika Álvarez is an avid entrepreneur who is listening to her audience closely as well as guiding her team towards an honest and ethical landscape. Her and her associate, Paulina Pezzat hope other brands can join these movements and commit with them in order to reshape the industry together. 

Written By 

Sha Hakimi

Founder at PS21 Art and Sustainable Strategies


Works Cited
“THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development.” Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations, Accessed 2 March 2022.
Data Mexico. Data Mexico, Accessed 15 March 2022.
Good Clothes Fairplay. Good Clothes Fairplay, 2022, Accessed 15 March 2022.
Secretaría de Trabajo y Previsión Social. “Entra en vigor incremento al salario mínimo del 22%.” Gobierno de México, 6 January 2022, Accessed 22 March 2022.