Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Nelsa Nespolo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Nelsa has created a new kind of supply chain using fair economic participation to improve the lives of low-income workers in Brazil. Her model connects every part of the organic clothing production chain—from cotton farming to the final sale—into a collective that distributes profits among the workers; also the owners of the company. Unlike “fair trade” initiatives that ask consumers to pay a premium for an ethically produced product, Nelsa’s “fair chain” model increases workers’ wages while also conferring management responsibility and ownership to the workers themselves. After only two years in operation, over 700 workers are involved in the Justa Trama supply chain network. The company maintains an umbrella structure with each link worker-owned and operated. As the company builds capacity, resources, and management, workers achieve economic stability and equal participation in an economy that has traditionally rejected them.