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Social Responsibility

Many of our customers have shared their thoughts and questions about the production and manufacturing of our products which I feel compelled to address. I share many of your same concerns. Nothing disappoints me more than the lack of value that our fellow Americans put on domestic production. In Europe, for example, I believe that a craftsperson who manufactures handbags is looked up to as the talented artisan that they are. In the USA, I fear, that they are looked down on as second class citizens. I must say that the majority of our craftspeople at Brahmin are sending their children to college (as they should) to provide more opportunity for them to grow - both intellectually and financially.

I believe that we will always have a strong manufacturing component here in the USA - as it enables us to respond to changes in our customers demand more quickly, to develop new styles in shorter lead times, and frankly it just seems like the "right" thing to do.

With regard to the working conditions in the factories in China. While we don't have an ownership role in them, we do work closely with the owners/management of the factories to be sure that they are producing up to our quality requirements, and in an efficient manner. Other major handbags brands have product made in these same factories, including Coach and Prada. I travel to these factories multiple times per year, and have been very impressed with the working conditions.

As you have probably heard about in the news, China is facing large labor shortages. In order for factories to attract employees, they must keep increasing their pay rates. I expect that this will only accelerate as the world comes out of recession - and this will have the most positive effect on raising the standard of living (and working conditions) for those employees.

Over the last 5 years, I have been traveling to Haiti with my Church to work on leadership development (www.LeadHaiti.org), and I must say that my perception of "sweat shops" has changed since my first trip. With unemployment as high as 80%, people are desperate for any kind of work. If other countries demand certain pay levels, length of work day, etc, are we in fact denying countries like Haiti from getting on the first rung of the economic ladder of growth?

These are complex issues, which I can assure you are ever-present in my mind. I can also assure you that I will not support companies that are exploiting their employees - just for a "better price".

Sincerely, Scott Martin Owner, Brahmin Leather Works, Inc.

I would recommend the following books that I have found helpful in at least trying to understand some of the challenges in helping countries come out of poverty.

When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... and Ourselves

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It