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Nest x Patrick J. McGovern Foundation: Insights to Inform Inclusive Climate Solutions

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation (PJMF) Data and Society Accelerator program is a dynamic, innovative initiative established to support organizations as they leverage their data to deepen their impacts and strengthen their efficacy. The Accelerator connects a community of data professionals and facilitates collaboration and knowledge-sharing among participating organizations by providing them with expert training and resources.

Nest, a global nonprofit that supports artisan businesses and craft-based social enterprises, was honored to participate in the 2022 Data Accelerator cohort. During our time in the program, we developed our information strategy to become a more agile, data-driven foundation. More specifically, we worked with the PJMF team to build a system for collecting and analyzing data related to the impacts of climate change on artisan and handworker communities globally.

“There have been huge changes due to the climate crisis in Kenya. Even now we are waiting for the long rains to begin though they haven’t. The future is even more uncertain and scary.”
Founder & Owner of Artisan Design Collaboration Business

The culmination of Nest’s work with PJMF through the Data Accelerator is a comprehensive insights report that analyzed the impacts of climate change on artisan enterprises and handworker communities globally. Nest completed this report within the data systems we developed through PJMF’s generous support and thoughtful guidance. The report underscores the need for improved data collection and actionable insights to inform programmatic, social, and economic investments within these groups. We have summarized our report findings in the paragraphs below. We hope these insights will spark curiosity and interest in broadening our approach to climate change to ensure future solutions consider all affected parties, including those who have historically been overlooked, like home-based artisans and handworkers.

Survey Analysis & Insights
Nest determined the findings in this through a survey conducted among artisan or handcraft business owners to understand the impacts of climate change on Nest’s artisan business network. All 2,156 Guild members were invited to participate in the survey, which was administered using an online platform. The survey consisted of a series of closed- and open-ended questions to gather information on extreme weather events experienced by the business leader and/or their workers, their knowledge and awareness of climate change, and revenue changes caused by climate-related damages.

In total, a representative sample of 326 artisans completed the survey, with a 95% confidence and a 5% margin of error. Of the survey respondents, 53% of businesses are international, while 47% have their production and headquarters exclusively in the United States.

Insight 1: Artisan and handworker businesses are feeling the effects of climate change. Three out of every ten business leaders said they experienced extreme weather events that adversely affected their business and the individuals who worked for them between 2019 and 2022. These events resulted in more than USD 1 million in damages across 97 businesses, with a median average cost of USD 5,000 in damages per business. Beyond this, the damages caused by these extreme weather events impacted the economic livelihoods of small business owners and their workers, as well as the overall wellbeing of their employees and communities at large. Even after the weather has changed for the better, the downstream consequences of these climate-related disasters can delay orders, production, and sales, and lose revenue that may never be totally recovered.

Insight 2: Artisan businesses are currently more reactive than proactive when it comes to implementing climate solutions and adaptations that protect their businesses from the changing climate. Surveyed business leaders are 46% more likely to implement measures to protect themselves personally or professionally from the effects of climate change if they have previously experienced an extreme weather event. Furthermore, there is no statistically significant evidence to show that business leaders who worry about climate change are more likely to implement measures than those who are not concerned. More research is needed to determine the exact reasoning for this trend. Still, there is reason to believe businesses may not have the necessary capital or knowledge to protect themselves from climate change proactively. For example, the median reported annual revenue of artisan businesses surveyed in 2020 was only $24,000 USD, despite the fact that the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy showed the median annual revenue for small businesses in the United States over the same period as $450,000 USD. More often than not, artisan and handworker businesses require additional capital to invest in climate solutions proactively. Additionally, improving leaders’ understanding of the potential economic losses stemming from climate-related disasters can help businesses make informed and financially savvy decisions.

Insight 3: Information from trusted sources is critical to support artisans and handworkers through climate change. A statistically significant association exists between the primary source of information and artisan business leaders’ understanding of climate change. Business leaders with an incomplete understanding of climate change are 24% more likely not to receive information on the issue than those who report understanding it. While the ideal source of this information deserves further investigation, it is clear that a lack of publicly available information on the impacts of climate change on small enterprises creates uncertainty for business leaders. Therefore, it is crucial for industry stakeholders–including brands, buyers, sourcing agents, and nonprofit organizations–to collaborate in building a global library of clear and actionable information for business leaders. This collaboration would help businesses to adapt to the changing climate and increase their operational resilience, resulting in greater long-term sustainability for the businesses and the wellbeing of their workers.

Insight 4: The majority of artisan and handworker businesses are considering their environmental footprint. Over half of the businesses surveyed have enacted measures to minimize their impact on the environment, demonstrating that they are prioritizing sustainability and trends in consumer purchasing. The approaches taken varied greatly and included initiatives like using recycled or reused packaging, utilizing natural dyes and eco-friendly raw materials, planting trees, or raising community awareness. Artisans and handworkers bring unique skills and creativity to the table that can advance brands’ sustainability commitments and consumers’ ethical purchasing goals. 73% of global consumers state that they would change their consumption behavior to reduce their impact on the environment (Nielsen, 2018).

“The focus of my business is on environmental awareness and every decision I make is based on best practices for people + planet. My art prints are made with sustainable paper + non-petroleum VOC-free inks. My production costs are higher because of this but it’s worth it for me.”
Home Decor Artisan based in Portland, Oregon

Insight 5: Industry leaders must advocate for policies and programs that support the sustainability and resilience of artisan businesses in the face of climate change. These results are clear: artisans and handworkers are vulnerable to climate change’s effects and already feel the impact. Despite being one of the largest sources of employment for people around the world, the artisan sector is still considered to be part of the informal economy. Conservative estimates suggest that more than 300 million individuals earn a living through home-based craft production, so it is of utmost importance that they are seen, and climate solutions are developed with them in mind. Even though the sector is currently excluded from many policy conversations, our collective efforts can make a positive impact and support artisans in the face of the challenges posed by climate change. Public and private organizations must support businesses to prepare for and adapt to extreme weather events and recover post-disaster. Policies and programs must be developed to address the differing needs of artisan enterprises based on their location, size, and structure. This may include developing and positioning resources for disaster planning, training on responding to emergencies and creating access to funding or insurance to help cover damages.

Nest is leading the charge to uncover the actual costs of climate change on the artisan and handworker sector; however, this work has only just begun. With funding and thoughtful support from PJMF, we developed a data collection and analysis system to explore the past, current, and future impacts of climate change if meaningful actions are not taken to reverse course. The findings above are a snapshot of what we’ve started to uncover, and we expect to use them to inform Nest’s programming and partnerships moving forward.

While the findings provide valuable insights into the current landscape of artisanal and handworker businesses, there is still much work to be done to address the challenges faced by climate change. As such, Nest will continue investing in data-driven approaches to identify and prioritize the needs of artisans and handworkers, focusing on creating targeted interventions and advocacy that can beneficially impact businesses and communities. We are collaborating with industry-leading organizations to continue these research efforts, highlighting artisan female climate leaders, elevating worker experiences in Kenya, Guatemala, and the Philippines, and publishing synthesized results in the State of the Handworker Economy (SHE) report in early 2024. In addition, the data systems established through the Accelerator have laid the foundation to integrate information across multiple projects and sources. By leveraging the power of data to inform our efforts, Nest can better support these vital industries and ensure their long-term sustainability in the face of a changing climate.

Written by Becky Romasco-Kelly, Nest’s Director of Research & Evaluation. You can read the full Insights for Impact: Using Data to Support Artisans Through Climate Change here.