Cause Marketing Jewelry that is the Bomb

Some 37 years after the end of the Cambodian civil war, landmines left by the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese and unexploded ordnance from the Americans still shroud the landscape. Wikipedia says that it will take a decade more to remove the majority of it. Like a monster with long arms, the mines and unexploded ordnance (called UXO) of long-past wars regularly reaches forward in time to kill and maim Cambodians today.

If placing landmines or dropping ordnance is easy, clearing minefields is laborious, expensive, and dangerous.

Taking a role in this complicated dynamic is Saught, a social enterprise based Singapore that buys the metal left behind by landmines and UXO and helps to support the training of Cambodians artisans to create jewelry which Saught sells on its website.

At left is the “Laurels of Us” necklace, which features streamlined doves and olive branches and was designed by Song Lin. The necklace sells for $129.90, which is on the high end of Saught’s offerings.

Saught is a cause, but it’s not a charity; it’s a social enterprise. With its efforts in Cambodia, Saught's goal is to create a sustainable model that can be exported to other post-conflict countries. Saught works with existing organizations in Cambodia to acquire the raw materials and then turn them into desirable jewelry.

The metals come from the Cambodia Mine Action Centre in Phnom Penh, which has a staff of 2400. By itself that number gives you a sense of the size of the problem in Cambodia, which is around 181,000 square kilometers (69,900 square miles), about the same size as the U.S. State of Missouri. But Missouri has 6 million citizens, while Cambodia has 15 million. Cambodia’s population density means time is of the essence in removing mines and UXO. CMAC actively demines Cambodia and educates Cambodians on the dangers posed by mines and UXO.

Much of the jewelry comes from the Fileo Development Organisation. Fileo is an Italian NGO that teaches young Cambodians the skills of Italian style jewelry making. Saught’s other main supplier is another NGO called Rajana Association, which also teaches Cambodians jewelry and other craft making.

I love these kinds of enterprises. Who wouldn’t be taken in just the back story alone? I’ve got a sister-in-law who can’t resist this kind of stuff, so she may find something from Saught under the tree come Christmas time. But Saught’s long-term prospects depend entirely on how well it markets its products.

The obvious bears repeating, no social enterprise is sustainable… no matter how cool… if you fail to sell the stuff produced by it.

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