Let Your Auditors Do the Walking: Outsourcing Craft Production to Certified Responsible Manufacturers

Many professional crafters have thought about outsourcing their production at one time or another.  But if you’re a “solopreneur”, you probably don’t have the time or money to visit factories or cooperatives overseas.  So how can you tell which manufacturers are responsible companies, and not toxic sweatshops employing underpaid toddlers?  One way to start narrowing down the list is to look at international manufacturing certifications.  These certifications are awarded by independent, international, non-profit auditors, who inspect manufacturers’ operations so you don’t have to.

There are number of different international agencies that provide myriad certifications, but here are a few of the most relevant ones to get you started:

Though the ISO no longer publishes an annual list of certified companies (which blows, by the way — please fix this ISO!), many national and state governments/NGOs publish their own lists, which are easily Googled.  Here are some (not always current) lists for the U.S., Canada and Thailand.

The ICTI does have a database for factories that are CARE-compliant, but the search fields don’t seem to work very well.  I recommend clicking “Submit” without entering or choosing anything, and just browsing the list.

The FSC has a fully functioning, searchable database.  Hallelujah!


  1. Hi, I stumbled across your post and was wondering if you knew where professional crafters might start looking for outsourcing. The outsourcing companies I have found so far work on digital products, not hand-made ones. I’m looking for small-scale work to be done for me overseas.


  2. Hi Bonnie,

    It really depends on what you need made and how small of a scale you’re talking about. In general, overseas outsourcing doesn’t work on a small scale, but you can try contacting Aid to Artisans for handcrafted goods. They pair designers with artisans groups around the world who can produce quality goods to build a sustainable business in their communities.

    Best of luck!

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