The Ethical Supply of Qiviut
Ethics involves the moral principles that govern behavior or conducting an activity. Most consumers know only that qiviut from the muskox is rare and very valuable. How it is harvested, sourced and marketed is of interest, but not top of mind. When a valuable commodity intersects supply or demand channels with limited product knowledge there is opportunity for use of asymmetric information at the wholesale or retail level that may or may not be considered ethical. These grey areas around sourcing and marketing in the industry we sometimes witness are frustrating for Nunavut Qiviut and can affect the reputation of all in the industry. Some of the reasons are because almost all other qiviut companies are not based at the source of supply on the arctic tundra to quality check their sources of fiber, and many qiviut companies source their fiber through opaque and unregulated markets. Nunavut Qiviut strives to be the most transparent and fair company of muskox qiviut sourcing, and marketing in the world.
An example of situations we find unpalatable are where suppliers of Arctic animal fibre take the heavy outer layer of muskox hair to market as “Muskox Fibre” at a premium price and let uninformed buyers decide if its qiviut. Another practice is to blend prime qiviut with less valuable course muskox guard hair and market and price the fiber as pure qiviut. There may be many reasons for such action, but it is possible that these qiviut suppliers or manufacturers are not as well informed or have assurance of their sourcing as the people who represent Nunavut Qiviut. If these or similar actions are not a mistake or not clearly communicated to the buyer, then certainly the action can be challenged as being unethical.
The geographic and social legitimacy of Nunavut Qiviut by its attachment to norms and values within Kugluktuk and the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut create certainty that Nunavut Qiviut products are from genuine local Arctic fibres. Because we are far from our customers at the source of qiviut, we take extra quality assurance steps to prove the authenticity of Nunavut Qiviut yarn and apparel. Nunavut Qiviut invented a process to send final yarn product samples for spot checking its DNA content by Wildlife Genetics International Inc. to confirm the species of origin of the yarn. No other qiviut yarn company does this. Most of the world’s muskox population is in Nunavut. Caution should be exercised if qiviut yarn is labeled ‘hand picked off the ground from…’ or no specific geographic location of the source is provided. Also, if prices are too good to be true, caution should be exercised because the price of pure qiviut yarn reflects its rarity and high cost of production. The use of science in the quality assurance program of Nunavut Qiviut, combined with its unique location at the qiviut source and its unique social and cultural legitimacy, distinguishes the company from all other qiviut suppliers on the planet.
Customers who care about ethics and quality of qiviut yarn and knit goods they buy should feel entitled to ask questions about where the fibre is sourced, and other questions associated with the who, when, why and how of the fiber. It would be best not to make a purchase if questions are not answered with satisfaction. To be able to ask such questions and assess the answers, however, buyers should be well educated about qiviut and informed in all aspects of purchasing qiviut from any source – including Nunavut Qiviut!