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Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange Fairly Traded

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Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.

Equal Exchange started with an idea: what if food could be traded in a way that is honest and fair, a way that empowers both farmers and consumers? Our founders – Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal and Michael Rozyne – asked this question as they envisioned a trade model that values ​each part of the supply chain​. They decided to take a big risk and started importing fairly traded coffee from Nicaragua in 1986, despite a US embargo against the Sandinista government. A new business was born from this bold act of solidarity with Latin American farmers and Equal Exchange grew from there.

Like Equal Exchange we’ve been a proud supporter of authentic fair trade since day one, and to us that means knowing and working directly with the farmers who produce our food. Equal Exchange partners with farmer cooperatives who are democratically organized, sharing resources and decision-making among their members. Collectively, they gain crucial market access and decide how to invest fair trade and organic premiums in their communities. They now source from over 40 small farmer organizations around the world. Their longstanding relationships allow us to secure the best crops, while continuing to develop innovative programs in collaboration with the co-ops, from crop diversification to quality trainings to women’s leadership development.

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We expect no less from ourselves than we ask of our farmer partners. For that reason we have chosen to organize ourselves as a worker co-op, an alternative business model based on democratic principles. Each worker-owner gets one vote, has access to shared financial information, and invests an equal share in the business. In contrast to the national trend of growing income inequality, we have a 5:1 top-to-bottom pay ratio, plus excess profit distribution shared equally among worker-owners at the end of each year. We also have a “Never Sell Out” clause in our by-laws ensuring that in the event of a sale, all net proceeds would be donated to another alternative trade company.

Our growing community of Citizen-Consumers are working together to build a better food system by organizing and engaging in shared learning. If you’re concerned about climate change and the threat it has on the livelihood of farmers, or how multinationals are controlling our food industry, join us! We gather for monthly member meetings as well as webinars and events where we will dive deeper into topics around food politics, agriculture and trade, climate justice, and economic, social and political rights.

The vision has always been to build alternative supply chains that, against all odds, give farmer co-ops a fighting chance and a seat at the table. Equal Exchange has made great strides, and yet their mission is more threatened today than it was 10 years ago. In the wider food system, corporations control everything from seeds to supply and price, while relentlessly chipping away at the regulations that inform and protect consumers. These forces have taken power away from the people and continue to threaten our planet.

“We believe that by organizing together, we can build a stronger, more democratic food system that puts power back in the hands of small farmer communities, alternative traders, and citizen-consumers.”

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