Equal Exchange-Fairly Traded Foods

A company that trades, not steals from its workers!

What is Eqaul Exchange and How Does it Work?

Equal Exchange is an organization run by everyone! This means that everyone who works there owns it and puts money into keeping it up and running. The organization trades and works with small farmers from all over the world to make their products. Small farmers are farmers that grow their crops on a small harvesting ground. They have the small farmers make the chocolate and coffee and then they pay them with the purchases people make from their product. At Equal Exchange 100% of their coffee is fairly traded. For other companies‚ Fair Trade coffee usually consists of only a small percentage of their total sales. Equal Exchange was the first company to bring fairly traded coffee to the United States back in 1991, and remained the only organization using the Fair Trade model until 1998. Most of their factories are in Mexico although they work and have companies all around the globe. Equal Exchange has persevered with this unusual course because it was founded with an unusual mission — to create a new model of bringing the best from farms to the consumers in a manner that was direct, fair and sustainable to all involved: the environment, the farmers, their employees, their wholesale customers, and the public.

First Hand Account

As a founding member of the Green America Business Network, Equal Exchange has a long history of going the extra mile. They were Fair Trade before there really was a Fair Trade movement in this country, and now their efforts to support the workers all along their supply chain go well beyond the already-high bar set by the Fair Trade certification process.

"For us meeting the minimum requirements of Fair Trade certification is just a starting point," says Rodney North, Equal Exchange's 'Answer Man.' "There are many more opportunities beyond starting a business to show how Fair Trade can make a difference, such as providing value-added processing work for the farmer cooperatives, or partnering with other worker cooperatives in the US for processing and packaging. "

What have been some of the biggest challenges of maintaining high standards of social and environmental responsibility?

Rodney: "Once, in our early years, when we had fewer than ten staff members, and were pretty much alone in selling Fair Trade coffee, we came close to breaking off our commitment to pay farmers the Fair Trade minimum price. We were tiny, with no economies of scale, and competitors were paying such low prices for their coffee that it was getting very hard to stay price-competitive on store shelves. Since we had nowhere else left to cut, it was either lower the price paid to farmers or go out of business. But just before we were about to break the bad news to our farmer partners, a frost hit Brazil, ruining the harvest there. That shot world coffee prices way up and suddenly we were price competitive again. That was the last time we had such a close call."

How We Can Make a Difference

Deep controversies in the Fair Trade movement have been coming up over the past decade. Today, the situation has reached a boiling point and concrete actions must be taken or Equal Exchange risks losing everything they have collectively built. For people are long-time allies of Equal Exchange, they appreciate your ongoing commitment to them, small farmer co-operatives, and Fair Trade. It is because of your commitment that small farmer organizations across the world have achieved the level of success they currently enjoy. For those of you who are newer to Fair Trade, they deeply appreciate the time and interest you are showing for small farmers across the world.

The easiest way to support authentic Fair Trade is to purchase fairly traded products from small farmers. Your actions as a consumer support or discourage actions by businesses. By making the choice to buy fairly traded products, you help provide health care, education and technical trainings for farmers and workers around the world. By supporting Equal Exchange, you join a movement to reclaim the food system, make it better for farmers, consumers and the earth.

Website 1:

"Equal Exchange." Equal Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.

Website 2:

"Faces of the Green Pages." Green America: Green Business Interview: Equal Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.