Equal Exchange Does Democratic Business

Equal Exchange Does Democratic Business

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Nobody desires their purchases to trigger environmental hurt or contribute to human rights abuses. That’s very true for merchandise that we would really feel somewhat responsible about anyway, like costly meals gadgets that aren’t notably wholesome. Nobody desires to be tricked by greenwashing, both. That’s why we search for certification labels, regardless that these aren’t entirely reliable. If we’ve got time, we would analysis direct commerce choices – however appropriate choices aren’t at all times obtainable, and apart from, who has the time? Equal Exchange is one model that tries to get it best for you, utilizing a democratic enterprise mannequin that’s not fairly like anybody else’s.

Equal Exchange

There are actually lots of of meals corporations that market their merchandise as sustainable, however practically all of them have interaction in some type of greenwashing. Those that don’t are clear about their practices and depend on third-party certification to confirm that they meet these requirements. Because Equal Exchange was the primary firm to promote Fairtrade espresso within the U.S. (and the one one for practically a decade) it’s usually mistaken for a good commerce certification system. But Equal Exchange is a sustainable meals model. They simply take somewhat completely different method from most.

Equal Exchange now sells meals merchandise like nuts, dried fruit, and spices, and is working so as to add bananas. But initially, they solely provided espresso, tea, and chocolate – the posh merchandise almost definitely generally made obtainable by way of direct trade. Founded in 1986 on the daybreak of the honest commerce motion, they’ve at all times labored instantly with the cooperatives of small farms that produce their merchandise.

Equal Exchange logo
Equal Exchange label


Direct commerce normally bypasses certifications, emphasizing relationships over requirements. Equal Exchange takes an uncommon hybrid method. Most of the merchandise they purchase are licensed natural by Oregon Tilth, a sustainable agriculture commonplace that predates federal USDA Organic requirements by 16 years. While USDA merely verifies that requirements are met, Oregon Tilth can be an advocacy and schooling group that values social fairness in addition to natural agriculture.

In the previous, Equal Exchange additionally labored with Fairtrade International. However, when the U.S. affiliate branched off to kind Fair Trade USA, Equal Exchange deserted honest commerce certification, selecting to commerce instantly with small farmers based on its own set of fair trade standards.


Farmer cooperatives have at all times been on the coronary heart of honest commerce practices. Developing relationships and contracts with sufficient particular person smallholder farms to satisfy quantity demand is inconceivable for all however the smallest American corporations. Much like unions, cooperatives can serve to amplify the ability of people, particularly when partaking with firms. In worldwide commerce, cooperatives act as a enterprise, but in addition present enterprise assist to their members, safeguarding human rights and selling transparency in provide chains.

What is uncommon about Equal Exchange is that the U.S. facet of the corporate is also a cooperative. Each of the corporate’s 130 workers is an equal accomplice in possession of the for-profit enterprise. Corporate manufacturers could provide pretty traded merchandise as a advertising instrument or to fulfill shopper demand. But Equal Exchange has constructed employee protections into its construction. They goal to show {that a} worthwhile enterprise might be constructed on democratic, relatively than capitalistic, ideas.

Fair Trade at Home

Equal Exchange pioneered honest commerce ideas each overseas and at dwelling, and their mannequin remains to be one of many strongest. But different corporations are making an effort to assist sustainable cooperatives. Coffee nonetheless dominates, however new gadgets are starting to be obtainable.

Cooperative Coffees is an importing cooperative that sells inexperienced espresso grown by cooperatives of small-scale espresso farmers to small roasting corporations within the U.S. Fair Trade USA has not too long ago partnered with Chobani to develop a certification for the American dairy supply chain that may present farmers premiums for sustainable practices. SPP Global is a global cooperative community primarily based in Latin America that certifies and helps sustainable small-producer organizations world wide. Even the company Cargill is supporting cooperatives, providing the Cargill Coop Academy, an academic program for cocoa cooperative managers that goals to assist them obtain monetary stability. Decades after Equal Exchange broke new floor as a cooperative, sustainable, worldwide enterprise, shoppers are starting to have extra decisions for a special type of provide chain.