Equal Exchange is a workers co-operative selling organic and fairtrade products that guarantee “a fair deal for farmers and the environment”.
The co-op’s beginning dates back to 1979, when volunteers started to buy coffee from Bukoba on Lake Victoria in Tanzania after having worked in Africa.
Nowadays, Equal Exchange’s products are found in many high street retailers and supermarkets. Goods include coffee, tea, nuts, oil, cocoa and honey.
The cooperative recognise that fairtrade and organic sectors can contribute to the world’s disadvantaged farmers, by supporting the environment at the same time.
It believes that organic and fairtrade “do not distort global free markets, but add value to existing commodities, enabling suppliers and retailers to compete with the global mega-producers on their own terms”.
Organic farming means that farmers look after their soil and preserve biodiversity in the ecosystem, while the fairtrade certification allows farmers to live with dignity and reinvest a premium into community projects.
Equal Exchange is owned by its employees, who possess an equal share in the ownership of the company.
The company has a special focus on women’s empowerment.
“Evidence shows that where women control household income the family’s health, nutrition and education improves at a faster rate because less money is spent outside the household”, it says.
According to the company, the fairtrade sector should make an additional step to ensure that women farmers have equal tools and influence as men. The claim was recently stressed in a report by the World Bank, which argued that there is a huge gender gap among African farmers.