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Our Mission

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.

Our Guiding Principles

  1. Trade directly with democratically organized small farmer cooperatives.
  2. Facilitate access to credit for producer organizations.
  3. Pay producers a guaranteed minimum price that provides a stable source of income as well as improved social services.
  4. Provide high quality food products.
  5. Support sustainable farming practices.
  6. Build a democratically-run cooperative workplace.
  7. Develop more environmentally-sound business practices.

Your Impact

Our Push for Authentic Fair Trade

Fair Trade is a way of doing business that ultimately aims to keep small farmers an active part of the world marketplace, and aims to empower consumers to make purchases that support their values. It is a set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and handmade crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers and artisans, increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups, supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations, and increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers.

The Fair Trade practices that advance these goals typically, but not always, include direct trade relationships and long-term contracts between importers and producer groups, sourcing from small-farmer or artisan co-operatives, and higher than conventional market prices, either through above-market premiums and/or price floors.

But today's Fair Trade movement is full of controversy. Some believe that in order to increase the impact of Fair Trade the system needs to lower standards, eliminate farmers from the governance model, and invite large-scale plantations into coffee and all other commodities in order to provide more product for the Fair Trade market. The standards behind well known Fair Trade labels have changed. Equal Exchange firmly believes that small farmers and democratically organized producer co-ops are the heart of Fair Trade and we stand committed to a movement that supports them.

"We can all go and read different definitions of Fair Trade. Fair Trade is for small farmers and small producers who are democratically organized. If you take the democracy out you have traditional aid or world bank development or what the TransFair USA and the European certifiers are now trying to call Fair Trade. And Fair Trade is about access for those small producers. By slowly developing over time at significant risk small farmers and producers can build solidarity networks and enter commercial supply chains. When they succeed at this there are benefits or positive development for their communities. That's what Fair Trade is all about. If you want the fastest supply chain that produces the most tea or coffee or bananas at commercial terms you have entered into some socially responsible product world of which there are many examples. It just ain't Fair Trade, and it won't have the same positive benefits."

pouring coffee cherries
farmer holding raw cocoa in his hands.
Rink Dickinson

-Rink Dickinson, Equal Exchange Co-Founder and Co-Director, during a speech given at a conference of the InterReligious Task Force on Central America, on Oct. 22, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio

Read more about the Fair Trade movement here.