Equal Exchange is a fair trade cooperative located in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Their core operation consists of distributing organic, gourmet coffee, tea, sugar, bananas, avocados, cocoa, and chocolate produced-by independent farmer cooperatives in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. While managing a food cooperative in their local region, Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal, and Michael Rozyne, were determined to create a model that increased the incomes of farmers and stabilized their overall financial situations. In 1986, this model came to life of utilizing direct trade, establishing long-term contracts, and offering higher-than-market prices to small coffee farmers. Equal Exchange is now the oldest and most highly-regarded fair trade company in the United States.
The organization believes they should expect nothing less from themselves than what they demand of their partners. As a result, Equal Exchange is worker-owned and they’re not focused-on maximizing profits or returns to investors, but instead improving the lives of their employees and associates.
Now three decades later, Equal Exchange faces a number of issues including products with fair trade labels and certification; which don’t necessarily follow the traditional fair trade model. The industry as a whole continues to consolidate into just a handful of companies, which has allowed for concentrated power and deception. For this reason, they’ve organized a community of engaged consumers through the Equal Exchange Action Forum to invest time and energy to further their mission.