Equal Exchange started with an idea. What if food could be traded in a way that is honest and fair, a way that empowers both farmers and consumers? The founders - Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal and Michael Rozyne - asked this question as they envisioned a trade model that values each part of the supply chain. So they took a big risk and plunged full-force into changing a broken food system. In 1986, they started with fairly traded coffee from Nicaragua and didn't look back.
Equal Exchange originally organized themselves as a democratic worker cooperative, and is now one of the largest in the country. A worker cooperative is an alternative for-profit structure based upon standard democratic principles. It is not designed to maximize profits, nor returns to investors, but rather to bring to the workplace many of the rights and responsibilities that we hold as citizens in our communities.
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.
Equal Exchange has sparked enormous reform in the U.S. specialty coffee industry. They have built a supply chain from scratch that, against all odds, gives small farmer co-ops a fighting chance and a seat at the table. We at CWOW highly recommend that you check out the website to get a feel of their overwhelmingly powerful mission and vision.