Equal Exchange Wins Three Awards for its Social and Environmental Practices

WEST BRIDGEWATER, Massachusetts - March 26, 2009 - In the span of less than four weeks, Equal Exchange, the worker co-operative best known for introducing Fair Trade coffee to U.S. grocery stores, has been honored with three awards for its category-leading, socially and environmentally responsible practices, and unorthodox business model.

In early March, Equal Exchange won the Social Innovation Award (small-to-medium size enterprise category, annual revenue $5 - $500 million) that is given out jointly by the Financial Times newspaper and JustMeans.com. The Social Innovation Awards showcase companies that are balancing the needs of shareholder and society-employees, customers and activists. In the words of the Financial Times and JustMeans, "these are the companies and individuals that are taking action and are having an impact on shaping the new world of sustainable and socially responsible enterprise."

The awards were given out at the Financial Times' "Responsible Business, Responsible Investing" conference in New York City on March 2. The conference was a rare opportunity for leaders from both the enterprise side of the corporate social responsibility community to meet and share ideas with leaders from the socially responsible investment community. Equal Exchange was pleased to share the podium with another co-operative, REI, the outdoor equipment retailer and consumer co-op, who was a winner in the Large Enterprise category.

In mid-March Equal Exchange was excited to learn that its new eco-café, the co-operative's first-ever full-size coffee shop, was named as a winner of the Green Business Award by the City of Boston. The café is located downtown, next to Boston's North Station and TD Banknorth Garden, home of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In keeping with Equal Exchange's role as a leading importer and roaster of certified organic coffee, and purveyor of certified organic tea and chocolate, the café incorporates a number of environmentally responsible practices, ranging from the use of reclaimed wood in the café's furniture to a comprehensive recycling and composting program for both staff and patrons. Besides a heavy emphasis on organic, Fair Trade, and locally sourced products, the café also took the unusual step of refusing to sell bottled water, out of recognition of its unnecessary contrib... to global warming, litter, and land-fill waste.

Boston's Green Business Awards will be given out April 16, at an 11 a.m. ceremony at the Children's Museum in the Fort Point neighborhood.

And this week it was announced that Equal Exchange will receive the annual Aaron Feuerstein Spirituality and Business Award that is bestowed by the Symposium on Spirituality, Values, and Business. For the first time, the award is being given to an entire organization, instead of to an individual entrepreneur.

The award is granted to a business leader who embodies the values modeled by the life of Aaron Feuerstein. Mr. Feuerstein is a third generation leader of his family business, Malden Mills. When his mill burned down in a tragic fire in 1995, he not only continued to pay his employees, he also renewed his commitment to his community and his employees by rebuilding the mill at a time when most textile manufacturers were moving to other countries. Mr. Feuerstein is appropriately held up as a model for how modern entrepreneurs should lead.

The criteria for winning this award are:

  • A leader who has managed a socially responsible business or has successfully promoted socially responsible business practices
  • A person who models socially responsible values and principles and effectively integrates their core values into their business practices
  • A leader who actively promotes the importance of all stakeholders to a business

Past winners of this award include Jeff Swartz, CEO of Timberland, and Amy Domini, a pioneer in the field of socially responsible investing.

In its announcement, the Symposium lauded the 86 member worker co-operative both for its democratic practices within the company and for having designed its progressive policies into the structure of the enterprise:

"From the beginning, Equal Exchange has been intentional about its mission, vision, and values and has worked to integrate these ideals throughout the company and to serve as a model for what is possible in the business world."

Rob Everts, Co-Executive Director of Equal Exchange, will receive the award on behalf of Equal Exchange and said this about the recent flurry of accolades:

"Right in the mission statement our worker-owners drafted 13 years ago, it says that we seek to 'demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world' and these awards suggest that the world is taking notice and that in the current financial climate, practices deemed idealistic just a few short years ago are, in fact, critical to a truly sustainable economy."

The award will be presented Friday, March 27, at the eleventh annual Symposium on Spirituality, Values and Business that will be held at Babson College's Glavin Family Chapel in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

About Equal Exchange:
A pioneer and U.S. market leader in Fair Trade since 1986, Equal Exchange is a full service provider of high quality, organic coffee, tea, chocolate and healthy snacks to retailers and food service establishments. Major customers include hundreds of consumer food co-operatives nationwide, supermarkets such as Shaw's, Whole Foods, and Hannaford, as well as Ten Thousand Villages, restaurants, and thousands of places of worship and schools nationwide. 100% of Equal Exchange products are fairly traded, benefiting more than 40 small farmer co-operatives in 23 countries around the world. In keeping with its commitment to economic democracy, Equal Exchange is a worker co-operative, owned and democratically governed by its 86 worker-owners in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Contact:
Rodney North
774-776-7398
rodney@equalexchange.coop

Equal Exchange
50 United Drive, West Bridgewater, MA 02379