Equal Exchange sources from small farmer organizations because we believe they are the heart and soul of the Fair Trade movement.
Through partnership with co-ops, small-scale farmers gain crucial market access they wouldn’t have otherwise. The co-ops are democratically run by the farmers, so that together they decide how to invest in their communities. When they work together as a co-op, they become owners of a business. They have economic and political control over their lives. They have access to quality trainings and processing equipment. And, they can positively influence their communities by investing in school supplies, women’s programs, clean drinking wells, or other social development projects.
Equal Exchange has been engaged in this effort to change trade through supporting small-scale farmers since our founding in 1986. Fulfilling our mission means that as we grow and source ingredients from over 20 countries around the world, we seek out fairly traded ingredients from small-scale farmers who are members of co-operatives. That commitment is evident in our chocolates and cocoas, where not only the cacao is Fair Trade, but also our sugar and in some products, the vanilla. Our goal is always 100% Fair Trade ingredients in our products, but when that isn’t possible due to the complexities of multi-ingredient products, we still maintain 70% or more Fair Trade content by weight for these products. In our cocoas and small candy bars, we are proud to source the milk powder from Organic Valley, a farmer co-op based here in the U.S.
This is not the case for the majority of the chocolate market. The industry is increasingly consolidated, slow to move toward sustainable and socially responsible cacao, willing to sell products with as few certified ingredients in a recipe as possible, and plagued by the problem of unjust child labor. We are proud to support a small-scale farmer and co-op alternative. It’s been part of our core identity from the beginning, and continues to guide us moving forward.