Every year since 1986 up and coming companies from across the six New England states compete for the SBANE* Innovation Awards, and every year the competition gets stifffer. In 2006 there was a 50% increase in applicants, to a record number of 172 firms seeking recognition for every imaginable kind of innovation within the realm of business.
While one expects high-tech companies to compete - and a great many do - the SBANE judges also consider innovations in manufacturing, operations and logistics, sales and marketing strategies, financing, and any new idea that helps a business succeed and meet the needs of its customers.
Both Equal Exchange and the SBANE awards turned 20 in 2006, so it is fitting that we should be named one this year's six winners. This was only the second time we entered the competition. Equal Exchange was recognized for our unprecedented combination of innovations including: our pioneering Fair Trade practices; democratic worker cooperative structure; unorthodox capital model; and our unique partnerships with eight faith-based organizations.
Past winners include Staples, Ben & Jerry's, Genzyme, and ZipCar.