An Equal Exchange between North and South

The second case study produced by the Co-operative Party as part of its campaign on Ethical and Fair Trade concerns Equal Exchange. Equal Exchange UK was founded in 1979, and Equal Exchange US in 1986. Both are worker co-ops established to create a new approach to trade, a model that engages consumers and builds honest and fair trade relationships through co-operative principles.


The second case study produced by the Co-operative Party as part of its campaign on Ethical and Fair Trade concerns Equal Exchange. Equal Exchange UK was founded in 1979, and Equal Exchange US in 1986. Both are worker co-ops established to create a new approach to trade, a model that engages consumers and builds honest and fair trade relationships through co-operative principles.

Both companies have pioneered fair trade food, opening new markets and building new relationships with producers. Starting with coffee, they are bringing new fairly traded products to western markets, such as nuts and oils. But clearly the nature and ethos of Equal Exchange is different to other companies now importing Fairtrade. As worker co-ops, they are able to show global solidarity and to aim for an alternative trading system that puts quality, environmental sustainability and a fair deal for all involved ahead of pure profit.

In 2006, the members of the US Equal Exchange agreed a new vision, including to build links with small farmers in the USA too, creating a global network:

A Vision for Equal Exchange (US)
There will be…
A vibrant mutually cooperative community
of two million committed participants
trading fairly one billion dollars a year
in a way that transforms the world.

The full case study is available at the Co-operative Party’s 90th Anniversary site.