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Equal Exchange Wins Three Awards for its Social & Environmental Practices

Equal Exchange Wins Three Awards for its Social & Environmental Practices

Published 03-25-09

Submitted by Equal Exchange

WEST BRIDGEWATER, MA. - March 25, 2009 - In less than the span of 4 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 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 2nd. The conference was a rare opportunity for leaders from both the enterprise side of the CSR 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-cafe, 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 cafe 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 cafe'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 contribution to global warming, litter, and land-fill waste.

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

And, just yesterday, Equal Exchange was honored with the annual Aaron Feuerstein Spirituality and Business Award that is bestowed by the Symposium on Spirituality, Values, and Business.

The award is granted to a business leader, or organization, 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 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, or firm, who has managed a socially responsible business or has successfully promoted socially responsible business practices

  • A person, or firm, who models socially responsible values and principles and effectively integrates their core values into their business practices

  • A leader, or firm, who actively promotes the importance of all stakeholders to a business
Past winners of this award include Tom's of Maine, and Jeff Swartz, CEO of Timberland.
The award will be presented to Equal Exchange this Friday, March 27th, at the eleventh annual Symposium on Spirituality, Values and Business that will be held at Babson College 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 cooperatives 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. "¨"¨
Equal Exchange logo

Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange, founded in 1986, is the worker-owned and governed co-operative who pioneered the Fair Trade concept in the U.S. coffee industry. They have since successfully expanded their Fair Trade program into the tea, cocoa, chocolate, sugar and healthy snack categories. Equal Exchange products are sold and served in thousands of locations nationwide, including supermarkets, natural food stores, cafés, and places of worship. Overall they now trade with 40 small-farmer co-operatives around the world, including 2 in the United States. With $25 million in annual sales, and 100+ employees, Equal Exchange has grown to be the nation's sixth largest worker co-op. It is their mission to continue to grow the Fair Trade market, and to demonstrate the contributions and viability of democratic worker co-operatives.

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