On Christmas Eve 2014, journalists working at the Guardian received the following email from their editor,  Alan Rusbridger.

It read:


This time next year I won’t be the editor of the Guardian: indeed, well before that I’ll have stepped down.

I’m not at all depressed. This is the right time to be moving on. But I do have an urge to do something powerful, focused and important with the Guardian while I’m still here. And it will be about climate change.

Sometimes there’s a story so enormous that conventional journalism struggles to cope with it, never mind do justice. The imminent threat to the species is the most existentially important story any of us could imagine telling – for our sakes, for our children and for their children. But, as journalists, we also know that we sometimes tire of telling, and that people tire of reading.”

Rusbridger’s email sparked a series of discussions among his team, eventually leading them to take on, “The Biggest Story in the World:  The Race to Save the Earth.”  The journalists began focusing on stories that would motivate readers and listeners to understand the desperate need for urgent action.  In March 2015, they initiated a full-fledged campaign, entitled Keep it in the Ground.  Based on the work of Bill McKibbon, who founded the 350.org climate campaign that launched the divestment movement, the Guardian is calling on the world’s biggest medical charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – to divest from fossil fuels; and to encourage others to follow suit … before it is too late.

It now appears that the work of Bill McGibbon, 350.org, the Guardian, and many other activist organizations and individuals is growing exponentially.  On September 22nd, the Guardian ran an article, “Institutions worth $2.6 trillion have now pulled investments out of fossil fuels,” in which they announced that a coalition of 2,000 individuals and 400 institutions have pledged to shift their assets from coal, oil and gas companies to tackle climate change.

“Scientists agree that most existing coal, oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground if global warming is to be kept below the internationally-agreed danger limit of 2C. This means that, if action on climate change is successful, the vast majority of fossil fuels will be unburnable and the companies owning those reserves could crash in value. Many coal companies have already seen their share prices crash as limits on carbon emissions get stricter…”

“…The fossil fuel divestment movement, aimed primarily at stripping legitimacy from fossil fuel companies, has grown faster than even the divestment movement that targeted apartheid South Africa and it is backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”

The list of institutions and individuals who have pledged to Divest-Invest continues to grow and the heat is on, so to speak, to gather as many pledges as possible before the COP21 Climate Talks in Paris this December.  In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio, who just took the Pledge for himself and his foundation, “Climate change is severely impacting the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants, and we must transition to a clean energy economy that does not rely on fossil fuels. Now is the time to divest and invest to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part in Paris.”

Here closer to home in the U.S., we at Equal Exchange have seen first-hand, not just the brutal storms that have devastated parts of the Northeast, the droughts and wildfires that have ravished the West, and all the other evidence of climate change in our own communities, but sadly the impact that unpredictable weather patterns and unusual climatic occurrences are wreaking on our farmer partners across the Global South.  So many of the advances that our farmer partners have been able to achieve through our work and the Fair Trade model, are tragically disappearing.  In fact, the livelihoods – and in some cases, the very existence – of many small farmer co-ops is now threatened.

But, there’s even more exciting news since this Guardian article was published! Equal Exchange has joined a coalition of 18 environmental and social justice organizations working with Divest-Invest to encourage individuals to join this growing movement.  While the work will continue on, we have all agreed to step up our efforts, through October 18th to collect as many pledges as possible. As of this morning, the number has grown to 24,868! 

And so, for the sake of our farmer partners, ourselves, and families, and the health of our planet, we invite you to join us to take the Divest-Invest Pledge. Whether you are a thousandaire, a millionaire, or have no money at all, taking the Pledge NOW sends a strong message!

Read more here about our initiative and ways you can help.  Click here to take the Pledge.


Last August, Equal Exchangers Meghan, Casey, Jim, Ellen, and Lincoln joined the ranks of hundreds of other activists doing their part to stop Shell Oil from drilling in the Arctic.  (If you didn’t have a chance to read their gripping stories of the Shell No! Greenpeace action in Portland, click here to do so!)

So, congratulations to our Equal Exchange West Coast team, and all the other kayaktivists, general activists, and other leaders for winning the fight!  Shell has abandoned plans to drill for extreme oil off the coast of Alaska!!

In the end, of course, it wasn’t actually a boat, a petition, or even a swipe of President Obama’s pen that Shell claimed had changed their plans and stopped them in their tracks:  it was economics, pure and simple.  Costs ran over and investors dried up.

Equal Exchange, Divest-Invest, and a Coalition of 18 other organizations, are now calling on everyone, whether you’re a thousandaire, millionaire, or only have a couple dollars in your pocket — to pledge to be among tens of thousands of others saying no the fossil fuel economy and yes to our clean energy future. When we all act together, we’re unstoppable and another world is possible.
If you’re ready to beat the NEXT extreme energy project — whether it’s Exxon’s plan to drill the Russian Arctic or a local fracking well in your town — it’s time to own what you own, get out of the dig, dump & burn economy, and hit them where it hurts (in their wallets) by pledging to:
  1. Make no new investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies
  2. Sell any existing assets tied to these oil, gas, and coal investments within 3-5 years.
  3. Roll a portion of investments into climate solutions like clean energy, sustainable agriculture, local business, and many more.

Divestment and clean energy investment are sweeping the planet. In the last 2 weeks, Celebrities like Leo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffulo and more have divested. While institutions and leaders have pledged to move their money – over 2.6 Trillion and counting! – out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy economy.

The latest big news was Mayor Bill Deblasio of New York who is beginning to move the pension funds of America’s largest city out of dirty fossil fuels and into clean energy instead.

If you’re ready to join these leaders from the stage and screen to the streets of New York by owning what YOU own, Click here to sign the Divest Invest pledge with great partners like Divest Invest Individual, Equal Exchange, Daily Kos, 350.org and more.

Read more about Equal Exchange’s climate justice initiative, and how you can help, here!

pope francis

During Pope Francis’ much heralded visit to the U.S. last week, he gave top priority to the pressing issues of economic disparity and injustice, and the threat that climate change poses to humanity and to the planet.  In his speeches before Congress and again at the United Nations, Pope Francis urged world leaders to take the threat of global warming seriously and to act quickly to take steps to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to this crisis.   He also talked about the ways in which climate change disproportionately affects the poor and reminded us that those of us in the North need to shoulder the burden of responsibility to address this crisis.

“Very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” he writes in his June 18, 2015 Encyclical “Laudato Si.”  “This problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels.”  He goes on to say, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”  And finally, on page 122, he writes:  “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay…. Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challeng­es facing our world.”  

Politics and business (as usual) have indeed been slow to react.  And this is why it is up to us…. progressive businesses, workers, activists, engaged citizens…  We know from history that change happens from the bottom up and that vested interests (in this case, the fossil fuels industry) never willingly give up power or their economic interests.

Equal Exchange has joined a growing number of organizations that are working to build a citizen movement to stand up to these interests and say No to the fossil fuel economy and yes to a clean energy future.  Just like the apartheid movement and the anti-tobacco movement, thousands of voices (and our dollars) can make a difference.  Click here to read about our Climate Justice Initiative and please click here to add your name to the thousands of people taking the Divest-Invest pledge.

It’s time to take action!

Please sign the pledge today!

spp_v_floInterested in Fair Trade certifications but still confused about the difference between Fair Trade International and the Small Producer Symbol?  Read a brief synopsis from Fair World Project of a new article by Patrick Clark and Ian Hussey which compares the two.

A new article by Patrick Clark and Ian Hussey just published in New Political Economy compares the certification systems of Fairtrade International (FTI) and the Small Producer Symbol (SPP), looking at internal and external oversight, governance structure, and covering the history of fair trade certification through which FTI evolved and SPP emerged. For those wanting a theoretically-grounded, academic overview of these two systems and some key issues in how fair trade certification functions, this is an excellent overview.

A few key points were made that would be of interest to even the average observer.  Read more here.

“It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet.”

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate


As the world’s governments, scientists, farmers, industry representatives, and activists get ready for the next round of UN climate talks in Paris this December, hundreds of declarations, statements, proposals, and treaties are being drafted to address the dangerous situation in which humans have gotten ourselves and our planet. There are many proposals out there but two pathways are clear: First, we must divest from the fossil fuel industry in all its facets (mining, drilling, burning, etc.), and instead invest in renewable energy sources.   And secondly, we must break away from industrial agriculture, and in its place invest in small scale, organic, regenerative farmers. Ultimately, any path toward a climate change solution is going to require that we work together to rebuild and reshape our economy. It is more than time to move away from our current system which encourages and rewards corporate greed and control and work to create a new, solidarity economy, of co-operatives and socially responsible businesses, that places people and the planet above profit.


Equal Exchange is proud to launch our new Climate Justice Initiative, focusing on this two-fold approach: Soil not Oil. Our farmer partners are doing their part. Read what Equal Exchange is doing and how you can join us to help our partners mitigate, adapt, and build resiliency all while taking steps to help combat the greatest challenge we may face in our lifetimes and those of future generations.

By Leif Rawson-Ahern, Tea Supply Chain Developer

On September 8, the BBC posted a heartbreaking account of the living and working conditions at the Doomur Dullung plantation, in Assam, India. BBC journalists uncovered tea plantation workers and their families living and working in shocking conditions. They found workers living in dilapidated homes with no access to toilets and drinking water contaminated by raw sewage. Child labor violations, dangerous working conditions, and rampant malnutrition and disease were all too-commonly reported and verified.

Unfortunately, we know through our work in tea, that this reality has been going on for far too long, is widespread, and well known. Dominated by large multinational companies, the tea industry remains one of the last vestiges of the British colonial era. It’s outrageous that this system of vast exploitative plantations has remained unchanged – and unchallenged – since the 1800s.

That’s why Equal Exchange is working to build an alternative tea model, one that challenges the conventional industry and supports small-scale tea farming co-operatives and their communities. We’re proud to partner with growers in India, South Africa and Sri Lanka to forge a more equitable system that is built on farmer empowerment, ownership, and control. You can read more here about our revolutionary tea partners, like the Potong Tea Garden in Darjeeling, India. Once a colonial plantation, the Potong Tea Garden is now collectively run and majority-owned by its workers. Together, they are paving a stronger, more democratic path forward for their families and community. Groups like Potong show us that a more equitable model in tea can be achieved.

The Equal Exchange small farmer tea line was created to prove that a different tea model is possible. We invite you to join with us to raise awareness about the inequalities and injustice in the tea system and to make a positive choice when you make your next tea purchase.

Read the full story and watch the videos from the BBC here.

What does it mean to create change with your everyday choices? We believe that something as simple as the coffee you drink or the chocolate you eat can have an effect on the planet and our global community, and you have the power to make that effect a positive one.



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