One of the unique things about Equal Exchange is that the foundation of our work is based on relationships. It’s both how we do our work and why we do our work. The means and the ends, you could say.
Relationships with our farmer partners, for sure. But we also carry out our work in the U.S. through our relationships with a network of food co-ops, congregations, cafes, universities, investors, teachers, community activists, and so-on and so-on. Because we are a mission-based company – a hybrid really of non-profit, profit, and worker-owned co-operative – our partners, allies and other supporters also carry out much of the educational and promotional work we need to do if we are ever to see meaningful change. Our mission is both broad and deep and we couldn’t achieve our goals without this network of engaged, active and enthusiastic supporters.
Last evening, as I was flying back to Boston after Labor Day weekend, I began going through some emails and came across one from Pfeif, an Equal Exchange sales representatives who works with natural food stores in the mid-west. Pfeif was forwarding an article written by Tanja Hoagland, Editor of the Ozark Star, the Ozark Natural Food Cooperative’s monthly newsletter (page 7). The article, about the chocolate industry, the issue of child slavery that still exists on many cacao plantations and the difference that Fair Trade chocolate can make, really inspired me. It was not just that it was interesting, well-researched and well-written, but it made me appreciate yet again, how much of a movement we have created together with our partners… all of them.
I thought others following these issues might want to read Tanja’s article. My apologies, since it was published in May!
But that’s what happens when movements are created. We get our inspiration from our partners – the farmers we work with and the networks of allies in the U.S. who help us carry out the work. The movement grows and we don’t even know the half of what’s being done to inform, educate and grow awareness of these important issues. Hopefully, as all of our mutual efforts continue, we also deepen our learning, ask better questions, have greater impact, and continue to move our work forward.
Thanks Tanja for writing such a great article and spreading the word! And thanks to Pfeif, EE Sales Representative for the work she’s doing out there in the food co-op world.
Here’s to a greener and more just food system, democratic workplaces, and stronger connections between producers and activists!
You can learn more about Fair Trade chocolate on this blog and on our website. To read the Annual Report article, Modern Slavery and Cocoa Farms, that Tanja mentions, click here. For more information about child slavery and the chocolate industry, go to the International Labor Organization’s website. Learn about our reverse trick-or-treating campaign here.