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A co-op for fair trade: The case of a social change organisation owned by its workers

Athanasia Panoutsou
European Foundation for Management Development

This mini-case study reviews the case of “Equal Exchange”, one of the largest worker-owned and mission-centric cooperatives in the U.S. (NCBA Clusa, June 2020). Equal Exchange is active in the food industry, namely coffee trade, as well as chocolate, tea and certain grocery products. The company partners with small-scale farmers from around the world on the base of a Fair-Trade model. Equal Exchange maintains offices in different locations in USA (Massachusetts, Portland, Minnesota and Cleveland) and partners with farmers from North, South & Central America, Africa and Asia. Equal Exchange trades with customers mainly in the USA. The company is active for more than 30 years with their first traded product; Nicaraguan Coffee, arriving at the Port of Boston in May 1986 which essentially signaled the “birth” of the organisation (Equal Exchange, 2021a).

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