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Updated: 4 years 14 weeks ago

Cooperatives May Increase Worker Life Expectancy

Mon, 27/01/2014 - 16:45

The Handmade Bakery, a cooperative business in the UK. Source: UK Coops

Dave Boyle, a UK-based cooperatives expert, wrote in Economia last March on “the strange re-birth of co-operatives in Britain.” 

From the UK to Japan, Malta and Bhutan

Mon, 27/01/2014 - 12:40

Another 39 co-operative organisations have successfully applied to use the new Co-operative Marque.  Almost a third didn’t have .coop domain name and have requested one.  This is fantastic news as we continue to highlight the co-operative advantage on and off-line and work with the world’s global co-operative community in helping them promote their co-operative identity. Here’s the latest group of successful applicants:

A2Z Probate Research Ltd UK
Alberta Community and Co-operative Association Canada
Allgemeine Baugenossenschaft Zürich ABZ Switzerland
Asociación Andaluza de Centros de Enseñanza de Economía Social Spain
Association of British Credit Unions Ltd UK
Bank Transfer Day US
Central Tea Cooperative Federation (CTCF ) Ltd. Nepal Nepal
Common Thread Cooperative Canada
Confecoop Antioquia Colombia
Confecoop Guatemala Guatemala
Confederacion de Cooperativas de Colombia Colombia
Conficoop: Cooperativa Multiactiva La Confianza Colombia
Cooperativa de Ahorro y Credito “Crl. Francisco Bolognesi Ltda.” Peru
Cooperativa de Electricidad y Aguas Corrientes de Gral. Levalle Limitada Argentina
Co-operative Assistance Network Limited UK
Co-operative Bulk Handling Limited (CBH Group) Australia
Cooperative de Aporte Y Credito - COOCRESER Colombia
Coopetivives R.L. Costa Rica
Copacentro Colombia
Credicoop Peru
Cyprus Turkish Co-operative Central Bank Ltd Cyprus
Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives Bhutan
Development Cooperative eTRI Slovenia
Ethecol-The Card Payments Coop UK
Green Campus Co-operative Canada
Greenbelt Co-op Supermarket & Pharmacy US
Instituto Movilizador de Fondos Cooperativos Coop. Ltda. (IMFC) Argentina
National Co-operative Development Board Nepal
National Supervision Union of Spolem Consumer Co-operatives Poland
NNPC Cooperative Multipurpose Society Limited Lagos Lagos
Northcote Rental Housing Co-operative Australia
Scottish League of Credit Unions UK
The Calgary News Co-op Canada
Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation US
U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council, Inc. US
Union de Mujeres Trabajando en Cooperativas A.C. Mexico
Vista Coop Malta
Young Cooperators United States
ZENROSAI (National Federation of Workers and Consumers Insurance Cooperatives) Japan

Member news: Engage Mutual makes GBP 1 million available to its members

Mon, 27/01/2014 - 11:33

UK-based ICMIF member Engage Mutual last week launched its new Engage Foundation (launched, 23 January, 2014) as a demonstration of its commitment to mutuality.

The Yorkshire-based mutual is setting aside at least GBP 1 million over five years for the exclusive benefit of its members and their communities.

The Foundation is part of a wider commitment to ensuring that Engage’s member-owners share in its success as an organization and realize the advantages of belonging to a mutual in a very real and personal way.   Providing superior customer benefits is how the mutual will differentiate its offer and attract new customers to the organization, which currently has around 500,000 members.

Solely available for members, the Foundation has been developed based on their feedback.  Members will play an integral role in its running and they will choose how best to spend the GBP 1m for the benefit of themselves and their communities. All of the mutual’s 500,000 members are eligible to apply to benefit from the Foundation by visiting the Engage Foundation website and completing an application process. The ideas will appear on the Engage Mutual website and be put to a vote.

The Foundation will provide £25,000 each for two community projects and £5,000 each for 15 smaller projects each year, directly benefiting the communities in which members live.

It will also provide a helping hand to its customers with personal grants of up to £500 to help themselves or a family member.  Such a grant might, in cases of hardship, be used to replace a much needed broken washing machine, fix a leaky roof, assist with school uniform costs, or to get someone back on track by helping them learn a new skill, or gain a qualification.

The Foundation is made possible by the financial strength of the mutual.  Money, which is surplus to that required to fulfil its long-term policy obligations to members, is being made available for their use and benefit.

Peter Burrows, Chief Executive at Engage Mutual, said:

“The Engage Foundation is what being part of a mutual should be about – the benefits of belonging.  We know that our products and services add to our customers’ financial security,  but we are going a step further and sharing our success as a mutual with our customers.  The  £1m is for our customers of today, and of tomorrow, and is exclusively for their benefit.”

Engage Mutual has long been committed to making a positive impact on the lives of its customers, but the Engage Foundation is completely new in terms of scale and commitment, providing £1m over five years as a minimum. The Foundation builds on the mutual’s previous funding initiatives that have been incredibly successful in benefiting both members and their communities in general.

Over the last two years, the mutual’s Engage with your community awards helped nine community projects across the UK, and touched thousands of lives.  From financial support for a customer to establish an outdoor classroom space, or helping another create a community garden in a deprived city area; to funding an outing for 57 autistic children and their carers to see a performance of the stage show, The Lion King, customers have benefited from belonging.

Engage Mutual has put its members at the very heart of the Foundation, consulting throughout its development and their feedback has influenced and shaped it. The members of the mutual will continue to be involved in its running and long-term management, ultimately deciding how funds will be spent, while shaping its evolution.

The picture, above/above right, shows Kate McIntyre, Operations director at Engage Mutual and member Heather Booth at one of the launch events for the Foundation.

Shareable's Top 15 How-Tos of All Time

Tue, 21/01/2014 - 16:00

Some of Shareable’s top posts of all time are how to stories. This aligns nicely with the feedback we regularly receive that our community wants more in-person projects, gatherings, and events to deepen sharing in their lives and community. While connecting online is nice, the transformative work happens when people create something new in their community.

Watthan Artisans Cooperative

Tue, 21/01/2014 - 06:13

The members of the Watthan Artisans Cooperative like to say they focus on their abilities, not their disabilities. The treacherous period under the control of the Communist Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot in the late 1970s left the country's economy teetering. Pol Pot's infamous ‘killing fields' were mass graves. The number of Cambodians who died there together with those who succumbed to starvation and disease is estimated at between 1.7 million and 2.5 million. Considering its then population (...)


A co-operative perspective on growth

Mon, 20/01/2014 - 12:49

A co-operative perspective on growth:


One of the keystone documents for the co-operative sector last year is ‘Cooperative Growth in the 21st Century’, which the International Co-operative Alliance commissioned from CICOPA, our sectoral organisation for industrial and service co-operatives. It was presented at the Global Conference in…

IASB Consultation

Mon, 20/01/2014 - 12:42

Comment letter on IASB's Discussion Paper DP/2013/1 “A Review of the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting":

Our work

Promoting cooperatives and the Social Economy in Greece

Mon, 20/01/2014 - 10:36

The report "Promoting cooperatives and the Social Economy in Greece - How to promote the social economy in Greece through social cooperatives, worker cooperatives, and cooperatives of artisans and of SMEs" was undertaken by CICOPA at International Labour Irganisation (ILO) request.


A co-operative perspective on growth

Sun, 19/01/2014 - 16:23

One of the keystone documents for the co-operative sector last year is ‘Cooperative Growth in the 21st Century’, which the International Co-operative Alliance commissioned from CICOPA, our sectoral organisation for industrial and service co-operatives. It was presented at the Global Conference in Cape Town, South Africa last November and is available online in English, French and Spanish at

Seven co-operative thinkers from around the world contributed to this thought leadership piece, probing how co-operatives should think about growth, a highly-contested notion of late among economists and environmentalists. ‘Cooperative Growth’ approaches this timely topic from differing perspectives, and raises helpful observations about scale, market share of competing business models, sustainability and community values.

This document was intentionally commissioned as the foundational implementation piece in the sustainability strand of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, along with a scan of co-operative sustainability, which is available at the same link. In 2014, the Alliance will use the findings from the scan and the reflections in the thought leadership piece to shape a course for sustainability strategies to 2020.

Concurrently, the Alliance is seeking feedback on draft Guidance Notes that were drafted last year as the first three in a series of Notes intended to interpret and ensure the contemporary relevance of the Co-operative Principles. One of these in particular is pertinent to this blog, as it addresses Principle 7, Concern for Community, where sustainability is most clearly covered. I encourage you to review these Notes and provide your feedback, at

Together, these documents signal the intentional, multi-year approach the Alliance is taking to address intractable issues of relevance to co-operatives around the world. We’ve been delighted at the responsiveness of the global co-operative community to this work and welcome your engagement!

Bank crisis is an opportunity to strengthen the movement

Fri, 17/01/2014 - 14:44

Changes with the Co-operative Bank could prove to be an incentive for the movement, according to co-operators at an open conference in Manchester to discuss the implications of the challenges faced by the Bank.

As part of the Ways Forward for the Co-operative Movement event speakers analysed existing financial co-operatives, looking at a new strategy for banking and insurance within the movement.

The conference, organised by the Co-operative Business Consultants, agreed on the need to redefine what democracy means and what mechanisms were needed to empower members. Referring to the Co-operative Bank’s crisis, Vivian Woodell, chief executive of the Phone Co-op, said members should take this opportunity to strengthen the Group, rather than feel defeated.

“There are lessons to learn from the wider co-op movement. The problem is not that we have too much democracy, but that the democratic structure wasn’t working,” he said.

He argued that the Group should consider turning its regions into independent societies, adding that evidence proved regional independent societies were more successful.

“Members should have higher expectations of how the business is managed. We all share responsibility and we need to accept this,” he said, encouraging members to speak up about the problems within the Bank and the Group. “You become complicit if you keep your head down”, he said.

Peter Couchman, chief executive of Plunkett Foundation, which supports the growth of village co-operatives, also participated in the event. He said there was a danger of focusing on what went wrong rather than on what were the lessons to take from that. Citing the organisation's founder, Horace Plunkett, he warned about the menace of big co-ops becoming soulless corporations.

He said that individual wrong doings were not the only problem within the movement, but rather the culture that enabled that. He called for a federation of aggressive co-operators, arguing that “co-operators are far too nice to each other.”

Members need to challenge each other more to increase accountability, thinks Mr Couchman. “The fundamental aspect of democracy is that it exists to meet the needs of the members and we have lost the mechanisms to do that,” he said.

Contesting the decision to take over Britania in 2010, John Mann, Labour MP and member of the treasury select committee that is currently investigating the Co-operative Bank, said members should have had a greater say in the process.

“Whatever model is enhanced if it does not enable members to have a say when important decisions are taken than that democracy is worthless, the concept is worthless.”

Mr Mann also expressed concerns over that fact that hedge funds might not be interested in co-operative values. He said: “The Co-op Bank went wrong because it bought the Britannia, who had a wrong business model.”

He believes the solution to the crisis is developing a “forward looking, simple business model” while “tearing up the democracy at the top and reform it in a way that is actually rational”.

Frances Coppola, former banker turned financial writer also questioned the acquisition of Britania, saying the Co-op Bank’s ambition to get bigger and challenge the big banks was what brought it in this situation.

“In a co-op model, the moment you start diluting your capital you are on the path of losing control of your organisation, you need to think very carefully whether the co-op should be growing. You want to be keeping your co-operative small enough so that members exercise control, but not too small because very small co-operatives are risky,” she said.

Where next? Trends in corporate social responsibility

Fri, 17/01/2014 - 11:15

Corporate social responsibility practices and standards have shifted and developed over the decades. External pressures, notably pressure from consumers and campaigners, or changes in the economy, are often the main drivers, though pioneering businesses can create new standards too.

Increasing public focus on the environmental impacts of oil companies in the 1980s and 90s pressured some into developing CSR programmes and public reporting, and the Co-operative Bank’s pioneering ethical policy in 1992 set a new standard for the UK finance industry.

But what is in store for the next few years? We asked our CSR experts what trends they can see emerging.

Jon Lloyd says that some businesses are realising the power of supporting small enterprise in creating jobs for local communities: “I’m starting to see more working with businesses either in the supply chain or in local communities. It’s not seen as traditional philanthropy, but the aim of this support is to deliver public benefit. A good example is the Co‑operative Group’s Enterprise Hub.”

He also thinks we will see more businesses thinking creatively about how to deliver public benefit through core business activities. He advises business to think about how they can “actually deliver benefit, not through donations, but through delivering products and services that have a direct social impact, either through engaging organisations which wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do business, or directly through products or services. This becomes a challenge – is it business as usual, or is it community?”

Jon’s reading of the future is borne out by a number of examples of co-operative initiatives.

Lincolnshire Co-operative offers locally sourced produced through its ‘Love Local’ range, and says that it makes an effort to use local suppliers and contractors wherever possible. This policy seems to have brought benefits to the co-operative: in 2012 the volume of own prepared local meat increased by 16.3% as customers were reassured by the local sourcing scheme and sales of the Love Local range also moved forward by 12.4%.

Lincolnshire has taken its commitment to the local economy a step further by analysing its economic contribution to the area in which it trades. It discovered that in one financial year it used 480 different local businesses and spent £30m with them. The co-operative stated: “We believe spending money with such firms is a sound investment in the communities we trade in.”

Other co-operatives run local sourcing schemes too. In November 2013, East of England Co-operative won the Dairy Crest Rural Action Award from BITC for its local sourcing work. The co-op now has 129 local suppliers and is increasing the number of local products it stocks from 50 to 2,000. Anglia Co-operative has instead focused on supporting the social enterprise economy in its local region, through housing the regional support body Social Enterprise East of England and supporting social enterprise bursaries.

Andy Melia takes a different view of how this local trend will manifest. “The local element is probably one of the biggest trends. How do you ensure that you are working in a strategic way but applying what you do to local circumstances?

“A key part of this is looking at how – especially as a retail organisation with stores in lots of different communities – you empower local stores to work with local communities.”

He says you can do this by providing leadership and structure across the organisation and cites Sainsbury’s and M&S as examples: “They have a really good framework – part of the performance requirements of local store managers is how they are working with local communities. In M&S they have Plan A Champions in store and part of their role is work with the store manager to engage employees and local community.”

Other trends to watch out for

For Philip Monaghan from Infrangilis, it will be about moving away from traditional charitable model of donations. "There is a trend toward loans as opposed to grant or gifts to motivate change. But a better trend would be grant or gifts that require self-sustaining outcomes as opposed to philanthropic patronage."

David Pritchett believes we will see much more alignment between trading purpose and the focus of community investment. He says that financial services, partly as a response to the banking crises, have already gone down this route. "Big banks in the last three to five years have very much focused on a set of topics with regard to community investment whereas before may have done many different things on different levels. They now talk about small business growth and employment, maybe with a link to a diversity agenda, education, financial literacy or inclusion. Before they used to do lots about the arts, health or environment, but these are losing a bit of traction."

Professor Stephanie Barrientos, speaking specifically about cocoa farmers in Africa, is seeing more general support of smallholders. "A million tonne cocoa shortage is forecast by 2020. You can’t just leave that as it is, you’ve really got to invest. Co-operatives like Kuapa Kokoo  in Ghana are playing a critical role. Organising smallholders is key, and there’s growing recognition of that."

Lorraine Bell, director of corporate social responsibility consultancy Simply CSR, sees a growing trend in practical support, rather than financial support. "I see more pro-bono and in-kind work than donations these days – team building challenges are popular to support a project rather than donation of cash to pay for services to carry out the same job and have a business benefit in terms of staff motivation and skills."

Find out more in the Community Impact Index:

Small co-operative community champions: Essential Trading

Fri, 17/01/2014 - 11:14

Essential Trading is a worker-owned food co-operative, based in the south west of England. Set up to provide organic, Fairtrade food at reasonable prices, it is committed to supporting independent local businesses, as well as promoting co-operative and community principles.

One of the ways it does this is by encouraging and supporting the set up and running of buying groups around the country. It actively seeks trading relationships with other co-operatives, sourcing own-brand products from co-ops around the world and trading with co-operatives within the UK.

It also uses smaller service co-operatives, and has recently taken out a loan with Co-operative and Community Finance. Essential supports other communities and co-operatives such as Zaytoun by offering them warehousing. “We’ll pick up ethical products which support communities and give them a route to market that they need,” says Eli Sarre, marketing manager at Essential Trading.

Within its local area, Essential accepts a local currency, known as the Bristol pound. Ms Sarre says: “We’re quite a heavyweight company in Bristol and also sell to smaller retail shops or cafés, so by accepting Bristol pounds, it means everyone we sell to in Bristol can pay us in Bristol pounds as well.

“That keeps the money in the local community, rather than going off to tax havens and that sort of thing. It stays within the community.” The Bristol pound accounts for around 5% of the company’s local turnover.

Find out more in the Community Impact Index:

Community impact index: The view from the experts

Fri, 17/01/2014 - 11:07

This section of the impact index is based on interviews with experts in the community investment and CSR field. With examples of good practice and thoughts on main trends for the future, it will be useful for organisations and individuals with established practice in community investment. The latter section includes tips on getting started and warnings about some common mistakes to avoid.

To complement the case studies of good practice in smaller co-operatives which can be found through this index, we asked CSR and community investment experts to highlight examples – either of ways of working, or specific business examples – from both the largest UK co-operatives and retailers.

Andy Melia, community investment manager at Business in the Community (BITC), put forward Midcounties Co-operative as an example of a business connected to local needs: “They do some amazing work locally – that is a key aspect of their approach. They do a combination of projects which work across the organisation, but at the same time are good at understanding local needs.”

He highlighted the charity partnership between Boots and Macmillan Cancer Care as another example. He says that rather than using the conventional one or two year charity partnership model, Boots has worked at a high level, and over a sustained period of time, to maximise benefits for both sides.

“An increasing number of people will be affected by cancer over the next 10 plus years, and Boots has been working with them to maximise who Macmillan can reach. There are a number of levels to their partnership – fundraising, awareness, dedicated support and training for staff.

“It’s quite a long term partnership too – it’s been going on for about four years now.” The depth and variety of the partnership is a result of high level commitment on both sides: “It was something that was developed for 18 months with both boards sitting down to explore what they could do. They spent time working out how they could make a difference.”

David Pritchett, head of Europe at AccountAbility, felt that good practice was in the improvements made in measuring impact: “Companies are measuring these things more professionally now, for instance through London Benchmarking Group. Something which, five or six years ago, they wouldn’t dare to do it as they wouldn’t feel confident in the veracity of the data. 

“It’s quite daring as it’s quite emotional, sensitive data they are putting out so they have to be sure that this information is accurate.” He also gave some advice for the wider co-operative sector: “Co-operatives might look to copy this kind of model in a similar sector and see if they can replicate – it’s easier if someone else has already done the ground work.”

Jon Lloyd, Assistant Director and Head of London Benchmarking Group at Corporate Citizenship, highlighted the greater focus that some organisations are developing: “The main change has been about developing a focus and goals – educating however many thousand people, or improving health or education – and making sure that people have a framework in which they can operate.

“Increasingly companies are getting better at reporting on one thing: what is the one thing you’d like to be famous for?”

Find out more in the Community Impact Index:

Being a responsible community member makes business sense

Fri, 17/01/2014 - 11:07

For co-ops that wish to invest in their community, there is plenty of best practice advice. And as Andy Melia, community investment manager at Business in the Community (BITC) explains, being a responsible community member is not just the right thing to do, it also makes business sense.

BITC was formed following the Brixton riots in 1982, amid growing realisation that social issues were directly affecting the high street. “Social issues impact on how you function as a business,” says Mr Melia. “By ignoring what’s going on in the community you’re missing out on the chance to engage your customers.”

The key, he says, is to approach community investment the same way as your core business. Define the desired long-term sustainable change, monitor and measure progress and constantly developing and improve.

“Core to this is knowing where you can make the biggest difference,” he explains. “Lots of issues affect different communities in different ways. The key is to find out which are most pressing.

“To do that, you need to get out and talk to people. Then prioritise the issues by thinking about business risks and which of those are affected by social issues. That’s how you develop a win-win approach.”

Measuring and reporting progress needs attention not just among co-operatives, but across the board. “Co-operatives are not alone in being very good at doing stuff and not being very good at talking about it,” Mr Melia says. “It’s about a business being able to explain the difference it’s making, which is different to saying what activities you’ve done.

“As with the initial research into your area of focus, it will involve a combination of numbers and words. There will be some analysis of statistics, but it also requires an understanding of the issues and offering case studies – presenting the human face of the change that you are making.”

BITC manages the CommunityMark, the UK’s national standard of leadership and excellence in community investment, which looks at all aspects of a business, and which has been adopted by over 40 businesses including Nationwide Building Society and Midcounties Co-operative.

Other co-ops are demonstrating their community activity with a more focused approach, including East of England Co-operative, which last year won the Dairy Crest Rural Action Award for its Sourced Locally initiative.

Mr Melia says: “The local element is probably one of the biggest trends in community investment. A key part of this is looking at how, especially as retail organisation with stores in lots of different communities, you empower local stores to work with local communities. Empower them by providing leadership and structure across the organisation.”

Another approach to connecting to localities is the BITC Business Connect programme, which sends senior people into local areas for between six months and two years, to learn to understand their needs.

There are already best practice examples of co-ops supporting communities. “Midcounties do some amazing work locally,” Mr Melia says. “They do a combination of projects which work across the organisation, and they understand local needs.”

A community investment project in Oxfordshire, for example, began with Midcounties learning about high rates of poor dental health among the area’s young people. The co-op worked with Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust to enable more youngsters to access dental services, while providing clear information on Midcounties’ dental products and the importance of healthy food.

“A key part was volunteering,” Mr Melia says. “Staff turnover dropped significantly for those who volunteered.”

“It’s about understanding whether you’re making the difference you want to make,” he adds. “Build it into systems you already have. Can you build it in to the staff survey? Are you checking whether staff are feeling more engaged at end of volunteering opportunity? Build it into appraisal systems. Make it part of your everyday business, rather than just that fluffy thing you do.”

Find out more in the Community Impact Index:

Small co-operative community champions: Unicorn grocery

Fri, 17/01/2014 - 10:48

Unicorn is a wholefood grocery and worker co-operative in Manchester with a strong focus on organic, regional and fairly traded produce.

The co-operative buys preferentially from other co-operatives where it can and has a lot of co-operative suppliers, from the big wholesalers like Suma and Essential to small enterprises like the Handmade Bakery, Moss Brook Growers and Glebelands City Growers.

Unicorn also offers advice and support to start-up co-ops. In 2011 it published the ‘Grow a Grocery’ guide, which sets out its business model and is freely available for anyone to use. Those who want more detailed information can visit Unicorn and work with the co-operative in person.

Unicorn’s members also share their knowledge and experiences with existing co-operatives. They participate in the national co-operative movement, with members sitting on the boards of the Co-operatives UK Worker Co-op Council, regional body Co-operatives North West and specialist finance provider Co-operative and Community Finance.

In addition, last year the co-operative gave away about 13% of its pre-tax profits to local and international projects. It allocates funds as a percentage of its wage bill rather than its profits. Debbie Clarke of Unicorn says: “It seems a clearer and more transparent way of measuring what we give. It also better reflects our growth as a business and means if and when the staff get better off, so do the projects we support.”

Find out more in the Community Impact Index:

Shareable's 2013 Year in Review

Tue, 14/01/2014 - 00:00

By Cat Johnson, Neal Gorenflo & Mira Luna

In 2013, Shareable switched gears. While we're best known for our online magazine, we have a long history of convening the sharing community. And in 2013, we ramped up our on the ground, community organizing work significantly.

To kickstart that work, we gave seed grants to 13 grassroots sharing projects in early 2013. The goal for our seed grant program was to help start, support or amplify the work that sharing projects are doing to make positive change in their communities. And also learn from the experience.

News from Banana Land

Mon, 13/01/2014 - 19:43

Happy New Year!

We hope that the start to 2014 brings with it new energy and positive growth, both personally and professionally, to everyone in our Bananacado network.

This first 2014 edition of the newsletter is filled to the brim with tools to jump start the authentic fairtrade conversation: perfect timing for those with resolutions to eat better and make the world a better place. Marvel at the 2013 Impact Infographic, or watch a new animated short about banana history, or plan to attend the Banana Conference in Boston in March. But pass on what you learn to colleagues, friends, and customers. We’re putting our best foot forward this year- not just leaning on past success, but gearing up for what lies ahead. We’re counting on you to help raise the debate over our food system in 2014.

But first, an update on fairtrade certified pricing in 2014…

New Fairtrade Minimum Pricing Established for 2014

If you are unfamiliar with how fairtrade certification works, the most basic rule is that in order to be considered certified, grower and buyer must agree to purchase product at or above the minimum price established by the certification agency being used. For example, our own Equal Exchange Bananas are certified fairtrade by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO), which is an international body tasked with determining what the minimum, or “fair,” price should be. This is why the FLO seal appears on each bunch of Equal Exchange bananas sold.

As of January 1st, the average minimum price across all the producing countries for bananas increased $0.60 per 40 lb. box (under FLO). This is hugely positive for farmers within the system: not only will they get more for their labor, they will be at less of a disadvantage when negotiating contracts with buyers looking to suppress price increases – something that fairtrade was designed to combat.

History Repeating…

Bananas: A new documentary called, “Banana Land: Blood, Bullets and Poison,” by filmmaker Jason Glaser, tells the sordid story of plantation grown bananas. It is a story many already know and very well may be the reason why you purchase Equal Exchange bananas. If you’d like to brush up on your banana history, take a look at this animated excerpt from Jason’s film:

Avocados: It’s not hard to draw the parallels between the banana story and the Mexican-grown avocado industry in the United States. Small farmers are systematically disenfranchised by governments and markets, and the result of clashes is often violent. Less has been written about the atrocities occurring in the avocado business, but as the US market grows, more is coming to light. Here is some coverage we’ve seen come out.

Tip: Read the following articles in order as they appear here

2013 Impact

For comparison, 2012 stats were:
11,000,000 Equal Exchange Bananas sold
$1,600,000 paid directly to small farmers
$143,000 paid to farmers as a social premium

We love that growth!!!

The 2013 Infographic will be available for download here soon.
If you need it in the meantime, email


You are cordially invited to Equal Exchange’s
Banana Conference:
The Future of
Authentic Fairtrade

March 21st, 22nd, and 23rd 2014
Boston, Massachusetts

Join an Ecuadorian banana farmer; produce managers and distributors; students and academics; journalists, activists, and allies to discuss the future of this powerful movement.

Special Guest Panelists Include:

Fabiola Ramon,
President, El Guabo Cooperative, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Dan Koeppel,
author of “Bananas: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World”

Lianne Zoeteweij,
General Manager, El Guabo Cooperative, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Alistair Smith,
Founder of BananaLink, a non-profit working for fair and sustainable banana trade in the UK

Hans-Willem van der Waal,
CEO of Agrofair (original investor in Equal Exchange Bananas), European importer, Netherlands, EU

Other special guest panelists to be announced!

Register by February 1st and admission is only $25.00 per person for all three events.
Learn more and RSVP to each event at

Please be in touch with any more requests for banana suits, demo ideas and marketing needs. You can email or call 774-776-7361 with any questions.

You can find more resources on our website:

We Are Winning, Join Us

Mon, 13/01/2014 - 19:23

Top image: Fairphone prototype. The below is excerpted from the new book, Enabling City 2.

One of the most important questions of my life three years ago was, “How can we start a movement for sharing?”

Member news: Union Life, CARD MBA and CARD MRI sign partnership

Fri, 10/01/2014 - 12:35

ICMIF member Union Life Insurance is the only insurance cooperative in Thailand. It was established by cooperatives in October, 1994 and was registered in March, 1995. The organization is committed to providing the best services for its members at a competitive cost through self-help, mutual help and to secure the interest, benefits, and income of both cooperatives and members throughout the region.

On September 18-20, 2013, Union Life Insurance officers attended the two day ICMIF – Asia and Oceania Association (AOA) Networking seminar “Improving Access to Insurance”, which was held in the Philippines and hosted by ICMIF, RIMANSI and CARD MRI, the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions.

The seminar gave an immense impact and inspiration to the delegates from Union Life Insurance to move forward, strengthen and expand the company’s business relationship by collaborating with CARD MRI Insurance Agency, an insurance agency engaged in selling both life and non-life insurance and ICMIF member CARD MBA, the leading microinsurance provider in the Philippines, for the development and enhancement of our products and services as well as to work together to share experiences and knowledge and therefore improve each of the organizations’ operations.

It was on 23 October, 2013, when both parties agreed and entered into a Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in order to move towards the successful completion of the plan. The signing of the MOU took place at the Union Life Insurance head office in Bangkok, Thailand.

Mr Sahaphon Sangmek, Managing Director of Union Life Insurance and CARD MRI Managing Director Dr Jaime Aristotle Alip signed the Memorandum of Understanding together with Ms Virginia D. Baldo, President of CARD MBA; Mrs May Dawat, Chairman of the Board (CaMIA); and Mr Picha Siriyodhin, Deputy Managing Director of Union Life Insurance. The said signing of ceremony was attended and witnessed by ACCU.

Possible areas of collaboration have been discussed and study thoroughly. The areas to explore are collaboration on technical assistance; development and distribution of products and services; and investments and ownership agreement.

Lastly, on 16 December, 2013, when all parties have come to an understanding, the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was formally signed which was held at San Pablo, Laguna in the Philippines, where the CARD MBA and CaMIA’s head office is located.

The purpose of this memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is to specifically identify the areas of collaboration on terms of services to be provided and to clearly understand the roles and responsibilities of each party as they relate to providing the consolidated Description of Services that serves both parties.

Union Life Insurance says: This great collaboration is a direct outcome of the ICMIF AOA Networking Seminar in September 2013. We do thank you for the opportunity and the great impact that this successful partnership will bring us for a brighter future.

The Mondragon Corporation has already relocated 417 worker-members from Fagor Electrodomésticos

Thu, 09/01/2014 - 16:09

A total of 417 members of Fagor Electrodomésticos are already working in other cooperatives of the Mondragon Corporation. The strong commitment of the Corporation to employment is materialized thus, just two months after the declaration from Fagor, filing for protection from creditors, 417 worker-members have already been achieved relocated.