- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Partnership Model
- Focus Areas
- Campaigns and Actions
- Public Policy
- UU College of Social Justice
- What You Can Do
- Ways to Give
- Get Involved
- Enlist Your Congregation
- Read Our Blog
- Shop in Our Store
- Media Center
- Volunteer Network Resources
- Campaign Resources
- Multimedia Resources
- Congregational Resources
The Buzz about UUSC's Coffee Project at General Assembly
UUSC Coffee Project volunteers tour the Equal Exchange coffee-roasting facilities.
At a recent meeting with donors during General Assembly, Esther West, the UU Interfaith Program representative from Equal Exchange, gave a presentation along with Ariel Jacobson, senior associate for UUSC's Economic Justice Program, about the UUSC Coffee Project. They noted that UUs, through their purchases of coffee, chocolate, and other fair-trade products, are the highest contributors to fair trade of any member of the Equal Exchange Interfaith Program.
Following program updates, West and Jacobson presented awards to two stars of the Coffee Project: the First UU Congregation of Ann Arbor, Mich. (award received by Joan Burleigh) and the First Unitarian Society of Westchester, N.Y. (award received by John Cavallero). The Ann Arbor congregation has purchased more than $57,000 in fairly traded products since 2000, the highest sales of any congregation. The Westchester congregation has purchased over $37,000 in fairly traded products since 2002 — and it's only a small congregation!
This great event moved me to recall a recent tour of the Equal Exchange facility, where a group of UUSC Coffee Project volunteers learned about why buying Equal Exchange differs from buying other products billed as fair trade. We enjoyed a facility tour, coffee and chocolate tastings, and presentations by several of the worker-owners. I learned some key points regarding fair trade and why it is so important to choose Equal Exchange over other products.
Agencies that certify fair trade use widely varying criteria. The variations can be boiled down to two issues: whether an organization is 100 percent fair trade (versus only partial or single products qualifying for the label) and the issue of values and volume. Some purveyors are more controlled by the market and have varying levels of authentic fair-trade practices. They may help with short-term poverty alleviation for farmers but ultimately drive competition and consumer price increases (that do not always benefit farmers), and they continue a tradition of isolation through competition.
Equal Exchange uses the model that most closely aligns with its organizational values. They focus on farmer-controlled sustainable practices, preserve self-determination by worker cooperative members, and facilitate solidarity through collaboration for real long-term benefits for farmers. In addition, $0.20 is donated to the UUSC Small Farmer Fund for every pound of coffee sold, giving greater value and impact to consumer choice for the greater good.
Equal Exchange is organized with a business model that further helps it "walk its talk." As a worker-owned cooperative, each worker has the opportunity to buy shares and cast one vote. This is the same format used when collaborating with farmer partners. Workers all have a personal and financial stake in the success of the partnership. For example, when Equal Exchange moved to its facility in West Bridgewater, the enlarged space allowed it to launch its own in-house coffee roasting. They are now doing 75 percent of their coffee roasting in house, about 5 million pounds of coffee per year! This was the result of worker-owner meetings and a vote to engage in this new aspect of its business. Bringing the process in house gives them greater control of coffee quality and consistency.
Equal Exchange is an excellent choice for aligning our daily choices with our values. They are focused on consumer action and ethical sourcing, worker justice, and environmental stewardship. Go online to learn more about Equal Exchange and their mission and vision — and continue to stay informed about the UUSC Coffee Project and the Small Farmer Fund.