World Fair Trade Day 2010

Following the success of Fairtrade Fortnight and the ‘Big Swap’ another opportunity to celebrate all that is fair trade is just around the corner.

World Fair Trade Day (WFTD) which takes place on Saturday 8th May is organised by the World Fair Trade Organisation and is celebrated by fair trade conscious citizens, organisations, communities and producers around the world.

Does that sound like you, even if it doesn’t why not try something different?

Shared Interest will be taking part in the London Fairtrade Festival on the Southbank over the weekend, why not pop along to this family friendly festival and find out more about us as well as a host of other Fairtrade organisations.

Elsewhere across the country various events are taking place, the WFTD website has a comprehensive list, I have picked a few that may be of interest:

Greenock Fairtrade Kick Off will celebrate fair trade and raise awareness of fair trade within the local community.  Fairtrade Sweets from Buchanan’s will also be featured.

Carlisle Fairtrade Fashion Show at Carlisle Cathedral hosted by actor James Redmond and featuring Fairtrade Fashion available in Carlisle.  Find some new ethical threads for summer.

Canterbury will be hosting a Fairtrade Market with a variety of fair trade goodies as well as music from local schools.

Nothing happening in your area?  Be inspired and start your own event!

The residents of Mackeson Road in Hampstead will be holding another World Fair Trade Day Street Party, why not join them and celebrate the community spirit at the heart of Fairtrade in your own community!

Let us know how your event went and watch this space for feedback from our participation in the London Fairtrade Festival…

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Great North 10k Fun Run

My last batch of fundraising ideas consisted of culinary delights and tasty treats. Great for raising money… not so good for the waistline!

Add Easter into the equation and x = need to exercise2

I have rallied up some troops in the office, those willing include:

Steve Willis – IT Manager

Jane Burns – Business Development Assistant

Louise McLaren – Project Leader

Ashleigh Wilson – Membership Development Coordinator

Paul Sharpe – Marketing and Communication Manager

Sally Reith – Supporter Relations Officer for the South

Together we will be taking part in the Great North 10k this July.  The run is a great opportunity to get fit for summer whilst simultaneously raising funds for Shared Interest Foundation; and for those of you taking part in the £1,000 challenge; you’ll be even closer to that holiday of a lifetime.

If you want to join in as part of the Shared Interest team just email me at andrea.wilkinson@shared-interest.com and I’ll send you all the information you need.

Of course, the Great North 10k isn’t the only available fun run event; there will be plenty more across the country. If you would like to take part in an alternative run, you can still raise money for Shared Interest Foundation. All sponsor forms and further details are available through Louise, louise.mclaren@shared-interest.com.

If running isn’t for you but you would like to sponsor the Shared Interest team, you can do so at http://www.justgiving.com/Andrea-Wilkinson0 , alternatively, please send a cheque payable to Shared Interest Foundation to, Shared Interest, no. 2 Cathedral Square, Groat Market, Newcastle, NE1 1EH.

Hopefully I’ll see you in July!

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Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Shared Interest, Happy Birthday to you!!

As you may have gathered from the title of this blog, today is officially Shared Interests twentieth anniversary. Hip Hip Hooray!

Over the last twenty years the organisation has gone from strength to strength and now annually lends over £33 million in 36 countries around the globe. No mean feat for a small Newcastle based co-operative!

In honour of the day here are our top 5 achievements over the past 20 years:

  1. Reaching over £26 million of share capital
  2. Achieving a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development in 2008
  3. Being the flagship employer on the steering group to achieve fairtrade status for Hadrian’s Wall
  4. Establishing three overseas offices in Kenya, Costa Rica and Peru
  5. Developing a charity, Shared Interest Foundation

Obviously this is just a selection and there have been many more achievements over the years. Why not share your Shared Interest memories? What do you see as our key achievements?

If nothing else feel free to use our birthday as an excuse for a cup of tea and a piece of cake or even a cheeky glass of wine, all fair trade of course!

Happy Birthday Shared Interest, here’s to the next twenty years!

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Is Green the New Black?

As many of you will have noticed there has recently been a huge upsurge in the amount of ethical, organic and fair trade clothing options that are now available on the UK high street.

As we flagged up during Fairtrade Fortnight, Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame seems to be at the centre of this increase in interest.

Emma, however isn’t the only celebrity to lend her name to ethical ranges, Fearne Cotton, Alexa Chung and the Geldof sisters are just a few of the names that have developed ranges for big high street names and smaller organisations over the last few years.

Whilst these collaborations may be small scale, the ethical fashion industry was given a huge boost earlier in the year as retail giant ASOS.com, launched its new Green Room. The room is dedicated to “collections with a story to tell: pioneer brands with a social and environmental ethos”.

The pages include Emma’s range for Shared Interest customer, People Tree along with collections from other ethically minded designers and brands.

The Green Room also includes the recently launched ASOS Africa which the website claims was inspired by their time working with handicraft producers in Africa. The range is made by community groups in the Kenyan town, Ukunda, under the stewardship of SOKO, a non profit agency which ensures skills training and fair pay for its workers.

Whilst they are not Shared Interest customers it is great to see these products in the spotlight in the UK, hopefully it signifies the end of the Primark generation and a move towards more ethically conscious consumers. A grand wish but maybe one day we’ll get there.

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10 Reasons To Invest In Fair Trade

A massive 72 per cent of us here in the UK now recognise the Fairtrade Mark.

But what exactly is fair trade?

I have put together a list of reasons why you might want to invest in fair trade and how Shared Interest can help:

  1. Fair trade is about decent working conditions, local sustainability, better prices, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.
  2. The Fairtrade minimum price guarantees that producers receive a price which covers the cost of sustainable production.
  3. The Fairtrade Premium is money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price that is invested in environmental, social and economic developmental projects, decided upon democratically by a committee of producers within the organisation or of workers on a plantation.
  4. Based here in the UK but with offices in Costa Rica, Kenya and Peru, Shared Interest works with people on the ground to help them earn a fair wage and create a stable livelihood for their family.
  5. Shared Interest lends money to businesses so that they can pay staff and cover operation costs while they await a financial return on their goods, Shared Interest helps when it is needed most.
  6. Shared Interest members can invest anything from £100 to £20,000 into their accounts; this money is then pooled and lent to fair trade businesses in the developing world.
  7. In becoming a Shared Interest member you have the opportunity to meet likeminded people and become part of the fair trade community.
  8. Shared Interest Society is not a charity, nor is it a bank. We are an ethical investment co-operative; all members have an equal share in the company, regardless of account size.
  9. At Shared Interest we manage the risk for you and in twenty years we have never lost an investors’ money.
  10. If investment isn’t for you, there is also the opportunity to volunteer your time or donate to Shared Interest’s charity arm, Shared Interest Foundation.

To find out more about investing in fair trade with Shared Interest please click here.

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My Return to Rwanda

As the UK feels the effects of the economic downturn, countries like Rwanda – that were struggling before the economic decline – are now faced with the crippling effects of rising food prices and declining handicraft sales.

In a bid to help Rwandan businesses survive the global recession, Shared Interest Foundation, with help from the Big Lottery Fund, embarked on a three year training project. The Rwandan Producer Support Project aims to provide training, mentoring and counselling to local businesses. The project encourages diversification, adding to the existing skill bank to ensure success for the future.

Despite the fact that it seems like the project only just started, I am preparing to head back to Rwanda, with our new Project Leader, Louise McLaren to evaluate the success of second year of the project.

During the ten day evaluation trip, we will visit ten producer groups along with our partners, the Rwanda Private Sector Federation, REDO (our environmental partner), RWAFAT (Rwandan Fair Trade Association) and our Project Coordinator Donatien.

Louise and I will be blogging from Africa so keep an eye out for tales of our adventures, and as always don’t forget to leave us your comments and questions!

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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A first for me is Shared Interest’s 20th

Saturday 6th March saw the arrival of the much anticipated 20th anniversary AGM.

In celebration of this special event, we brought the AGM home to Newcastle upon Tyne where the Shared Interest story began. The newly refurbished Civic Centre was a fantastic venue and really made a difference to the running of the day.

Unlike many who were in attendance, this was my first Shared Interest AGM and apparently it was one of the best. A particular highlight for me was the opportunity to meet Shared Interest Founders Mark Hayes and Richard Adams; it was great to hear from them about the origins of the organisation and its development twenty years on.

Similarly the AGM allowed me to put faces to names and it was great to meet so many Shared Interest members. If any of you are yet to attend an AGM, I thoroughly recommend you come along next year to meet your fellow shareholders and the Shared Interest staff team, especially those from our overseas offices, who are only usually in the UK for the AGM. This year’s unmissable overseas tip came from Peru Paul…Brazil Nut Oil as an alternative to Olive Oil, who knew?!

As part of the communications team I was really excited to premiere our latest Shared Interest film, Bega Kwa Bega which translates as Shoulder to Shoulder. The film is available below for those of you who haven’t had a chance to see it.

A full review of the day will be available in the upcoming edition of QR, but if you have any questions in the meantime just let me know…

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La Siembra

Established in 1999 with the vision to connect southern cocoa and sugar producers with Canadian consumers in a sustainable manner, La Siembra has built a national brand out of their offices in Ottawa of Fair Trade and Organic cocoa, sugar and chocolate products known widely as Cocoa Camino.

They currently have 21 retail products available in over 2000 retail outlets across Canada together with bulk and industrial products sold to cafes, restaurants and industrial manufacturers. Since 2001 they have also sold these products to private label customers in Canada, the United States and internationally.

Shared Interest has worked with La Siembra since 2003. In that period we have seen the facility grow substantially. During this time La Siembra remained grateful to Shared Interest for supporting them financially and they feel that without us they would not be where they are today.

La Siembra’s recent achievements include establishing a direct purchasing relationship for cocoa powder with CONACADO and new producer relationships with El Ceibo, Naranjillo and CEPICAFE. They have also launched a revamped website to better engage their customers and held a national online competition to celebrate and promote World Fair Trade days in collaboration with Mountain Equipment Co-operative and Ten Thousand Villages.

Finally for the second year running they won the WorldBlu ‘Most Democratic Workplace’ award. The award is a groundbreaking global award that shines a spotlight on visionary organisations successfully practicing organisational democracy. The purpose of the award is to honour these champions of freedom in the workplace. The WorldBlu List is comprised of organisations in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors that took the WorldBlu Democratic Workplace Scorecard and scored in the top level. The WorldBlu List is a list (instead of a ranking) and is announced annually each April as a part of Democracy in the Workplace Day.

If you wish to discover more about La Siembra please visit their website www.cocoacamino.com

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Big Swap Success!

Well done fair trade swappers!  The goal of one million and one fair trade swaps has been well and truly smashed.  The goal, set by the Fairtrade Foundation for this years’ Fairtrade Fortnight, was set to encourage the people of the UK to swap an everyday item for a fair trade version.  The current ‘swap-o-meter’ total is constantly rising, currently it stands at 1,061,385.  Did you contribute to the total?  Do you want to see the total rise even further?

Having spent my Fairtrade Fortnight swapping something different every day, from my cotton socks to my cocktail ingredients, I have been encouraged to continue the challenge.  Although I am not keeping a daily diary blog and video of my swaps, I am continuing to see what other swaps I can make, and keep. Does anyone have any ideas for me? If you are stuck for ideas for your own swaps have a look back at my video diaries, hopefully you’ll find some inspiration; don’t forget to encourage your friends to do the same!

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Fundación Solidaridad

The recent earthquakes in Chile have naturally caused concern over the welfare of our customers.

Shared Interest has worked with the Chilean handicraft organisation, Fundación Solidaridad since 2001. The company began work as part of COPACHI in 1974, supporting the production and sale of handicrafts made by political prisoners detained in prisons and detention camps under Pinochet.

Since then they have gone on to work with hundreds of Santiago’s poorest community groups, helping those who want to earn a living to alleviate their economic difficulties.

Executive Director, Winnie Lira, has been in touch to share how the earthquake has affected Fundación Solidaridad and the work that they have been doing to support their producers during this time. Winnie said:

“As of today, except in one location where all communications are completely cut off, we have been able to communicate with all producers and have been happily been informed that the only losses sustained by our producer groups have been material ones: fallen walls, lack of water or electricity, shattering of all the windows in their house, and substantial losses of their raw materials.  We’re supporting them as much as we can with these matters and everyone continues working

As for us, our lovely old house on Calle Santo Domingo has sustained no structural damage, but all kinds of cracks in the walls have appeared, cornices have fallen off, and parts of the roof have been damaged.  It is not as beautiful as it once was, but we are very grateful to be able to continue working in it.  We only hope that there are no more aftershocks because with each one there is another crack that expands.

Witnessing so much pain and destruction made all our team at Fundación Solidaridad and producers feel helpless and anxious to do something else.  Last week, visiting families who are living in tents in the Plaza Yungay, 500 meters of the Foundation, the children gave us the idea of something we could do. Their little faces of full of grief and bewilderment alongside their parents who can now think only of where they will live and everything they’ve lost, made us realise: children must be able to continue playing.

Today we made the first dispatch of 100 toys for children in Jardín “El Pescador” Coronel, the area hardest hit in the earthquake which is also where “aunties” play with the children because their local park was destroyed.

What makes us happy is that all producers of toys in Santiago we work with the Foundation have come up with dolls, puppets, trucks, clowns, puzzles from the stock they had available. All can share in the joy and be grateful that such toys, which are their means of income for household expenses, have now, in the words of an enterprising woman: “have now given me the greatest satisfaction of my life”.  Foundation Solidaridad will also donate part of their stock of toys and pay the packing and transport.

We wanted to share this experience with you as the best way to thank you for your concern and solidarity.”

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

Click here to donate to the Shared Interest Foundation
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