Social Investment Toolkit

Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

Investing can be tricky business. And stressful. Not to mention a headache. And, especially for the novice investor… simply overwhelming. Add to this trying to promote a worthy cause…in a bad economy! So how should I invest my money responsibly?  How do I choose a cause?  How will my money be spent?  Let’s find out. Continue reading

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Fair Trade House Party

Tammy Cody is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Tammy is the founder of Dignity Regained, an online store that exists to bring attention to the fair trade movement and the positive effect that it has on the fight against human trafficking. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

When we closed our brick and mortar shop in December of last year, our only avenue of sales became our online store. While an online store has it’s upside (we can run it out of our home office which lowers the cost of running Dignity Regained significantly), it can also be somewhat frustrating at times. The interaction we have with our customers is limited to them visiting our website, reading as much or as little as they want, and looking at some pictures of products. We really want our customers to be able to hold and admire our products, while we tell them the story of the artisans and the importance of fair trade to their lives. We needed a middle ground.

I was a bit reluctant at first to try having a House Party. I didn’t want our customers to feel like a captive audience or trapped into buying something. (Even though I own a retail store, I am not the most sales oriented person for the job. Education and availability are more of a focus for Dignity Regained.) So when I discussed the idea of having Fair Trade House Parties with a friend, I was pleasantly surprised when she immediately volunteered to have one.

This past Thursday she gathered some of our friends from church, made up some snacks (of course everyone loves food) and opened her home to the store. I brought some inventory, set it up in the corner of the room, made some Fairtrade Soy Chai Lattes and set out some samples of Fairtrade chocolate. It was a smaller group, seven women. It was the perfect size for my first House Party because that is how I am most comfortable. For the first 20 minutes was sat and I explained the concept of fair trade, what human trafficking is, how fair trade prevents trafficking, and how Dignity Regained was started. I then pointed out a couple of items that I especially love, and told them that the products were available if they wanted to look or shop, but to not feel obligated. During this time some shopped, some asked questions and we did a giveaway.

It was a complete success. Everyone bought at least one thing, I was able to show them our website on a laptop computer so that they could shop later, someone booked another party for next month, everyone had fun and they left knowing about fair trade. I feel confident that House Parties will be a very good way to not only expand our store, but to also educate our community around us.

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Fair Trade and the Environment

Lucy Robinson is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lucy is a co-founder of By Hand, an online store that specializes in fair trade jewellery and handicrafts from the Indonesian island of Bali. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

At the recent Shared Interest meeting in York, Jeremy Piercy, founder of fair trade success story Shared Earth, addressed the relationship between fair trade and the environment. In his eyes environmentalists and fair trade campaigners are missing a trick – the two separate campaigns have much to gain from working together.

Climate change is a serious issue for all of us, but for some of the poorest communities in the world it is a real problem. As the End Poverty 2015 Campaign states, severe weather events are expected to increase in frequency and intensity, and poor countries lack the infrastructure to respond adequately. Meanwhile, changing rainfall patterns will devastate the crops that many in developing countries rely on; and diseases such as malaria are also expected to increase in prevalence.

As a future cause of poverty, climate change is clearly a relevant issue for fair trade – a movement that seeks to use trade to improve the lives of the world’s poorest and most marginalised producers.

But fair trade can also offer hope to the climate change cause: Many goods produced within the fair trade sector are key examples of items being produced in a carbon-neutral way. Many of the small producer groups, which produce jewellery and handicrafts etc., use traditional methods, creating their products by hand or with simple tools. A large number of recycled or eco-friendly materials are also incorporated into fair trade products. For example, bags in the By Hand range are made from materials such as recycled Batik fabric, and fast-growing natural materials including rattan, lontar palm leaves and raffia leaves. Continue reading

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Is shopping the new politics?

Jiva Masheder is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Jiva is a passionate fair trade activist currently living in Brighton. She is the founder of Jiva Fair Trading, an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

Many people, predictably, year on year, decry how Christmas has become so commercial, lost its spiritual meaning. Yet these days, while not finding meaning in our lives from the Church, many of us have adopted more humanist values and can still find meaning in our lives from helping others. Fair Trade and ethical investment are prime examples of doing just that.

Shopping choices may not change the world, but buying Fair Trade certainly improves the lives of those who supply Fair Trade business. They receive a fair price, are not victimised by unfair buying policies, work in safer conditions and receive a social premium to spend on community welfare; often it goes on basic health and education provision that we have long taken for granted in more affluent countries. Much as people complain about the NHS, it is a phenomenal service compared with the health-care available in most of the developing world; this has struck me many times returning from India to this country.

Is shopping the new politics? No, but it can definitely help. It is easy with the enormity of social and environmental problems around us to feel overwhelmed by it all – as I also do at times – and the natural response is to shut down and turn away. But buying Fair Trade is making a positive difference; if we do nothing else to help others, we can remember that each Fair Trade item we buy has enhanced the life of the person who made it, and their community around them too.

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Fairtrade Coffee Only 3% of US Market

Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

I was in a shop getting bagels the other day when I asked for my daily cup of Fairtrade coffee. The guy behind me said, “I read that fair trade isn’t doing the coffee farmers any good”. I asked him what he meant, and he said that fair trade wasn’t “fair” and was hardly a fraction of the coffee trade so, “why bother?”

I find this often in the US; most people either don’t understand what fair trade is or they confuse it with “free” trade–so “why bother?”

Coffee is one of the most important commodities in the world. It is produced and exported by nearly 60 nations, is one of the top cash crops and is critical to the economies of several developing countries. In some developing nations, producers receive only USD$0.30 per pound of coffee when export prices are over three times higher. In one African nation, producers earn an average of only USD$0.09 per pound. Nearly all coffee sold in North America is imported from developing countries. The North American coffee market accounts for over one quarter of global coffee imports in value (27 percent in 2005), and the United States is the world’s single largest buyer of coffee.

Coffee is also by far the most important Fairtrade product. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization International (FLO) indicates that sales of certified Fairtrade coffee worldwide were up by 53% in 2006. Nearly half of this volume was sold in North America. TransFairUSA calculates that Fairtrade coffee represents just 3 percent of the US retail market. The FLO Standard is a guarantee of a Fairtrade Minimum (or floor price) that is based on the estimated cost of sustainable production. The minimum price ranges from USD$1.01 to USD$1.21 per pound depending on the type of coffee and the country of origin. There is also an additional USD$0.10 per pound which is a premium paid to cooperatives for use at the community level for social and economic investments. When the coffee is certified organic, an extra premium of USD$0.20 per pound is also paid. Continue reading

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

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Investing in Fair Trade Versus Donor Aid

Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

While riding in my car doing the usual boring errands, I came across a radio show featuring a young, outspoken Kenyan named Binyavanga Wainaina speaking about his views on the “Ethics of Aid”. My ears perked up. What could this young Kenyan have to say about donor aid and where his country was headed?

All too often, we assume that we know what is best for Africans. Yet, after 50 years of aid, half the population of sub-Saharan Africa is still living in extreme poverty. According to figures from the World Bank, the number of poor people in Africa has doubled from 200 million in 1981 to 380 million in 2005. Although the numbers are staggering, Wainaina has discerned that prolonged donor aid sometimes has a debilitating psychological effect on the very people it is seeking to help. He says, “a lot of people arrive in Africa to assume that it’s a blank, empty place and their goodwill and desire and guilt will fix it. And that to me is not any different from the first people who arrived to colonize us.”

Wainaina maintains that “the single thing that has changed the lives of millions of Kenyans in the last ten or fifteen years has been the rearrangement of the banking capital to serve the small Kenyan….the micro-lending banks, scaling up the idea that somebody who earns a thousand shillings a month is bankable and someone to invest in and be able to create a model for that person to acquire credit in a reasonable way and grow, that has mattered more than a donor or all of the donor things, because it believes in the idea that the person on the ground has an idea and that idea can be serviced.”

And if there is one thing that Wainaina wants people in the West to know, it is that “where these things work is where people do it themselves…you go back from 1940 until now. Any countries that have done well for themselves and have managed to do positive things and that have changed the lives of the large parts of their countries have done so on their own effort.”

He goes on to say that the projects that DO tend to work are “…projects where you have a very long relationship with people and you understand their value. And they do things themselves, very much on the ground, very sensible….they get the community participating….it’s very cost-effective and it’s very natural and it’s a part of our lives.”

When you invest in Shared Interest, you are investing in a lender that has been involved and on the ground for over 20 years. They work extensively with community based businesses in Africa and other countries to make the most of fair trade by providing capital up front for producers and longer term loans to support the purchase of infrastructure such as machinery, buildings and vehicles for growing businesses.

So when you are trying to decide whether to invest or to give…think about investing, because in the end we need to see Africa’s promise alongside its problems in order to participate attentively in its future.

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Choose Fairtrade Liberation Nuts!

Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

Just a few years ago, the sick, injured and heavily pregnant would have to travel over long distances in Mchinji and wait for treatment in the scorching sun. There was no water, nowhere to cook and no beds for the “guardians”-the relatives and others who accompanied and cared for the sick and injured. The hospital in Mchinji District, which lies on the western side of the Central Region of Malawi, was built over 20 years ago for a population of 275,000. Now, the hospital must minister to over 600,000 people, many from over the border in Mozambique and Zambia. In 2008, the Fairtrade Premium provided by the International Nut Producer Co-operative was able to build a guardian shelter for the community, a plain brick building that provides safety and comfort for the guardians that care for their sick relatives.

During the 1980s, TWIN Trading brought together small scale, marginalized nut farmers from Mozambique, Malawi, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru, India and El Salvador to form the International Nut Producer Co-operative (INC). By forming INC, TWIN hoped to facilitate a dramatic shift in the influence of farmer co-operatives with the launch of Liberation Foods.

Liberation Foods, a 100% fairtrade nut company, was started in the UK by Twin Trading and Equal Exchange. Both organizations were dedicated to establishing long term relationships with producers, empowering small farmers and developing the fair trade supply chain for coffee, tea, nuts, cocoa, sugar and fruit farmers. These farmers lacked market information and technical expertise to market their own crops. They also had to cope with limited infrastructure and poor access to capital. Before the co-operative was formed and fairtrade was practiced, nut farmers were easily cheated by unscrupulous buyers who manipulated the scales in their favor, cheating the farmers out of a fair price. Now the scales are standardized to ensure transparency and a stable, fair price for the farmers.

The producers who grow and gather the nuts, over 22,000 smallholder farmers from co-operatives in Asia, Africa and Latin America, own a 42% share of Liberation Foods, making them part owners and enabling them to participate in the direction of the company. This helps make the farmers a real force in the market, moving them up the supply chain, maximizing their returns and offering a more secure future for them, their families and for their communities.

As well as peanuts from Malawi and Nicaragua, Liberation Nuts sells cashews from India, El Salvador and Mozambique and brazil nuts from the rainforests of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Buying brazil nuts, especially on fairtrade terms, helps protect the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil nut gathering provides an income which is sustainable and doesn’t involve cutting and destroying the rainforest. This helps to protect the communities in these regions and the people’s livelihoods-as well as preventing the rainforest from being cut down.

Liberation Foods is a Community Interest Company (CIC) which means it is run for the benefit of the community it serves…the nut famers and gatherers and their families. It supplies its own Liberation branded nut snacks to major supermarkets and health food stores all over the UK.

Liberation Nuts’ vision is a world in which smallholder farmers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfill their potential and decide their future. Like it says on their website, (http://www.chooseliberation.com), they want to “help people trade their way out of poverty and bring about positive change in an unfair trading system, whilst having fun at what we do-we want to change the world, one nut at a time”.

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Why Invest in Fair Trade?

Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

Fair trade is a model for sustainable economy in rural communities in the developing world with over 7 million people in 62 countries across the world depending on fair trade for their livelihood, either directly through their work or indirectly through the community projects that the Fairtrade Premium provides. Small grassroots businesses, such as banana farmers and handicraft co-operatives, make up the fair trade movement. Promoting livelihoods and empowering these groups is where sustainable development and poverty alleviation begin.

As successful as the fair trade movement has been at helping to eradicate poverty in the developing world, the current worldwide credit crunch is threatening the viability of the movement going forward.

All businesses rely on credit to grow, or even survive, whether it is a line of credit to overcome temporary shortfalls in cash flow or long term loans to purchase equipment. Most businesses in the developing world don’t have access to traditional finance. Considered too risky and small for mainstream banks and too large for microfinance, these grassroots businesses cannot access the capital they need to grow and sustain their businesses. In our global economy, credit is often exorbitantly expensive for self-help groups. And it sometimes comes with “strings” that can lead to outside control of developing economies.

Small farmers who belong to the fair trade movement, which advocates fair prices and sustainable agriculture, say they get some protection from wild market fluctuations that are happening in the economic crisis. But many fair trade organizations are reporting that producers are having difficulties raising finance and loans locally in the developing world. As banks run out of money (or refuse to lend money), fair trade groups are starting to struggle to meet demand for working capital.

The Fair Trade movement needs individuals, companies and organizations to invest in fair trade so that the movement can grow to include many more small farmers and artisans. People are willing to pay a premium to help the planet and to help people in the developing world, but without access to credit/finance, small farmers and artisans, and the rural communities that they live in, will not be able to capitalize on their specialty products. Invest now and don’t forget to buy fair trade!

Click here to find out how you can invest in fair trade.

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Visiting Fair Trade Businesses in Kenya

Ian and Shelagh are Shared Interest ambassadors and the views in this post are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

After a leisurely day yesterday being tourists today, Monday 13th, Has been busy visiting Trinity Jewellery Crafts and Bega Kwa Bega. These are two quite different enterprises. Trinity is run by Joseph, who had been a jeweller for 28 years since he was trained by a National Christian Council of Kenya project for people living in the Nairobi slums. He set up Trinity in 1984 with two partners who have both moved on to run their own independent businesses. In the past Trinity employed up to 15 people, though that dropped to 4 in the difficult years 1995-2005. Since then business has picked up again and there are now 7 crafts jewellers and 3 office staff working in the premises just outside the slums as well as a number of outworkers. They were all busy making brass earrings today. Each piece of jewellery is hand made by one person from start to finish – no production line or machinery here! All the current workers have been trained by Joseph and the design work is mostly done by him.

Fairtrade means not just fair wages but health care, sickness benefit and pension provision too. Trinity has been Fairtrade since 1989 and is a long-standing S.I. partner.

We then moved deep into the slums and eventually found Bega Kwa Bega. Fortunately we had Jane with us to direct the taxi driver, though we had to do the last bit on foot as the track was being dug up. Bega Kwa Bega means “shoulder to shoulder” and we were given a warm welcome by a dozen ladies keen to show us their goods, and several small children. The project aims to train women in sewing, basket-weaving, tie-dye and shoe-making so they can earn a legitimate living. We were impressed by the quality of the goods these ladies made with very basic facilities, how clued up they all seemed and determined to improve their lives. They all meet together every Monday morning for prayers and to discuss any problems they may have. They have been Fairtrade since 1993 but are new S.I. customers, having made contact with the local office and just taken a term loan to buy sewing machines to set up a tailoring school. No conventional bank would have lent to them as they have no assets.

Sadly, our planned visit to Undugu tomorrow won’t happen as our bus to Eldoret leaves at 7,30 in the morning, but we are looking forward to Mace foods on Wednesday.

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Fair Trade Helps Sustain Palestinian Handicrafts

Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

As a schoolboy, Khader Khair worked in his uncle’s workshop on week-ends and during holidays learning how to carve olive wood. In the late 1980s, after Khader was forced to quit medical school during the first intifada, he started his own workshop. Since then, he has worked with his brother, Michael, and seven employees making beautiful olive wood jewelry. Today, Khader’s workshop is able to employ nine other families.

Khader’s workshop is part of the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society, which was founded in 1981 by olive wood and mother-of-pearl artisans as a result of the deteriorating Palestinian handicrafts industry. The 36 member workshops of the cooperative and the additional 50 non-member workshops who work with the cooperative are located in the cities of Beit Sahour, Beit Jala and Bethlehem. The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society is the only co-op in the occupied West Bank and impacts roughly 900 individual lives from their activities. All of the workshops embrace the principles of fair trade, including using sustainable materials, gender equity, disability rights and fair wages.

The tradition of olive wood and mother-of-pearl carving has deep roots in the Bethlehem region. For many thousands of years, Christians, Muslims and Jews traveled to the Holy Land because of the region’s religious significance. Pilgrims wanted to take home a locally made icon to memorialize their journey. For generations, artisans have made religious carvings for these pilgrims who are visiting holy sites in the West Bank and Israel and the region is dotted with small family workshops. The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative thrived with pilgrimage tourism to Bethlehem, however, everything changed with the Palestinian Uprising and the tightening of Israeli occupation policies. Moving around the area became very difficult as the region was encircled with an intricate system of military check points, army bases, Jewish settlements and, more recently, the Separation Wall. The impact has had a devastating effect on the local economy. Tourism has come to a full halt and many artisans have lost family members to violence. Also, the area is losing craftsmen who are forced to leave behind their traditional trade and their families to escape the difficult conditions in their homeland.

The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative is adopting a strategy to open the international market as a means to counter the damaging decline to the local handicraft industry. They aim to alleviate poverty, increase employment and strengthen the local community while preserving the centuries old craft and design traditions of the region for future generations. They also seek to provide leadership in the fair trade movement through their membership in the World Fair Trade Organization and by sharing their experiences with other farmers and artisans to create awareness about fair trade in Palestine, aid Palestinian artisans and producers in marketing through international fair trade channels and work with other Arab Fair Trade Organizations to establish a working network that will, hopefully, lead to an Arab Fair Trade Region.

The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative’s offerings include olive wood works of art, mother-of-pearl items, vibrantly painted ceramics, hand blown glass and graceful embroidered cloth. It is through their website that they want people to discover their indigenous traditions of craftsmanship and help their members by ordering their products. Go to www.holyland-handicraft.org to find out more.

Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative is a Shared Interest customer. Please click here if you would like to learn how you can invest in fair trade companies to help them grow and prosper.

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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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