Founded in 1986 by three food co-op employees in New England, each committed to sharing power rather than amassing it—among employees, farmers and consumers—Equal Exchange is now one of the largest worker-owned cooperatives in the U.S.
Headquartered in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Equal Exchange distributes coffee, tea, bananas, chocolate and other organic, fair trade products sourced from more than 40 farmer co-ops in 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The co-op helped introduce fair trade coffee to U.S. grocery stores in the mid-1980s. And while it continues to sell products to conventional grocery stores and individuals, Equal Exchange has the unique opportunity to operate an entirely cooperative supply chain—where it buys from farmer co-ops, is itself a worker co-op and sells to food co-ops.
To illustrate the uniquely cooperative characteristic of democratic governance and empowerment—part of the ABCs of Co-op Impact framework—we sat down with Lynsey Miller, Director of Sales and a vice president at Equal Exchange with the co-op for 18 years. She reflected on the co-op difference, democratizing food systems, and how the COVID-19 pandemic is spurring conversations about global connectivity and sustainable supply chains.