In 2005, I wrote an article about socially responsible investing for the Seattle Weekly entitled Investing for Change. SRI is a topic I hope to discuss frequently in this blog. As 2008 turned into a bloodbath for most stock investors (the Dow Jones dropped 4,024 points from 12,800 to 8,776) as well as in my own portfolio, my investment in fair trade coop Equal Exchange actually continued to post a steady profit.
Once again, Equal Exchange's board announced a profitable year ($34 million in sales, up from $29 million in 2007) and awarded another 5% dividend to investors. Equal Exchange has now posted 23 years of steady growth.
A couple quotes from EqEx's investor update stand out to me as differentiating them from traditional stocks and mutual funds:
"Equal Exchange is a worker co-op with two decades of experience, and because of that is an intrinsically prudent organization. The 90 or so worker owners have invested over $700,000 of our own money in Equal Exchange. If we make a loss, that money is at risk, which is partly why we've only made a loss once in the last 20 years. Being a worker co-op means we manage expenses personally and we take the mission personally. This is not just a business, it is our livelihood, and as an economic democracy we have the means to set the co-op's direction and work together to make it succeed."
I increased my investment in Equal Exchange after traveling to Peru in 2006 with the company, spending time getting to know some of the coffee farmers and cooperative workers there. You can see some photos from the trip here.
Learn more about investing in Equal Exchange from their web site.