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‘What’s Fair’ With Jonathan Rosenthal

by: Jonathan Rosenthal

November 15, 2012

Originally published on Fairtrade International US website

In today’s ‘What’s Fair,’ Jonathan Rosenthal makes a plea to all interested in fair trade to continue the discussion. Jonathan has worked to convert the destructive aspects of business into a positive force since 1980.He co-founded Equal Exchange andOké USA and is interim executive director ofCo-op Coffees.


Too Small To Fail?

by: Jonathan Rosenthal

July 11, 2012

Equal Exchange Bike Powered Cafe

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 4th Biennial National Worker Cooperative Conference that happened to be in my home town, Boston, with my dear friend and coop leader Hilary Abell. (photo is of the Equal Exchange Bike Café).

  • Namaste Solar: an amazing democratic worker owned cooperative installing solar electricity in Colorado and beyond. I had two inspiring lunches with these guys who were inspired to convert to a coop by the Equal Exchange story. Keep your eye on these very sharp and powerful folks!
  • Community Builders: to hear a few of the stories of CB, a collective of builders who grew out of the Clamshell Alliance anti-nuclear group in the late 1970’s was inspiring. They still walk their talk.
  • South Mountain Company: 12 years into existence, they restructured as a worker coop (back in 1987). Since then, they’ve written a book and are a model worker owned design and build company.
  • Aorta Collective: A new coop group to me doing organizational development and anti-oppression work. Very dynamic group. Look forward to learning more about them.
  • Equal Exchange: my old company was there in force with well over a dozen members as well as one of their bicycle coffee carts. I was proud to meet some new EE owners and see how far they have come since I left in 2000.
  • Coop Fund of New England: I have known, respected and worked with Rebecca Dunn for over 20 years. They continue to grow, add new services and stay true to their super efficient grassroots history. 
  • Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives: 5 Independent but related worker coop bakeries with a feisty spirit and a ton of real world coop experience. I like their creative and anti-empire building outlook on life.
  • Japan Worker’s Cooperative Union: Wow, I had forgotten about these folks who are connected to the fair trade movement in Japan. The sheer scale and organizational capacity is inspiring and humbling!
  • Rainbow Grocery: Awesome grocery and community institution. They have created a worker empowerment culture!
  • Real Pickles: high quality fermented food company making pickles and more. Nice to learn of these small idealistic companies!
  • Red Sun Press: my old friends from this long standing movement press were there in force. They are looking to expand their markets beyond the usual movement organizations. 
  • And many others.

Working At The Speed Of Business Or The Speed Of Change?

by: Jonathan Rosenthal

June 12, 2012

It is a fascinating and challenging moment in fair trade. In some ways, we have succeeded beyond our hopes and dreams. In other ways, we feel poised to fall into an abyss of degraded standards and values. 

At the core of our current crossroads two of the key issues is pace and process. The business world increasingly demands moving at warp speed. Getting there first seems part of every strategic plan. The world changes in some ways very quickly and being able to adjust and shift plans and strategies is a great competitive advantage. 


Big Challenges: How Can The 99% Address The Other 99%

by: Jonathan Rosenthal

May 14, 2012

Last week I had a wonderful conversation with Alex Whitmore of Taza Chocolate. We talked about many interesting things. The part of the conversation that fascinated me, though, was when we started talking about the future—of fair trade, of direct trade of ethical brands. I talked about what I called the other 99%—the large chunk of the coffee industry (Okay, I was talking to a chocolatier but coffee is more developed on the ethical side) that is not made up of high road companies such as Equal Exchange, the members of Coop Coffees, Thanksgiving Coffee, etc.


Organizing A Movement: North American Fair Trade Summit

by: Jonathan Rosenthal

April 30, 2012


Today, 50 fair trade activists and fair trade business people are gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota in an attempt to create a more cohesive fair trade movement in the US and Canada.

  • Define fair trade and the movement, what they are and what they are not 
  • Organize the North American fair trade movement under a coordinated
    infrastructure with a common vision 
  • Reach agreement on a plan for cooperation and accountability within the
  • Develop a clear external message for the movement “