For 26 years we have been providing bespoke financial
services and a vital means of support to some of the most
disadvantaged communities across the globe.
Our journey started in 1986 when the Christian development
agency, Traidcraft Exchange, sponsored research into the role of
banking and investment within the fair trade movement.
The research found that the main challenge faced by those
producing fair trade goods was access to working capital. It was
out of this that Shared Interest was created, a unique financial
organisation that aimed to do business for mutual service rather
than for investor profit.
The Society was publicly launched in October 1990 with the
financial backing of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the
Ecumenical Development Co-operative Society (EDCS). Within a year,
we had attracted £750,000 of Share Capital and 600 members. Today,
we have almost 9,000 members in the UK, each investing between £100
and £100,000. This provides share capital of over £35m with which
we share the risk of lending to communities in the developing
While we were based on Christian principles, we have a lot of
support both from various faith groups within the UK as well as
from those with no religious affiliation. We operate as a community
benefit society with members who share our vision of a world where
justice is at the heart of trade finance. We form the link between
UK social investors and fair trade organisations across the globe
needing finance to grow their business and improve livelihoods. The
majority of the businesses to which we lend are either certified by
Fairtrade International (FLO) or are a member of the World Fair
Trade Organization (WFTO). They range from small-scale handcraft
producers tolarge coffee co-operatives and fair trade
We offer a variety of lending options that enable our customers
to pre-finance orders, build up harvest stocks, purchase essential
machinery and infrastructure, make advance payments to farmers and
artisans and finance inventory for new shops selling fair trade
goods. You can read case studies of how our support has assisted
producers in Appendix 3 of our Social
In 2004, Shared Interest established a subsidiary, Shared Interest
Foundation. The charity delivers practical business support in
the developing world, helping fair trade businesses to improve
their financial management and other business skills.
Through Shared Interest Foundation we have helped to establish
fair trade country networks in Rwanda and Swaziland, and work in
partnership with others such as Fairtrade Africa to target support
where it is needed most. Our Foundation has brought in funding to
support this work from donors such as Big Lottery Fund and Comic
Relief, and is also supported by donations from around 200
individuals, organisations or trusts each year.
For the last eight years, Shared Interest Society has been
following a strategy to increase direct lending to producers. In
2006 our first overseas offices opened in Central America East
Africa. We now have representatives in Kenya, Ghana, Peru and Costa
Rica. As a result, for the first time in 2013, direct lending to
producers exceeded lending to buyers.
We are proud that the Queen's Award for Enterprise has been
awarded to Shared Interest Society twice in the category of
sustainable development. This happened first in 2008 and again in
2013. In 2015 we were also awarded the Third Sector Award for
During 2014/15, our finance reached over 400 fair trade
organisations globally and we made payments of £51.4m to producers
and buyers across the world. In addition, we provided training and
support for 263 fair trade businesses in seven countries.
In April 2014 we increased our £20,000 account limit to
£100,000, and in August the
Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 came into
force as part of a continuing programme of reform which
Co-operatives UK has been promoting and lobbying for on behalf
of its members and the co-operative sector for a number of years.
This meant that the Society changes from an Industrial Provident
Society to a Community Benefit Society.