Equal Exchange: Doing Well by Doing Good - CLEO Skip to main content


In 1983, Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal, and Michael Rozyne were all recent college graduates and working for a food co-op warehouse in the Boston area. They began to question the system: What if food could be traded in a way that is honest and fair, a way that empowers both farmers and consumers? What if trade supported family farms use of organic methods rather than methods that harm the environment? Almost simultaneously they started to hear about groups in Europe who were doing fair trade. The advocates of fair trade wanted to ensure that the producers of products such as coffee, teas, and chocolate would get a better price for their crops while supporting improvement in their environmental, social, and political conditions. Rink, Jonathan, and Michael liked the idea. According to Rink, they “were basically food co-op people, interested in connecting small, local farmers with consumers to change the marketplace.” It was not their intention to found a company at that time. They took the idea to the board of directors of the co-op warehouse. Half of the board supported the idea and half voted against it. It became apparent to them that if they were going to pursue their vision, they were going to have to develop an organization.