I’m always keen to write about good things here and feature people who are really making a difference, and the other day I met some people who fit the bill. Shared Interest describe themselves as “the Fairtrade movement’s best kept secret”. They are, basically, a financing co-operative that funds new ethical businesses. We’ve profiled similar groups before, such as OikoCredit, but those mainly operate in the microfinance market, whereas Shared Interest can offer much larger loans.
By providing start-up loans and business support, Shared Interest works to see poor communities make use of trade opportunities, in line with the Fairtrade principles. By 2007, they had distributed £21million, and if all goes to plan they will have shifted £75million by 2012.
At the other end, Shared Interest works by members pooling their resources. The £21million above has been raised from the 8,500 members, who have all contributed between £100 and £20,000. This is an investment, not a gift, so it pays a return and can be withdrawn if necessary. The returns are less than the market rate, but it’s about putting your money into something worthwhile, and who our money works for is always an important question. If you believe in ethical business, and want to participate more actively in the fairtrade movement than just buying an occasional pot of coffee, here’s your chance.