Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shared Interest; the Queen's Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shared Interest; the Queen's Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development

Article excerpt

ASECOND Queen's Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development has been awarded to North East ethical finance organisation Shared Interest.

The Newcastle-based fair trade lender, which currently lends money in 35 countries across the globe, is aiming to increase its UK investment by almost PS1.5m this year alone.

Operating as a co-operative, Shared Interest is owned by its UK-based investors who collectively hold almost PS29m in share capital. These funds are lent out to fair trade businesses, which vary from large-scale buyers in the USA, to smallholder farmers in the developing world.

Since receiving the prestigious award for the first time in 2008, the organisation has gone on to increase its overseas presence with a further two in-country offices in Peru and Ghana.

Shared Interest managing director Patricia Alexander says: "This award is a tremendous accolade and demonstrates the commitment of our supporters - including staff, investors and volunteers - in the sustainable development of fair trade businesses in disadvantaged communities worldwide.

"We are proud to be one of five organisations in the North East to be recognised for business success. Against a backdrop of global financial uncertainty, it is pleasing that we are able to report steady and measurable progress towards the achievement of our social goals.

"Our investors have continued to show their commitment to fair finance, and this has enabled us to significantly increase our direct lending to smallholder farmers and handcrafters.

"Our regional presence in Costa Rica, Kenya, Peru and Ghana has been very successful in both raising our profile and enabling us to support fair trade organisations in greatest need, partly due to their remote location and aspects such as lack of access to transport facilities or healthcare.

"The West Africa office will help us to branch out into the French-speaking fair trade market and increase our lending in a wide range of commodities including cocoa, fruit, rice and cotton."

A report released by the Fairtrade Foundation in February this year states that smallholder farmers grow 70% of the world's food - in cocoa, as much as 90%. But many farmers are trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Patricia continues: "The world has over 450 million smallholder farmers, yet only 2% of their financing needs are currently being met in the developing world and they therefore represent half of the world's hungriest people.

"This year has seen us offer a 0.5% interest rate on all investment, and create a Gift Pack, where people can give a Share Account to a loved one to celebrate a special event. We are hoping that these developments will help attract new investors to open a Share Account for PS100 upwards.

"It is only with the valuable support of people living in the UK that we can continue to fulfil our purpose of reaching out to those who are otherwise denied affordable credit. …

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