O￼N THE other end of the financial scale, UK-based Shared Interest here to provide trade finance to fair-trade businesses across the globe, aiming to reach smallholder farmers and craft organisations with the unsecured lending and low-interest loans that are not available locally.
Its managing director, Patricia Alexander, said: “We provide low-interest loans and credit facilities that support businesses throughout the supply chain. Our different types of lending products enable fair-trade groups to pay their workers on time, as well as in being able to buy the raw materials, tools and machinery needed for production.
“Every year we also make payments on behalf of our buyer customers to hundreds of smallholder farmers and handcrafters who do not have a Shared Interest credit facility. This remains one of our main business activities and means that we can help people further down the supply chain receive timely payment rather than waiting for their goods to be sold.”
Shared Interest lends money in an unsecured manner in 35 countries to 120 customers, thanks to almost 9,000 people in the UK investing more than £29m in the organisation’s share accounts.
This year, the organisation made payments to a further 321 producer groups, in 53 countries, which are not Shared Interest customers. This was made possible through Shared Interest’s “pre-finance” facility.
Alexander explained: “Fair-trade buyers often want to pay their developing worldsuppliers in advance when placing an order. However, they can find themselves struggling to do this from their own cash reserves, especially in the current economic climate.”
Despite the turmoil in the UK, people are continuing to invest with Shared Interest. An example of a Shared Interest investor is Christine Lloyd, a retired district nurse. A type of smallholder farmer herself, for the past three years Lloyd has deposited the money made from the sale of her eggs into a share account.
Lloyd said: “I opened the Shared Interest account with £100 and top it up with the sale of the eggs. I don’t make a great deal of money from the eggs, but it makes me realise that if this was the only way I had of making a living then I wouldn’t be able to afford the luxuries in life we all take for granted.
“For me, I know that whilst my money is with Shared Interest it is being lent out time and time again to fair trade projects in the developing world to help them grow their businesses and provide an income for their families and benefits to their communities.”
For more information about Shared Interest please CLICK HERE