How Equal Exchange Faced Down An Ethical Dilemma

[I]n 2000, the [Equal Exchange] founders faced a major dilemma when an outside investor offered to pump $250,000 into the company. In exchange the investor wanted a guaranteed seat on the board and the creation of a special class of stock specifically for the investor that would pay out a 10% guaranteed cumulative annual dividend...

The consensus among the board members and company leadership was that Equal Exchange would be giving up too much. The cumulative dividend, they worried, would have been a difficult promise to make for a business whose wares were largely agricultural commodities with fluctuating prices. Not to mention that creating a higher class of owner didn’t jibe with the organization’s ethos of equal ownership. “We did not want to do anything that would relinquish worker control,”

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