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Investing and how it works

How does your lending work?

A: Shared Interest Society pools the funds of its 11,500 UK investors and provides loans or credit services to almost 300 fair trade businesses in 52 countries.

We work with businesses ranging from sole trader handcraft organisations to large scale coffee co-operatives and fair trade buyers.  By offering a variety of lending options we enable our customers to pre-finance orders, purchase essential machinery and infrastructure, and make advance payments to farmers and artisans.


What is Shared Interest?

A: Shared Interest Society is registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 and is a member of Co-operatives UK. We form an important link between UK social investors and fair trade organisations needing finance.


How do I apply for a loan or credit facility?

A: Each application is different and we may need more information from some customers than others. Complete this form and we will be in touch to discuss the process in more detail.

What is the loan criteria?

A: Producers must be registered with either Fairtrade International (FLO), World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), The British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTS), Small Producer Seal (SPP) or the Fairtrade Federation. In addition, we require at least three years' trading history, a positive balance sheet and for there to be at least one export buyer in Europe, North America or Australasia.

Buyers must be members of WFTO, Fair Trade Federation (North America only) or BAFTS (UK only). In addition, we require at least 3 years' trading history and a positive balance sheet.

I only sell products locally, can I get a loan from Shared Interest?

A: Due to our business model and the way our facilities are repaid, we do prefer to work with producers that have at least one export buyer. We do, however, look at every application on a case-by-case basis and could potentially consider a facility if repayments can be made in hard currency (USD, GBP or EUR). We would also need to conduct further research in to the buyers you work with locally in order that we may better understand how they operate.

How does Shared Interest decide on the interest rate charged to customers?

A: Our interest rates depend on two things: the cost to Shared Interest of borrowing the currency for the customer's facility (the prime rate); and the assessed risk of the customer to Shared Interest (the risk premium). The prime rate plus the risk premium provides the overall interest rate for a given facility or customer. We consider a number of factors specific to each individual borrower when establishing the risk premium and this is why we require information from customers in advance before advising of the potential interest rate.

Will I have to provide security against the borrowing?

A: No, Shared Interest does not typically ask for any kind of security against the facilities it provides.

How much can my organisation borrow?

A: The amount Shared Interest can lend to an organisation depends on a number of factors. We assess every application on its own merits and the funds available will be determined by a combination of the need of the organisation and its financial position to make repayments. As we have a finite amount of funds from which we can lend (the share capital invested by our members), we will also consider the current availability of this for each application we receive. In addition, Shared Interest has limits on how much it can lend to particular countries, regions or products at any given time and we also take this in to account.

Does Shared Interest charge any fees?

A: There is a 1% set-up fee for all of our products, which is charged once the facility is approved. This also applies to any facility increases that occur during our working relationship. The purpose of the fee is to cover the administration costs associated with setting up the account. Additional fees may also apply for late payments, under payment or exceeding your credit limit while you have an account with us.

How does an export facility work?

A: The Shared Interest Export Credit facility works by making funds available against particular orders - 80% of the order value for handcrafts and 60% of the order value for commodities. Funds can be drawn down to pre-finance an order and are then repaid when the buyer makes payment to the producer through Shared Interest on the order's completion; Shared Interest takes a portion of the buyer payment to cover the amount borrowed plus interest and forwards the balance on to the producer. When repayment has taken place, it frees up the funds within the credit limit so that they can be used against another order. An Export Credit facility can be used for many orders at the same time as long as the total amount borrowed does not exceed the credit limit.

Will my organisation have to reapply each year?

A: Shared Interest looks to build long-term relationships with its customers. Each account with us undergoes an annual review, but our customers do not need to reapply each year.

How long is the Export Credit facility available?

A: Our Export Credit facilities work on a rolling basis and do not have a set period of availability. Our Term Loans are available from one to five years, while our Stock Facility Loans run over a period of one year and can be renewed annually without reapplication.

How long does the application process take?

A: We aim to have applications completed within 3 months of receiving the required information. As we don't take security, this is the time required for us to complete our necessary checks and research.

Will Shared Interest staff visit our organisation?

A: In the vast majority of cases, a member of our team, usually from the regional offices, will visit your organisation to meet the team and research the operation. This enables us to collect much of the information required to complete an application and helps to build the relationship between us.

What currencies do you work with?

A: We will only lend in hard currencies (usually USD, GBP and EUR) as they are generally more stable and used for international trade, including fair trade.

In which countries does Shared Interest operate?

A: We have regional offices in Kenya, Ghana, Peru, and Costa Rica. We are not currently able to lend money directly to producers in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Nepal due to exchange control legislation, but we do make payments to fair trade producers across the region on behalf of our fair trade buyers.

Do you lend to individuals?

A: As a general rule, we prefer to lend only to producer groups. We look at each application on its own merits and may lend to a private organisation where the fair trade principles are in place and we feel that the social benefit to the communities involved warrants our financial assistance. We do not work with private individuals.

Do you help producers market their products?

A: We specialise in lending and are not qualified to assist organisations with their marketing. In some cases we may be able to make introductions between buyers and producers, but this is not something that we do on a routine basis.

Do you offer training to producers?

A: Shared Interest Foundation, the charitable arm of Shared Interest Society does offer finance and governance training to producers. To learn more, please click here.


Does Shared Interest help with the Fairtrade certification process?

No.  We do not have the capacity to check that the producer is following all the certification criteria.  

Who are your partners?

You can read about our partners in our Impact Report here


Could you explain the difference between the Foundation and Society?

A: The Society and Foundation are two separate legal entities, although the Foundation is the subsidiary of the Society because the Board of the Society appoints the Trustees of the Foundation. The Society relies on the capital invested by its members in the form of withdrawable share capital. The Foundation, a registered charity, relies on donations from individuals which can be gift-aided, smaller grants and larger institutional grants from funders such as Comic Relief. The Society lends money to organisations involved in fair trade and the Foundation provides training and building of support organisations in the developing world.