As we enter our 30th year, it is with heartfelt sadness we share news that our founder Mark Hayes passed away on the 15th December after a long illness. I am sure you will join me in sending sincere condolences to his family.

Mark was a strong supporter of fair trade and the co-operative movement and will be sadly missed by many. As a former Fellow and Director of Studies in Economics at Robinson College and an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Economics, at the University of  Cambridge, Mark was a well-respected academic in the fields of Economics and Theology. He was also an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religion and the former holder of the St Hilda Chair in Catholic Social Thought and Practice at Durham University.

Mark fist came up with the concept of Shared Interest while he was an Investment Manager at 3i. The Finance Director at 3i told him “You are trying to do the impossible, but good luck!”

Undeterred and with tremendous perseverance and determination, Mark brought industry leaders and influencers together and at the end of 1989, raised £100,000 towards the launch costs. In April 1990, with funds from the Ecumenical Development Co-operative Society (ECDS) Shared Interest was established and by the end of that year, 708 Share Accounts had opened with a combined Share Capital of £400,000. Mark was formally appointed as Managing Director in the same year. Roger Sawtell, Council member said “and thereafter he was the lynch-pin round which Shared Interest revolved and developed.”

It was reported in the Independent on the 22nd Sept 1990, that Shared Interest was “a new concept in ethical investment.” A remarkable achievement and some would consider the pioneer in crowd funding, in the same year the World Wide Web (WWW) came into being. Mark stood down as MD in 1998 but maintained a very strong relationship with the Society, offering friendly advice, holding a position on the Board and also representing members on Council.

It is testament to Mark and his colleagues that the organisation has become such a success, transforming the lives of millions of people around the world. From those early beginnings, membership has grown to nearly 12,000 investors with a total pot of £43 million in Share Capital. Last year alone, we supported 174 producer groups, representing 400,000 farmers and artisans in 52 countries.

Thirty years on, countries have developed and economies grown but Shared Interest’s role in alleviating poverty, through trade, has never been more relevant. Globally, 2.5 billion individuals consider smallholder farming as an integral part of their livelihood but access to finance remains a significant challenge especially in low-income countries. We remain true to Mark’s vision, supporting those disadvantaged producers now and in the future.

As one of our employees said, “We wouldn’t be here without his incredible passion and enthusiasm to see Shared Interest exist and develop. What a legacy he created.”

Mark kept in touch and was committed to supporting Shared Interest, only weeks ago he contributed to our 30th Anniversary film, which we will show at our member events, this year.

I would personally like to thank Mark for his intellect, vision and creativity and his family should be extremely proud of the impact Shared Interest has made over the last 30 years.

Patricia Alexander, Managing Director

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