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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has a crucial aim to eliminate global extreme poverty by 2030. Although progress has been made, the United Nations estimates that more than 700 million people, approximately 10% of the world's population, continue to grapple with extreme poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest number of individuals living on less than $1.90 per day.

Impact Overview

This report underscores Shared Interest’s achievements in improving the livelihoods of people in remote and disadvantaged communities by helping them trade their way out of poverty. Working together with farmers, artisans and communities, we have strengthened businesses, increased employment opportunities and introduced innovative sustainable farming methods. We estimate that the businesses we supported this year collectively earned £982m, with 109 customers recording a profit. Significantly, 86 of these businesses saw an increase in profits, reflecting the resilience of the producer groups.

According to our internal data, the producer groups we support now employ 412,628 individuals, with 32% being women. The number of permanent employees across both producer and buyer organisations increased in 2023, reaching 9,519 employees, including 4,500 women.  

Team Overview

Shared Interest, with a team of 34 colleagues, places significant emphasis on retaining a motivated workforce to support the organisation's growth. Maintaining a committed team and fostering a positive work environment are central to our approach.  An Engagement Survey indicated a high level of engagement, with 55.2% actively engaged and 44.2% engaged. We also benefit from the invaluable contributions of 92 volunteers working alongside colleagues.  Volunteers play a crucial role in the organisation's mission, and Volunteers' Week provided a platform to celebrate their dedication and support.

Membership Overview

In pursuit of our mission, Shared Interest relies on the unwavering support of members, donors, volunteers, and partners. Their invaluable commitment, along with the dedication of our international team, producers, and buyers, enable us to carry out impactful work across 45 countries.

Our diverse society membership includes faith groups, fair trade partnerships, small businesses, schools, and community organisations. However, individuals hold the majority, 82%, of Share Accounts. By the end of the year, we had 10,259 members, despite a slight decrease in investments by £0.7m. The Share Capital totalled £51.6m at the close of the year.  In 2023, we welcomed 167 new members. Despite this, Share Account closures led to a net reduction of 157 Share Accounts.

Shared Interest Foundation Overview

Shared Interest Foundation, our charity, continues to thrive with the support of 2,089 donors and grants. Over the past year, we delivered 14 projects, which supported the development of innovative solutions to strengthen the climate resilience of producers, created income-generating opportunities for women and young people, and established enterprises, which generate vital income for rural communities. Seven new enterprises were established providing a source of income to 705 farmers (69% women), 832 women received training in a variety of topics, including agro-processing, soilless farming, Climate Smart Agriculture, business skills and leadership. Additionally, 243 young people received training, tools and farming inputs to establish sustainable cocoa and coffee farms, and 143,269 trees were planted. 

Lending Overview

As mentioned earlier in the report, over the past three years, the global economic landscape has been marred by challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, and recessionary pressures. These issues, coupled with political instability in certain countries, have disrupted economies worldwide. As a result, our customers are grappling with shrinking profit margins due to lower product demand and rising input costs, exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict.  We also acknowledge that weak governance and subpar financial management pose ongoing challenges, especially in the southern hemisphere. These issues, if left unaddressed, can result in loan defaults. Consequently, we have made provisions for a higher number and value of customer accounts than usual, acknowledging the uncertainty of these numbers.  However, it is essential to restate that we believe many of the accounts in arrears are recoverable.

Our financial support comes in the form of short-term and medium-term lending options, including Export Credit, Buyer Credit, Stock Facilities, and Term Loans.  We remain dedicated to providing vital financial support to smaller, vulnerable groups while proactively managing risk and navigating the challenges of a complex global economic landscape. We disbursed £49.2m in 2023, with reductions primarily in South America due the impact of the new Fairtrade minimum coffee price in the market and establishment of contracts from buyers.

In this challenging year, we approved five new facilities (totalling £1.3m), a decrease from the previous year.  Coffee continues to represent the largest of our value chain exposures at 48% of our lending. This simply reflects the size of the Fairtrade and organic coffee market and its need for trade finance. It also mirrors the impact of the financing sphere as a whole. 

Our customers heavily depend on a reliable market channel. The increase in sales and their subsequent income is largely driven by a boost in buyer confidence.  However, it is clear that the challenges faced by our customers did not deter their trading opportunities. Our Customer Social Impact Survey revealed that 49% of respondents reported increased sales, primarily due to higher sales prices. This increase, however, created additional pressure on their financial liquidity. They also highlighted how better access to finance, not limited to Shared Interest contributed to higher sales.

Customer Social Impact Survey

Our latest Customer Social Impact Survey showed that 80% of respondents reported they had undertaken organisational development projects, spanning infrastructure, equipment, market expansion, e-commerce, and various other fields. Moreover, we asked about community development projects, with 76% affirming their active involvement. These initiatives primarily focused on environment, education, water and sanitation, and health.

Our survey also featured open-ended questions to uncover challenges encountered by artisans, farmers, employees, and workers over the last year, along with the mitigation measures taken. Notably, climate change, escalating living costs, increased input and fertiliser expenses, market price fluctuations, access to finance, and low demand for commodities like honey emerged as recurrent challenges. In response, our support included training in climate resilience, reforestation, organic and GAP, and environmental conservation, attesting our commitment to mitigating challenges and fostering sustainable development.

Climate Resilience

Our Lending Team has observed the effects of climate change on agricultural production, and this remains a significant challenge. Farmers already dealing with volatile market prices and rising production costs are now dealing with extraordinary weather patterns, prolonged droughts, extreme rainfall, and crop diseases. These changes lead to reduced yields, especially in areas lacking irrigation systems. Affirming the need for climate adaptation and resilience measures.

Producer groups have initiated a range of projects aimed at mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change, including training in climate resilience strategies, compliance with EU Deforestation Regulation, irrigation management, and reforestation. Such initiatives extend beyond agriculture, promoting environmental sustainability.

Gender Equality

Achieving Goal 5 of the SDGs, gender equality and empowering women and girls by 2030, is an ambitious target. While progress has been made, gender disparities persist worldwide. However, within the organisations we support, there is a growing trend of women's empowerment initiatives. Female farmers and artisans are gaining recognition for their role in supply chains, with increased opportunities for career development and autonomy. Globally, women make up 43% of the agricultural labour force but face discrimination in areas like land ownership, equal pay, decision-making, and financial access. In our portfolio, women account for 32%, but this figure does not consider women working on land owned by male relatives. Initiatives such as those in the Amazonas region, led by Elizabeth Arista Salazar and Merling Preza, focus on women's visibility, education, land access, and leadership development.

In alignment with the 2030 Agenda, our work strives not only to alleviate poverty but also to propel lasting transformations in the lives of the individuals and communities we serve.

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