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Shared Interest Society win Queen's Award for Enterprise!

Seal of approval for social lender in 30th year

Shared Interest Society has been awarded the Queen’s seal of approval for the third time as it marks 30 years of financing a fairer world.

The Newcastle-based social lender has been recognised with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category.  The Society has more than 11,500 UK members with total investments of over £44m, and helps thousands of people in 55 countries around the world to trade and earn a living.

With headquarters in Newcastle city centre, Shared Interest also has representatives working in Costa Rica, Kenya, Ghana, and Peru, to help reach fair trade farmers and handcraft organisations in disadvantaged and rural communities.

What does it mean to be a Queen's Award winner?

Patricia Alexander, managing director at Shared Interest, said: “Being approved for a Queen’s Award for the third time, and in our 30th year, plus being so close to our anniversary on the 25th April, made this a very special honour.

“What does it mean for us as a business and as a team?  The Queen’s Award is a symbol of pride, and confirmation that our organisation is achieving its mission, and fulfilling its role in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Since winning the award for the second time in 2013, we have increased our UK investment total by over £15m. The Award represents the hard work and dedication of every single person involved in the organisation. Their commitment made it possible for our financial services to impact almost 400,000 people last year alone.

“Shared Interest focuses on trade rather than aid with the aim of empowering disadvantaged communities. For every farmer or handcraft maker we are able to help, there are dozens in great need of finance. Our lending is in high demand, as producers do not have the security or assets to secure funds elsewhere.”

Shared Interest’s regional manager for Latin America, Paul Sablich, has been helping customers in his region for over a decade.

Paul said: “For me, this award represents how we are achieving our mission to reach those most in need.  The fact that we have received it three times also means that we are doing it consistently despite the various challenges we have faced over time.

How will the Award benefit your business?

We are currently unable to visit our customers due to impact of coronavirus across the world, but it does not prevent us being close to them through alternative means, and finding ways to continue supporting them. This award is also an indication of the commitment of everyone involved in Shared Interest Society.

Research shows that there is an estimated annual lending gap of 100 billion US Dollars to the agricultural sector in Africa. Shared Interest lends to smallholder farmers and artisans in this region, providing them with the opportunity to grow their businesses and improve their income.

John Dossou, lending manager for West Africa said: “Covid-19 is a major threat to livelihood of small producers in Africa.  Winning the Queen’s Award at this time shows how vital our work is, and we must celebrate our services being recognised in this way.  Now, more than ever, we need to offer producers ‘finance with a human face.”

Shared Interest managing director, Patricia Alexander added: “Establishing regional offices has been critical to the growth of our direct producer lending. In addition to the geographical advantages, we value the linguistic and cultural connection with our customers. This presence means that we have the local knowledge needed to help producers in rural or marginalised communities.

Final comments...

“As the world enters an extremely challenging time, we will continue to carry out our mission of reaching those smaller vulnerable groups who are otherwise unable to access finance.

It has been incredible to see many of our members investing further, and a joy to welcome new investors on board during this time.  Now more than ever, we need to help people provide for themselves and their families.”

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