El Puente is among the pioneers of the fair trade movement and is today the third largest fair trade organization in Germany. Already since 1972, El Puente has stood as a bridge between north and south, and has worked with small businesses and cooperatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The work of El Puente is not profit-orientated. Through the import and distribution of fair trade products, the organization supports more than 140 trade partners in 40 different countries. The range of products consists of around 5,000 handicraft and food articles. Thus, the assortment ranges from jewelry and bags, to tableware and decorative pieces, right up to coffee, chocolate and spices. As a wholesale trader El Puente sells the goods to about 800 fair trade shops in Germany and in some neighboring countries.
The organization structure of El Puente is pretty unique because of the so called “Partner Committee” (PaCo) which offers the producer organizations the opportunity to be an equal co-owner of the company. Moreover, El Puente has a special body which controls the activities of El Puente independently: New trade partners, whose products shall be incorporated in El Puente’s assortment, need to be approved by this body, the so called PPA (“Projektpartnerausschuss”). Detailed questionnaires, completed by the partner organizations, serve as the main basis for the approval.
The city of Hildesheim in Northern Germany is the birthplace of El Puente. It continues to be the location for many activities, which are mainly initiated by the El Puente association. The only store in the ownership of the El Puente association by is located in the very centre of Hildesheim. There, El Puente offers products and carries out various activities and educational events. “With the development policy-related educational activities which are organized by many committed people on a voluntary basis, we make people more aware of Fair Trade”, Richard Bruns, founder of El Puente explains. Many of these activities are supported by the El Puente foundation which promotes educational work in developmental- and socio-political topics in Germany.
WFTO Guarantee System
El Puente is a WFTO member since 1997 and took part in the pilot project of the new WFTO Guarantee System in 2013. “The process of the WFTO-monitoring was extremely useful for us; we got very positive feedback for our work but also gained constructive criticism which helps us to improve,” Martin Moritz, manager of El Puente Ltd. says.