SERRV International

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SERRV International
Non-profit organization
HeadquartersNew Windsor, Maryland, United States
Key people
Robert S. Chase, President/CEO
ProductsHandicrafts, coffee, chocolate
RevenueIncrease$9.181 million USD (2005)

SERRV International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, alternative trading organization operating in the United States, Africa, Asia and Latin America. The organization is credited to be one of the first fair trade initiatives worldwide, with imports as early as 1949. In 2006, it was one of the country's largest fair trade importers with annual sales of approximately $10 million. It currently works with 85 small-scale, cooperatively run producer groups in 35 countries.[1]

The organization's mission is to "promote the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by marketing their products in a just and direct manner". SERRV International was funded and supported in 2005 by the Calvert Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, the Idyll Foundation and MMA Community Development Investments, Inc.

The organization is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and the Fair Trade Federation. It follows the internationally recognized fair trade principles of fair wage, gender equality, long-term relationships, concern for the environment, democratic decision making, safe working conditions, respect for culture, and prohibition of child exploitation.


SERRV International was launched in 1949. It began as a program of the Church of the Brethren as a way to help refugees in Europe recover economically and socially from World War II. The name SERRV is an acronym for Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation. It first imported wooden cuckoo clocks from Germany to Maryland to sell in the U.S.

The program grew from assisting World War II refugees to working with impoverished people throughout the world. SERRV began importing handicrafts from the world's least developed countries as a way to alleviate poverty. By 1960, with the help of Church World Service, a nationwide network of churches were selling SERRV crafts as part of their mission work. In 1964, the first full-time director was hired and three staff members were appointed.

In 1999, SERRV International split from the Church of the Brethren to become an independent 501(c)(3) organization. Sales at this time had reached more than $5.5 million and the product line branched out into fair trade coffee and chocolate as well as handicrafts. SERRV became the U.S. distributor of Fair Trade Divine Chocolate, the first farmer-owned chocolate company in the world.

In 2001, in addition to marketing fair trade products, the organization stepped up its efforts as a development organization. Its current development projects with artisans and farmers include skill training workshops, product design assistance, and small grants, all largely funded by charitable contributions to SERRV from individuals, foundations, and churches.

In 2004, the organization launched a new marketing identity called A Greater Gift, which represents its catalog and retail business. Shortly afterward, SERRV also launched EQUO Foods, its own fair trade foods brand. In the fall of 2008 SERRV dropped the identity of A Greater Gift and started using SERRV once again. The 2008 catalog had many new changes in style, layout and content. Divine USA also introduced new chocolate products in the fall of 2008.[2]


  1. ^ SERRV International (2005). 2005 Annual Report. URL accessed on December 11, 2006.
  2. ^ SERRV International (2006). About Us. URL accessed on December 11, 2006.

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