The University of Calgary is on its way to becoming a fair trade recognized institution within the next few weeks under Fairtrade Canada, a non-profit organization that provides fair trade designations to different organizations.
Fairtrade Canada is the only Canadian member of Fairtrade International, an international non-profit institution that provides fair trade designation to organizations, businesses and products.
To ensure the U of C meets the standards of a fair trade campus, Fairtrade Canada will send a representative in the next few weeks.
The U of C began its transition to becoming a fair trade designated school in fall 2010 when members of the U of C Engineers Without Borders chapter initiated the certification process.
“EWB has been a huge supporter of fair trade for quite some time. On many campuses, EWB members have been a driving force behind gaining fair trade status for their campus and the U of C is no exception,” said U of C student and EWB fair trade co-ordinator Sara Walde, who became involved in the U of C’s fair trade recognition process in 2010.
“With an organization as large as the university, any change is going to take time. We had to navigate through the various campus entities, find the right people in the right positions to talk to, the right products, the right suppliers,” she said. “Everyone we have worked with has been extremely supportive and enthusiastic about fair trade and the changes being made.”
Students’ Union vice-president operations and finance Scott Weir said having the fair trade certification will demonstrate the U of C’s commitment to ethical practices.
“Fair trade is meeting an ethical standard where the producer of the product — say a grower of coffee beans — is being paid an equitable wage by the people who are buying the product versus being exploited,” said Weir.
The fair trade recognition requires that all food vendors owned and operated by the university and the SU — such as Chartwells, Conference and Events, the Den and Black Lounge and Stör — offer fair trade options. Independent food vendors do not have to follow these standards.
“For example, any place that sells chocolate bars, such as the Stör, must have at least one fair trade chocolate bar and it has to be labeled as such,” said Weir.
According to Fairtrade Canada communications director Michael Zelmer, there are three standards that need to be met for a campus to receive fair trade designation: availability of fair trade products, visibility of fair trade practices and establishing a committee to ensure fair trade practices are maintained.
Zelmer said the fair trade designation is a way for universities to show leadership in fair trade and create dialogue around ethical practices.
“Universities are a great place to spark discussion and debate around fair trade, which can also lead to a wider consciousness,” said Zelmer.
The U of C already meets these fair trade criteria and has for a long time, however, this certification will give the university recognition for its ethical standards.
“We are ready to go. We are currently meeting all of the standards and a [representative] should be coming in the next few weeks to check us over,” said Weir. “It’s about providing choice to students and people that are buying from these locations.”
Weir hopes that the U of C can be one of the first five universities in Canada to be fair trade certified. Currently, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Guelph University have been certified by Fairtrade Canada. Approximately 20 other post-secondary institutions are in the process of becoming recognized as fair trade.