Fair Trade Programs Update
Calgary's Road to Designation
In 2016, Calgary’s Fair Trade Town campaign launched with three volunteers—Erin Bird, Farzad Olya, and Gary Ellis—and a few wild expectations. The initial goal was to reach designation in a year and a half, by World Fair Trade Day in May 2017. Two and half years later, Calgary remains undesignated. Still, the campaign has been notable for other successes.
Fair Trade Calgary sits as a venture within Engineers Without Borders, a registered charity. This allows the organization to accept sponsorship and maintain a stable operating structure.
By attending community events, the group has earned recognition in the city. According to Bird, the committee has developed “strong partnerships with organizations including Ten Thousand Villages, the Kindness Market, and the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival, just to name a few.”
Along the way, the committee has pushed for other designations in the city. Morrison Hershfield received its Fair Trade Workplace designation in June 2016, and Calgary Arts Academy its Fair Trade School designation in April 2017.
Fair Trade Calgary is also an active voice for Canadian fair trade fashion. In March, at the National Fair Trade Conference, committee members hosted a fashion show to highlight Canadian designers working with Fairtrade-certified cotton. This past April, the organization participated in Fashion Revolution Week.
The committee hopes to see Calgary designated by World Fair Trade Day 2019. Recent encouraging developments suggest that this goal is possible. Calgary City Council is now considering adding social procurement to its sustainable, ethical, and environmental purchasing policy. Meanwhile, the organization plans to continue forging relationships with businesses and community groups.
Fair Trade School Bans Nestlé
Staff, teachers, and students at Strathcona Christian Academy Secondary (SCAS) in Sherwood Park, Alberta, are taking a bold stance for the support of fair trade. Since receiving its Fair Trade School designation last fall, Strathcona has been a leader in the program. Yet SCAS reached a new level of commitment with a school-wide ban on all Nestlé products. The ban coincides with a promise to increase the availability of fair trade products.
Why did the school decide to ban Nestlé? Staff member Cindy Christensen explains: “Our school is a Christian school, and if we take our faith seriously, we should be showing love and standing up for those who do not have a voice.”
Teens Against Violent Oppression (TAVO), the student group leading the fair trade campaign at SCAS, is largely responsible for the change.
As each division phases out Nestlé products, they will be replaced by fair trade alternatives. For example, the school purchased over $3,000 worth of Camino products this past school year. Student council has already eliminated Nestlé products from its events, and is working with TAVO to source fair trade items for regular staff meetings next year.
The school understands that sourcing ethical products takes extra planning. “This takes energy and time, and can be daunting,” says Christensen, “but then we remember why we are doing this.”
To smooth the transition, the school has planned regularly scheduled Camino wholesale orders starting in the fall.
This type of commitment may seem large, but for staff and students at Strathcona, eliminating non–fair trade products is the next step of their Fair Trade School designation. The school believes that modelling ethical consumerism on an institutional level will help reinforce these behaviours for students.
SFU Inspires Fair Trade Leaders
Simon Fraser University (SFU), a Fair Trade Campus since 2012, is continually finding ways to expand its commitments to fair trade. During the past two years, the school has focused on finding innovative ways to engage students.
“The Origin Trips program is an opportunity for students to gain a personal relationship with fair trade,” says Mark McLaughlin, Chief Commercial Services Officer, SFU Ancillary Services. “It is one thing to read or hear about the benefits that fair trade brings to farmers and workers, but it is much more profound to witness it in person.”
SFU students have visited producing communities in Costa Rica and Ecuador over the past two years.
Prodpran Wangcherdchuwong recalls her trip to Costa Rica in 2016. “It was eye-opening to see that a co-op we visited had 6,000 members, but also disappointing to hear that only 10 percent of its products are sold as fair trade.”
Students who have participated on these trips have returned to campus with inspiring stories and a deeper understanding of the opportunities and limitations of the international fair trade movement.
Another way that SFU is growing its commitment to fair trade is through the Fair Trade Ambassador program. The Ambassador program is focused on educating students about fair trade and giving them tools and resources to engage the wider student community. Five SFU students joined the program in 2017.
“The program helps our department and other campus administrators engage, support, and learn from our students,” says McLaughlin. “It has helped us create a line of communication with the wider student population to facilitate the exchange of ideas surrounding fair trade on campus.”
Megan McMahon, who participated in the program, says, “You can get out of it what you want. I was able to develop particular skills through hands-on experience, which was really empowering and rewarding.”
Erik Sagmoen, also involved in the program, says, “It definitely changed my perspective and shaped the career path I plan to pursue.”
SFU has 10 students signed up for the program for this coming school year—that’s double last year’s cohort.
Author: By Torrye McKenzie