University of St. Michael’s College Named Canada’s 14th Fair Trade Campus

May 10, 2016 | Toronto, Ontario. The University of St. Michael’s College has been designated Canada’s 14th Fair Trade Campus, joining a growing movement from coast to coast.

The announcement comes just days before World Fair Trade day. An event was held at the university’s Canada Room dining hall to celebrate the new designation, where a certificate was delivered commemorating this achievement. Students, faculty, and administration were in attendance, sampling Fair Trade coffee and chocolate and engaging in discussion with members of the Fair Trade Committee.

“It is my pleasure to congratulate the University of St. Michael’s College on becoming Canada’s 14th Fair Trade Designated Campus! The University has embraced the fair trade movement, and now offers a range of fair trade products across its campus, products which have positive impacts on people around the world. The team has worked hard to achieve this designation, while it’s also clear that this is only the beginning” – Sean McHugh, Executive Director, Canadian Fair Trade Network.

“Congratulations to the University of St. Michael’s College on becoming the 14th Fair Trade Campus in Canada. Students, faculty, and the general public will benefit from access to high quality and ethically sourced products on campus. The Fair Trade Campus Program is better off with St Michael’s involvement.” – Mélissa Dubé, Outreach Coordinator, Fairtrade Canada

The Story Behind the Designation

The Fair Trade Campus movement was initiated three years ago when Engineers without Borders (EWB) hosted a case competition on how the entire University of Toronto St. George Campus, on which St. Michael’s is located, could be made a Fair Trade designated campus.  In years previous, EWB had tried – and failed – to do so, despite a formidable effort.

The case competition’s winning team, which includes the current student President of the Fair Trade Committee, Kawin Ethayarajh, was then asked to execute their proposed plan, a grassroots approach that would work on convincing the many dining institutions at the University of Toronto to go Fair Trade. With the help of University of Toronto President Meric Gertler and Vice-President of Operations Scott Mabury, both of whom were supportive of the initiative from its onset, the student members of the committee were soon joined by Vice-President of Ancillary Services Anne MacDonald. Dr. Harriet Friedmann, Professor of Geography and Sociology and an authority on the politics of food, also joined the committee soon after.

In conducting a comprehensive audit of all dining institutions on campus, the nascent committee was able to map the sprawling web of food services – a crucial first step. Critically, they found disparate groups of institutions, most of which were bound to a particular college – such as St. Michael’s – that oversaw all their affairs. This necessitated a shift from a University of Toronto-level approach to a college-level approach; after conferring with Fairtrade Canada, it was agreed that each college would have to become its own Fair Trade Designated Campus.

The University of St. Michael’s College, whose food services department is managed by Chartwells, a vocal proponent of Fair Trade, was the first to meet the criteria for a Fair Trade Designated Campus. Alanna Pimental, then new to the position of Food Services Manager, was instrumental in helping meet these requirements. With clear goals and the full backing of all necessary stakeholders, the committee then worked tirelessly to implement the necessary changes with respect to Fair Trade product availability and signage.

In concert with their efforts at St. Michael’s, student members of the committee also devoted time to educating the student body on the merits of Fair Trade – how it supports fair wages, improves labor conditions, protects the environment, and generally improves the lives of the disenfranchised in the developing world. They held events around campus, leveraged social media, and partnered with the Sustainability Office’s Green Ambassadors – a St. George Campus-wide group with student, faculty, and administrative members – to help mold a culture of more conscientious consumers.

The University of St. Michael’s College is proud to be the first college at the University of Toronto to be designated a Fair Trade campus. Its Fair Trade Committee hopes that both the university and the strategy taken to make it a Fair Trade designated campus will serve as exemplars for years to come.