This November, the University of Guelph became the first Fair Trade campus in Ontario and the third in Canada. Thanks to the efforts of the university’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, university administration and hospitality services, Guelph students can now rest assured their campus coffee is 100% ethical.
University-owned catering outlets on the Guelph campus will now serve only Fairtrade certified coffee. That means coffee that meets rigorous social and environmental standards which ensure producers get a fair price for a product grown in an environmentally sustainable manner. University catering outlets must also provide Fair Trade alternatives for tea and chocolate.
Guelph has a track record in sustainability, so becoming Fair Trade designated made sense, says Engineers Without Borders chapter member and Fair Trade committee member Danny Liang.
“The campus was already most of the way there when it comes to the designation requirements even before the committee was put together, but we continue to work hard to go above and beyond the designation requirements,” says Liang.
Liang and the Engineers Without Borders chapter led the campus campaign to become Fair Trade designated, holding panel discussions, movie nights, Fair Trade symposiums and other awareness-raising activities.
The campaign brought students, faculty, food service providers and the administration together in a Fair Trade campus committee. The joint effort has brought substantial long-term change in the university’s ethical purchasing policy and sustainability goals.
“Receiving this official designation is a testament to the hard work of many faculty, staff and students, and of the university’s Hospitality Services, in particular,” says Liang.
Guelph joins a growing movement of public institutions taking the lead on social and environmental sustainability. The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University became Fair Trade campuses in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
“The University of Guelph has identified itself as a public institution committed to making a difference in the world,” says Canadian Fair Trade Network executive director Sean McHugh. “Guelph joins a growing shift in aware and concerned consumers looking to make a difference in the world through their purchasing behaviours.”
By making supply chains transparent, Fair Trade helps consumers understand where their products come from. It discourages child labour and worker exploitation by ensuring farmers and producers are paid fairly, treated respectfully and work in environmentally safe, healthy conditions.
“Fair Trade is critical to creating a just society, which is a critical component of a sustainable planet,” says Maurice Nelischer, director of Guelph’s sustainability office. “We hope that, by acknowledging our commitment to the tenets of Fair Trade, we can convey how the University of Guelph is addressing all aspects of sustainability in its academics and research and in its operations.”
For Guelph, Fair Trade designation is only the first step in fulfilling a broader vision for building an engaged and informed community and supporting the global shift towards social and environmental sustainability.
The Fair Trade campus committee now hopes to bring more Fair Trade products to Guelph.
Author: By Kealy Doyle