Western: Fair Trade Campus? Mission Accomplished

Although it meant changing the coffee being served in 15 different locations, including all residence dining areas, becoming a fair trade campus was a key component for the overall sustainability plan for the university, said Kevin McCabe, Hospitality Services Associate Director.

“With so many claims of fairness and sustainability in the marketplace, third-party verification is an invaluable tool to ensure purchases actually connect with these values,” he said. “The fair trade trademark represents the best-known and most-respected ethical certification system for social sustainability issues. It provides an easy and reliable way to know that products have met credible standards that are set and monitored following best practices, public input and regular audits.”

A Fair Trade Campus isn’t an official certification; only products and producers can be certified by organizations like Fairtrade Canada. Rather, Fair Trade Campus status recognizes the leadership of Canadian postsecondary institutions. Other fair trade university campuses include British Columbia, Simon Fraser, Guelph, Selkirk College (B.C.), McGill, Brock, Ottawa, Trent and Northern British Columbia.

Fair trade designation isn’t just about products sold, McCabe added. The title of Fair Trade Campus is awarded to universities and colleges that meet all criteria within three distinct categories – steering committee, product availability and awareness/education.

The criteria in each category are specific. From a product availability standpoint, the specifics include that:

  • All coffee served on campus, outside of franchises, must be fair trade certified;
  • At least three fair trade certified teas must be available wherever tea is served;
  • At least one fair trade-certified chocolate bar must be available at every location selling chocolate bars, including every vending machine; and
  • All coffee and tea served at campus meetings, events and offices run by administration or student unions must be fair-trade certified.

“We have been doing a number of taste tests and product sampling with fair trade teas and have chosen Numi Tea as our newest fair-trade tea, to augment the other fair-trade tea already in place,” McCabe said. “From a chocolate bar standpoint, Dairy Milk chocolate bars are fair trade and will be available at all facilities and vending machines selling these types of products. We are also looking at other bars to increase the offerings.”

All residence dining operations, along with six campus eateries, switched from Starbucks We Proudly Brew coffee to a local, fair-trade, organic coffee producer – Fire Roasted Coffee – in September 2014. Great Hall Catering has been serving Fire Roasted Coffee for more than five years.

There are only two operations remaining to be switched over, which will be done for September. Einstein’s in the Natural Sciences Centre will switch to Doi Chaang coffee, while Encounters in the Social Sciences Centre will switch to a Tim Horton’s self-serve operation.

McCabe said Hospitality Services intends to continue to grow fair trade through post-designation engagement, setting yearly goals, planning events, introducing new products, monitoring consumers, maintaining and furthering relationships on campus, working with private franchises and developing curricula within departments.”

Last year, Hospitality Services participated in Fair Trade Week during September by offering a Fair Trade Chocolate Fountain in each residence. They purchased 130 kilograms (286 pounds) of Camino Brand Fair Trade Chocolate from the Ontario Natural Food Co-op. They will be participating in Fair Trade Week again, as well as two other Fair Trade Western events – ‘Scare Them Fair’ at Halloween and ‘My Fair Valentine’ on Valentine’s Day.