SFU receives Fair Trade campus designation

By Kelly Thoreson

SFU becomes the second Canadian campus to receive official recognition from Fair Trade, after UBC

SFU’s decade-long struggle for formal commitment to providing Fair Trade products on campus has come to a close. On May 4, the university announced that it had been recognized as the second Fair Trade Campus in Canada, following UBC’s designation in May 2011.

Fair Trade is an internationally recognized organization that certifies products, such as coffee or chocolate, where producers receive fair compensation. The criteria required to become a Fair Trade campus includes serving only Fair Trade certified coffee at all vendors directly controlled by the university or student government; clearly marking all Fair Trade products at these locations; promoting Fair Trade; and maintaining a committee to enforce these standards.

The vendors who have agreed to adhere to these standards include all SFSS food and beverage operations — such as Higher Grounds, the Highland Pub, and the Ladle — as well as outsourced providers Chartwells, Triple O’s, and Renaissance Coffee. Tim Horton’s hasn’t agreed to commit to these requirements, but they have internal ethical purchasing policies of their own. Independent Cornerstone businesses aren’t required to adhere to these rules, but many of them offer Fair Trade products. Executive director of ancillary services Mark McLaughlin is motivated to continue with Fair Trade initiatives on campus, however. “We haven’t reached the finish line,” he said. “We’re just out of the starting gate, and just watch us. We’re really going to try and push hard on this.”

Outsourcing all of its food operations to third parties such as Chartwells, SFU faced challenges convincing vendors to switch to Fair Trade products. UBC, on the other hand, operates their own food programs. McLaughlin explained that SFU will help blaze a trail for universities across Canada in a way that UBC might not have, because the majority of institutions also outsource their food operations. Nezam Alavi, a former Engineers Without Borders member essential to reigniting the Fair Trade movement on campus, would like to see other universities follow the examples being set in BC. “With Vancouver being the first [major Canadian] Fair Trade city, and UBC being the first [Canadian] Fair Trade campus, SFU shows that the West Coast is really driven on these issues. I think it’s time for those on the east coast to show what they’ve got.”

The pivotal point for the student-led initiative for Fair Trade at SFU occurred in 2011 when President Andrew Petter held a “hallway chat” to discuss possible improvements to the university. The event was crashed by a group of student representatives from various campus groups dressed as superheroes demanding a commitment to Fair Trade products at SFU. Alavi argued that it was important for students to be leading these demands because they are the main consumers on campus. Jeff McCann, SFSS university relations officer and member of the Fair Trade Committee, agrees with the importance of student involvement and suggests that students follow the example set by the “Justice League” of superheroes. “Students should be empowered to make statements about things that they want changed about the campus community,” he said. “Vocalize that and get that in the hands of somebody who can make a difference.”