Fair Trade learning day brews dialogue


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Just a few months after the opening of a predominantly fair trade Starbucks at SFU Burnaby, Sustainable SFU, Engineers Without Borders and Dining Services invited students to attend a Fair Trade learning day at Canada’s first of its kind location.

The event was held in the Starbucks itself last Tuesday, where students and Starbucks staff learned more about the fair trade initiative while enjoying complimentary refreshments. Guests also received dining services sporks and a gift certificate for a free fair trade coffee on location.

For executive director of the Canadian Fair Trade Network, Sean McHugh, the most important goal of the day was education and dialogue: “People kind of get lost in the complexity of it all, but at the end of the day it’s really about starting a conversation about where a product is coming from.”

McHugh was joined by Dan Traviss, manager of dining services at SFU, who organized the day with specific objectives in mind. He told The Peak, “We wanted to do two things: open it to the community but also have staff training for our dining services staff, teach them more about fair trade.”

The two fielded questions from dining services staff and Starbucks customers, most of which were about how to explain the idea of fair trade to customers and friends.

“Fair trade kind of exists as an idea, or a concept, something that someone generally likes to support but doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity to think about,” said McHugh. “This is great today to kind of discuss some of that. The history, where things are at in Canada, internationally, and just how important this Starbucks is in Canada.”

This Starbucks is the first in Canada to offer fair trade options, and it has already achieved success in that 80% of espresso beverage sales come from fair trade products. Although the myth exists that fair trade products might be more expensive than non-fair trade, there is no price differential at Starbucks.

Overall, Traviss and McHugh were pleased with the day. “It was fantastic. We did basically four rounds with the different staff from Starbucks, and [there was] a ton of interest,” McHugh said. “They were definitely more up to speed on stuff than I had anticipated, which was fantastic.”

“It’s a growing movement,” explained McHugh. “There’s interest from all the universities now that Starbucks has come to the table and is excited to be working with [SFU].”

Traviss echoed McHugh’s sentiments, concluding,“This is a pilot project. Our hope is that it does well here, which it really has so far, so it can roll out to other campuses.”

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