SFU FairTrade is leading the charge for ethical campus consumption

SFU FairTrade ambassador Kylee Pocrnich explains their work on campus

This is a photo of an assortment of vegetables on a table.
PHOTO: Ratul Ghosh / Unsplash

By: Lauren Ord, SFU Student

In today’s world, ethically sourced products are not the norm for most goods purchased in global markets. Most products are produced through poor labour conditions and lead to environmental degradation and equity disparities. This is the result of unfair trade that disproportionately benefits large corporations rather than individual workers providing hard labour. According to SFU FairTrade ambassador program coordinator, Kylee Pocrnich, “Education and raising awareness campaigns are some of the most important” components of combating unfair trade practices.

FairTrade is an organization that ensures products are produced ethically and sustainably by supporting farmers and producers in the developing countries through a set of FairTrade standards. The FairTrade standards guarantee fair wages and equitable revenue for products, despite global market fluctuations. The FairTrade premium is an additional sum of money that producers receive to spend anywhere within their communities, including schools, infrastructure, and family support. FairTrade producers are also granted increased autonomy to make meaningful decisions about their work.

The Peak spoke with Pocrnich to understand more about the program’s role in educating and raising awareness about FairTrade products for students. Pocrnich explained SFU’s FairTrade program “has made [them] a leader for fair trade on campus and in the entire FairTrade movement in Canada.” SFU is Canada’s first and only Gold certified FairTrade campus. This certification signifies an active FairTrade Ambassador program for students, participation in international FairTrade conferences, and the availability of numerous FairTrade products on campus.

Renaissance Cafe and Blenz at SFU both use FairTrade-certified coffee. “After years of having delicious fair trade coffee on campus from Renaissance and Blenz, for example, I hope students remember to pick up FairTrade coffee at their local grocery store.”

The SFU FairTrade Ambassador program prioritizes equity and sustainability. “The SFU community has proven time and time again that we are a group that is passionate about environmental justice and treating people fairly, and the SFU FairTrade program is just another way we can reach these goals,” said Pocrnich.   

According to Pocrnich, “The best part about the SFU FairTrade ambassador program is that it is whatever the current students want it to be.” The program’s purpose is to educate and raise awareness about fair trade, and students can choose how to achieve this through participating in one or multiple teams including events, research/survey, education, and social media. 

One of Pocrnich’s favourite teams is the education team. This team educates SFU and local elementary students about the FairTrade movement. “After every presentation, the kids ask the most insightful questions, and it warms my heart to see the impact we are having on these kids.” This experience has allowed Pocrnich to strengthen her presentation, public speaking, and organizational skills. Working with any of these teams provides amazing opportunities to learn new things and develop numerous transferable skills.

Additionally, the SFU FairTrade Ambassador program offers many travel opportunities through international conferences. This year, Pocrnich is heading to Montréal for the conference. The Ambassador program also allows students to travel to countries where fair trade programs are operating to gain perspective and understanding of fair trade production. This includes Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. 

Students can support FairTrade with a variety of small actions that make a big difference in ethical and sustainable production, according to Pocrnich. “All it takes is swapping out their regular coffee, chocolate, fruit, sugar, tea, etc., for a FairTrade-certified brand to make a real difference in producers’ lives.”

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