U of C a step away from fair trade

The University of Calgary was slated to receive Fair Trade Campus (FTC) status last year. But a new stakeholder was recently added, and so far, it has yet to live up to FTC standards, postponing the U of C receiving FTC status.

There are three FTC stakeholders on campus: the administration, Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Association. Both the administration and SU have complied with fair trade standards. The GSA has not.

The Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN) works with universities to encourage them to sell fair trade items. CFTN board of governors non-regional representative Kelly James said the GSA has not met FTC standards since being added as a stakeholder last month.

“The administration signed on to meet Fair Trade Campus standards, and then the SU also signed on to meet those standards and we had met those standards. The Graduate Students’ Association, they haven’t met the standards,” James said. “That means they have to be serving fair trade coffee and they have to have fair trade tea options available at the grad lounge, which they don’t.”

Stakeholders have to meet standards in three categories — availability, visibility and committee — to get FTC status.

For example, the administration is responsible for the products Chartwells offers. Since Chartwells offers fair trade coffees and teas, administration meets FTC availability standards. Third-party food providers like Good Earth do not apply.

Fair Trade products have to meet environmental and social standards before they are certified. These standards reflect environmental sustainability, working conditions and ethical harvesting.

Executive director of ancillary services Voula Cocolakis said they are working to get the GSA in line.

“The requirements for the designation were changed this year. We were advised, just as we were getting ready, that the GSA also has to comply,” Cocolakis said. “This is news to us and we’re just working through it. No roadblock at all.”

James said that while the GSA does not meet FTC requirements, it’s only a matter of time before they do.

“It’s not a reflection of them being uncooperative. It’s a reflection of the standards changing,” James said.

GSA president Sarah Akierman said they are looking into fair trade options for the Last Defence Lounge.

“We are aware of and fully encourage the Fair Trade Campus initiative and are in the process of researching supplier options for fair trade coffee and tea,” Akierman said. “We want to not only align with our strategic goals, but to bring our customers the best quality product we can while being socially responsible.”

According to CFTN, fair trade products do not cost more than products without fair trade certification. James said quality dictates price, not its certification.

The SU offers fair trade products at many MacHall vendors including the Den, Black Lounge and Stör. Stör offers a Cadbury fair trade chocolate bar. SU vice-president operations and finance Eric Termuende said the SU exceeds the standards set out by FTC.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure that we’re holding up our end of the bargain. And it’s not an obligation, it’s a choice. But for a cause like this, obviously we want to jump on board,” Termuende said.

While there is no deadline to meet these standards, Cocolakis hopes the U of C can receive FTC status over the summer.

When standards are met, the U of C will join the ranks of seven other Canadian universities.

The U of C’s FTC committee will meet next week to discuss how to bring the GSA in line with FTC standards.

“Right now, the only thing we need to do is meet as a committee and work with the GSA to help them meet these standards. And then we’ll be in a place where we can write the application,” James said.

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