A fair deal for all

The Fairtrade movement continues to gain momentum across the higher education sector. Hannah Oakman finds out more

The Fairtrade movement continues to gain momentum across the university sector and student population. Hannah Oakman spoke to Kate Jones, education campaigns manager at Fairtrade, to find out more

How does the Fairtrade brand work within the UK higher education sector? 

Kate Jones: ‘Fairtrade works with higher education partners in a number of ways. Universities across the UK can commit to becoming a Fairtrade University – one in which the students and staff make a commitment to supporting Fairtrade. This includes ensuring Fairtrade products are available in on-site cafes, restaurants and shops wherever possible, and raising awareness of Fairtrade and the benefits it brings to producers in developing countries.

‘The Fairtrade Universities scheme was started in 2003 and there are currently 173 Fairtrade universities and colleges across the UK. Oxford Brookes University became the first to gain the status in June 2003, and celebrated a decade of being a Fairtrade University this year.

‘Fairtrade also works with a number of contract catering companies, many of which supply to universities and commit to using certain Fairtrade products.’ 

Is the education sector a growth consumer group for you?  

KJ: ‘We see education as a key area of growth; both for sales and growing the future of Fairtrade consumers.

Our university scheme grows every year so we would expect demand to grow with this. Just this month, the IGD revealed shoppers under the age of 35 are more likely than their older counterparts to shop ethically, showing just how important university students are to us.’

Why do Fairtrade products appeal to the student market? 

KJ: ‘The Fairtrade mark is the most widely recognised ethical label in the world, with awareness in the UK currently at 77%. More consumers than ever are concerned about the provenance of their food and this includes students too. There are now more than 4,500 Fairtrade products available to buy in the UK, with everything from chocolate and cotton to gold and olive oil, so the range for students to purchase from is enormous.

‘Most importantly, however, is that by buying Fairtrade products, students know the farmer who produced them will be getting a fair price for his work, as well as an additional Fairtrade premium to spend in his community.

‘The high level of recognition of the Fairtrade Mark means that, through their cafes, restaurants and shops, universities can communicate their commitment to sustainability to consumers across an ever increasing range of products, allowing students to make informed choices.’

Do you have any new developments planned for working in education?   

KJ: ‘We are currently concentrating on expanding our schools scheme – we now have more than 1,000 Fairtrade schools in the UK, and we hope that, due to this, an increasing number of university students will have a good grounding in Fairtrade, taking it further.’

Which area of the food and drink market do you think will show real growth for Fairtrade products?

KJ: ‘As consumers are becoming more conscious about what and how they consume, Fairtrade products continue to grow. Following the horsemeat scandal, people want to know where their food has come from and, in the case of Fairtrade, that the people who have grown it have been given a fair deal. Products like wine, chocolate and coffee are all growing. And we hope our fortnight campaign will help us grow bananas too.’

With your major events planned for 2014, how can universities become involved? 

KJ: ‘2014 is an exciting year for us – not only do we have Fairtrade Fortnight, (25 February to 9 March) but it also marks 20 years since the first Fairtrade certified products were made available in the UK.

‘Fairtrade Fortnight 2014 is about creating conditions for a fairer banana trade. Bananas are the UK’s favourite fruit, but they are sold so cheaply that many of the farmers and workers who produce them are being trapped in a cycle of poverty. We want to change that by engaging businesses and consumers to ensure producers get a fair share of the value. Universities can support the campaign in dozens of ways – whether through their catering departments, who can promote the Fairtrade products on sale, or by the students themselves, by raising awareness and holding Fairtrade events.’

 

What is a Fairtrade University?

Essentially, it’s one where students and staff make a commitment to supporting Fairtrade. This includes ensuring Fairtrade products are available in on-site cafes, restaurants and shops wherever possible, and raising awareness of Fairtrade and the benefits it brings to producers in developing countries.

To gain Fairtrade status, universities and colleges must achieve five goals: creating a Fairtrade policy for staff and students; making sure Fairtrade products, including food and cotton, are available in campus shops and cafes; making sure Fairtrade products are served at meetings/events hosted by the university and Student Union (eg. tea, coffee and sugar); running campaigns on campus to increase the understanding of Fairtrade; and establishing a Fairtrade steering group, with representatives from across the student body, university staff and catering and procurement departments.

 

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