THE FAIR TRADE MOVEMENT is growing in Canada, and not just in the major city centres — like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal — where you'd expect. Individuals from all walks of life, including consumers, retailers, purchasing managers, and other community leaders, recognize the need to support socially responsible products sourced from developing countries.
Fair trade labelling initiatives provide a market-based tool that allows businesses and consumers to identify and support products that have been produced and traded in a responsible manner. The financial safety net and other support empowers producers to earn the lives they deserve.
Last September, students at Dalhousie University, as part of the National Fair Trade Campus Week coordinated by the Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN) and Fairtrade Canada, held a number of awareness events that included a presentation by Canada Research Chair Gavin Fridell, discussion sessions, trivia activities, awareness tables, and a number of sample products donated by fair trade companies.
Dustin Johnson, a member of the CFTN and the DSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, in reflecting on the event said, "The events provided an opportunity to connect with other groups on campus, such as the Dalhousie Student Union Sustainability Office and allowed more students to become involved in our work."
Students weren't the only ones involved. The campus administration's Office of Sustainability, which previously hosted Green Week on campus, also tweeted daily trivia questions to students, encouraging them to enter draws for fair trade gift packages.
"Through social media and events held in a variety of locations, we were able to reach a much broader variety of people than many of our previous events," said Johnson. The activity also catalyzed lasting engagement, as engineering students continued to host a fair trade coffee and tea booth throughout the rest of the term.
FAIR TRADE CAMPUS DESIGNATION
Students and administration at Dalhousie are currently working to achieve a Fair Trade Campus designation from Fairtrade Canada. "The CFTN has supported us through advice and materials such as Fair Trade Magazine and helping to facilitate chocolate donations from fair trade companies," said Johnson. "The CFTN has helped us make connections with many groups and businesses across Atlantic Canada that support fair trade and has begun to encourage a new fair trade campus group at Saint Mary's University."
Twenty-six campuses participated in Canada's first Fair Trade Campus Week, which received coverage in several community and campus papers. During the celebration, three new Fair Trade Campus designations were announced, including McGill University, Brock University, and Selkirk College. Edmonton also announced its status as a Fair Trade City. Each designation represents a collaborative effort among community, business, and administrative leaders in making commitments to the availability and awareness of fair trade.
As more Canadians look to take up the cause, the Canadian Fair Trade Network, in two short years, has been instrumental in bringing advocates together and providing resources and guidance to ensure fair trade movement continues to grow.
WHY FAIR TRADE? SOCIAL INEQUALITY & THE GAP
Social inequality is a growing concern for developing communities, where poverty can restrict access to proper living standards, education, and health care. While global businesses reap profits from internationally traded profits, those that work to produce many of the raw inputs for these products risk being taken advantage of. In Canada, there is a significant gap in the supply of fair trade products and the awareness and demand among businesses and consumers.
WHAT IS BEING DONE BY THE FAIR TRADE NETWORK
Fair trade labelling initiatives provide a market-based tool that allows businesses and consumers to identify and support products that have been produced and traded in a socially responsible manner. The financial safety net and other support empowers producers to earn the lives they deserve.
Many community groups across Canada have taken on the responsibility to support awareness and availability of fair trade products, and the CFTN was formed to aid the coordination, learning, and sharing of resources — leading to the designation of Fair Trade Towns and Campuses that represent significant co-operative support for fair trade.
THE FUTURE OF FAIR TRADE
Fair trade ensures producer groups are paid a fair price for their products. This allows them to ensure proper working conditions and to pay hired labourers a fair wage. Additional premiums go to support business and community development to ensure long-term growth that is based on resources that have been earned.
Fair trade has offered a means for collaboration on a range of issues related to international trade. Producer groups are heavily involved with product certification and verification, and consumers are learning more about the means and circumstances in which their products have been produced and traded.
Due to the growing support for fair trade, we’re seeing a greater range of fair trade products available in restaurants, in cafes, and on store shelves. As more groups take on the role of communicating issues related to fair trade, we’re seeing more coverage in local and national media coverage.
Written by Bryce Tarling.
Bryce Tarling works for the CFTN and helped coordinate communications and activities for Fair Trade Campus Week.