Woman picking plants in field

UTM celebrates fair trade designation

Blake Eligh

It’s official—your morning cuppa’ or afternoon chocolate break has a global benefit, as U of T Mississauga becomes a designated fair trade campus. The announcement, which kicked off Fair Trade Week at UTM, was celebrated over fair trade beverages and snacks at the first Town Hall of the academic year on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

“We are so pleased to achieve the fair trade Campus designation, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because fair trade has successfully allowed us to open the conversation up about sustainability and working towards a better world,” says Vicky Jezierski, director of UTM’s hospitality and retail services.

“Participating in fair trade practices ensures that suppliers receive fair market prices for their products and reduces the number of steps in the supply chain to ensure a larger portion of those profits go directly to the suppliers,” says Sean McHugh, executive director of the Canadian Fair Trade Network. “This helps farmers and artisans to earn a living wage, promotes environmentally sustainable pricing and empowers producers who are usually too small to compete with world-wide corporations.”

Fair trade teas, coffees and chocolates are now served at non-branded food outlets across campus, including Coleman Commons and the North Side Bistro in Deerfield Hall. Fair trade chocolates can be found at the UTM Book Store, in vending machines, at The Duck Stop and at various locations around campus. Starbucks also offers fair trade espresso and teas, and campus catering services now serves exclusively fair trade teas and coffees at events.

“As a post-secondary institution, we feel a responsibility to students to make sustainability an everyday focus of their lives so that, when they enter into their careers, they can act with environmental integrity and make ethical decisions that promote community and benefit society as a whole,” says Andrea De Vito, assistant director, hospitality and retail services.

Jezierski and De Vito say the response to the designation process has been overwhelmingly positive. “In 2014, when UTM decided to offer fair trade products on our campus, we heard comments like ‘I am very passionate about Fair Trade, and I’m so happy that the university will be focusing on Fair Trade, too’ and ‘Fair Trade at UTM has been a long time coming’ made us realize that the UTM community shared our passion – we just needed to start the conversation.”

Although the designation process is complete, the work is far from over. There will be an annual review process to track the success of the program, and the department is helping to raise funds to assist students participating in the year’s Global Experience Guatemala trip, which connects UTM students with fair trade coffee farmers in South America. Chartwells has committed to using fair trade bananas, when available. They are also working with Camino, a fair trade supplier of chocolate and spices to source a commonly used spice, like cinnamon, from a fair trade supplier for use in campus kitchens. “Fair Trade, specifically ethical sourcing that gives back to the growers, means a lot to us as a food service provider for university students,” says Michael Jeronimo, Chartwells’ General Manager.

“Fair Trade is not just about providing products but about educating students about the social and economic issues from around the globe,” says Jezierski. “We hope that this conversation will lead to making and celebrating more positive changes on our campus.”

UTM’s Fair Trade Week runs from September 26 to 30. Campus events include a bake sale, special prices on fair trade beverages, an information table in the TFC and a fair trade brownie baking workshop with Chef Sandeep Kachroo on Sept. 29.