• Bristol Fair Trade

University of Bath: South West Fair Trade Business Awards Spotlight

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

Euan Venters, Commercial Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, Junieth Maribel Leiva, a Fairtrade producer from Nicaragua and Louise Whitaker, Group Sustainability Manager, Bewley’s at the Fairtrade producer talk on campus

Ranked 6th in the UK by the Guardian University Guide and awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework, The University of Bath’s reputation speaks volumes. Established in 1966, the University is committed to delivering first class education in a variety of subject areas and has Fair Trade at its core. The University is dedicated to using and selling Fairtrade certified products and purchasing local and responsibly-sourced ingredients.

Sarah James, University of Bath Fairtrade Steering Group member, talks to us about the South West Fair Trade Business Awards and reflects on winning the award for best South West Fair Trade University two years in a row!

Our department looks after the accommodation, security, events, retail and hospitality at the University of Bath. We’ve been a Fairtrade University since 2009, using and selling Fairtrade products in our food and retail outlets wherever possible. We’re delighted to have won the gold award for Best South West Fair Trade University for two years running now.

For our department, ‘doing the right thing’ has always been important. Our customers expect it of us, and we strive to achieve and exceed their expectations. This is certainly the case with our approach to sustainability, whether it’s protecting the environment or using ethically sourced food in our outlets and catering. We’re proud to support and promote Fairtrade products to our customers. We have a Fairtrade Steering Group of staff and students who meet to report on sales, promotional activities and improve the University’s support for Fair Trade.

The University also has a dedicated Fairtrade Coordinator who oversees all activities and ensures progress is being made. All hot drinks served in our 11 campus food outlets are Fairtrade. We also stock a wide range of Fairtrade food, drinks, clothing and beauty products in our two shops. We host a range of events each year during Fairtrade Fortnight to raise awareness and engage students. This year’s events included quizzes, a Fairtrade food market, a talk from a Fairtrade producer and a virtual reality experience of working on a coffee farm in Kenya.

The Protect What Matters Crew members Athina, Mariana and Yiqing at our Fairtrade Virtual Reality film stand in the Students Union during Fairtrade Fortnight 2019

One of our key departmental objectives is to ‘protect what matters’. This includes using and promoting ethically sourced food products, such as Fairtrade. We have a Protect What Matters crew, a team of six students who are passionate about advocating sustainability and Fair Trade, to help us communicate the message to other students.

One of the greatest challenges of sustainable procurement, can be deciding if Fair Trade products are the most sustainable option over and above the local alternative. It’s rewarding to seek out as much local produce as we can, safe in the knowledge that products that have to be sourced from further afield are supporting Fair Trade supply chains and sustainable small-scale farming. We also consider packaging very carefully, as we prefer to use products that come in biodegradable or recyclable packaging.

In terms of communicating the values to customers, we’re always trying to explain to people what Fair Trade means. Many will recognise the Fairtrade mark, but not fully understand that their purchasing decisions can help towards improving the lives of those in developing countries. My tip for any organisation wanting to support Fair Trade through their work is to build it into your organisation’s culture. Embed it into your working objectives and involve stakeholders from all across your business, especially those that have a passion for it.

The highlight of the 2019 awards ceremony was winning Best South West Fair Trade University. It was very interesting to hear Nick Hewer, speak on why Fair Trade is so important to businesses and hear about his passion for trade justice for farmers and workers. It was also lovely, of course, to sample the many Fair Trade food delights on offer and hear about the great work that other local businesses do to support Fair Trade.

Next year our focus is to work more closely with the Students’ Union and our Protect What Matters students to increase Fair Trade knowledge and awareness amongst the student community. We would like to grow our newly created Protect What Matters Facebook page, as well as engage students by talking to them about Fair Trade at University events such as our Fresher’s Fair. We will also build on our work with local primary and secondary schools to teach children all about Fair Trade.

Sarah’s top Fair Trade product is: “That’s a difficult one as there are so many great products out there. Fairtrade dark chocolate is a winner as well as Fairtrade cafetière coffee. It’s a good pick me up in the morning!”

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