What did Fair Trade ever do for us!
Vikki Harris is the Sustainability Engagement Lead at the University of the West of England. UWE Bristol and The Students’ Union at UWE have gained external recognition for their efforts to improve their sustainability performance across the board, consecutively winning several awards in the South West Fair Trade Business Awards.
Across Fairtrade Fortnight 2020, here at UWE Bristol we have been counting the benefits of Fairtrade!
As long-time supporters for many years, the University and Students’ Union have joined forces and made it their mission to promote Fair Trade and to provide students and staff with the opportunity make an ethical choice when spending money on campus. As a result, since 2012 we have increased sales from £78,000 to well over £1 million!
We know that Fair Trade makes the university a better place in so many ways:
- It helps students to be aware of their place in the world and their responsibilities as global citizens. It really does provide a practical illustration of ‘Good Economics’, one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, to which UWE Bristol is a signatory.
- For students staff and visitors, our support of Fair Trade makes the university feel like a place people want to study work and visit. Put simply they feel that it is a good thing to do!
- Fair Trade helps our Hospitality and Procurement teams to meet their Sustainability plan targets for ethical purchasing, and similarly the SU, to meet the demands for ethical products by our students.
- Fair Trade has boosted the morale of Hospitality and Retail staff as a result of winning awards at the South West Fairtrade Business awards. As the ones that promote and sell the products, some have received specific training and met Fairtrade producers from Nicaragua through BLINC (the Bristol Link with Nicaragua).
- Fair Trade helps us to connect with the City of Bristol through the Bristol Fair Trade network and to influence the Higher Education sector as a whole through the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges.
What we didn’t expect
We didn’t expect the scale of enthusiasm and support among students and staff - once people hear about Fairtrade and understand how it works, they get on board.
Nor did we anticipate the potential for work on Fair Trade in our teaching, which has been steadily growing to include more subject areas from Film to Events Management, from Foundation year to Masters students.
Nor did we foresee that we could have a wider impact within the Fair Trade community: that through working a large academic institution we have been able to critique FT and to provide practical feedback and opportunities to outside organisations. For example, we have run focus groups and provided feedback to the Fairtrade Foundation and the Bristol Fairtrade Network; we have raised Procurement issues and lobbied the NUS to trial a new meal deal containing Fair Trade products.
We did not anticipate that the South West FT awards would act as a catalyst for further action, would give a higher organisational focus on our work and would provide a vehicle to share good practice.
And so for this Fairtrade Fortnight, we will be asking people to buy more products, to switch to Fair Trade staples like sugar and tea, chocolate and wine, to have a coffee and try a new Fair Trade biscuit in our cafes; and it's just as important to get informed and to talk about what Fair Trade means for the producers and how it is working to combat climate change and support women’s’ empowerment.
For all of us here, Fairtrade Fortnight is a gift: it is a chance to express our common humanity and to make a choice to make a difference to people across the globe.
Join UWE at this years South West Business Awards on Friday 15th May, hosted by the wonderful Briony Williams from The Great British Bake Off! Applications are now live and close on the 3rd April. There is no better way to celebrate championing Fair Trade in the workplace whilst meeting like-minded people on a fantastic day out.