Steering towards Fair Trade

Writer’s note: A version of this article was first published in Grapeshot Magazine Issue 2, 2013: Comedy.

Significant changes to the Macquarie University Fair Trade Policy were made in February this year. The new policy lists a series of achievements that have been made by the university. These include asking suppliers to provide Fair Trade options where possible, serving Fair Trade foods at all university functions, such as Open Day and graduations, and Initiating a Fair Trade Action Group to campaign the use of Fair Trade goods throughout campus. The policy seeks to outline the university’s commitment to buying and selling a range of Fair Trade products at its retail outlets, and to encouraging students and staff to think before they buy.

By 2014 Macquarie University hopes to have 80 per cent of all university administrative units using Fair Trade certified tea and coffee during functions. In retail outlets 50 per cent of all product lines will have Fair Trade alternatives whilst 100 per cent of the coffee, tea and hot chocolate sold in all food and beverage outlets will be Fair Trade.

Fair Trade is defined within the university’s policy as “products produced in an ethically responsible manner. That is, those who produce the products are paid a fair price for the work undertaken.” The university wishes to express its clear support of sustainable and ethical practices.

Nick Opperman is Chair to the Fair Trade Steering Group (FTSG). A member of Campus Life, Opperman was asked to lead the group in 2010. The group started in 2008 when student Dionne Wong set up a coffee cart called the ‘Hippie Cart’, which sold Fair Trade drinks and food products. Opperman says, “The move was supported by U@MQ (now Campus Life). We wanted to make ourselves a Fair Trade university.”

This was achieved in 2009 when Macquarie University became jointly the first Fair Trade certified university in Australia. “To be a Fair Trade certified organisation the university pays a fee of $132 dollars a year.” The Macquarie University Sustainability Strategy states “Not only does accreditation help build community awareness about the inequalities in international trade, but it helps to ensure people will make socially responsible choices with their buying power.” Opperman adds “it ensures that we tackle poverty and fair working conditions through ethical purchasing practices.”

The FTSG has been successful in achieving numerous goals in its quest for ethical practices across campus. “All the university-owned outlets supply Fair Trade products,” says Opperman. These outlets include the Mac Shop, Marxine’s Café and Crunch Café.  There are over 50 Fair Trade product lines available including tea and coffee, chocolate, clothing, bags and sports gear.

The Mac Shop even boasts a dedicated Fair Trade section. Manager Lawrence Pignone says, “The Mac Shop range [includes] Fair Trade bags, wallets and purses. We also … sell premium chocolate from Heart of Chocolate, tea and coffee. These products sell particularly well but with more exposure and educating customers, students and staff about the benefits of purchasing Fair Trade products the range will turnover quicker.”

The FTSC’s next strategy is to encourage all other retail tenants to supply Fair Trade goods. “Other companies, such as Pie Face, are working towards implementing fair-trade options as part of their menus” says Opperman. Currently Pie Face offers only Fair Trade decaffeinated coffee. The new policy outlines that all suppliers have been asked to provide Fair Trade options where feasible. Where it is not possible companies must do so when it becomes feasible.

Opperman encourages students and staff to “keep an eye out for various Fair Trade events around campus during Fair Trade Fortnight [4– 19 May] and in August for Macfest.” He also recommended that you “ask for Fair Trade Coffee [the] next time [you] buy a cup on campus.”

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