Raising consumer awareness on campus
Vendors and restaurants across campus are considering how their products are manufactured as McMaster implements a new fair trade policy on campus. The new policy requires all vendors serving coffee, tea or chocolate to make available, fair trade certified options for these products.
This fair trade certification process comes as a result of efforts by several groups on campus, including the McMaster Students Union (MSU).
The movement to certify the McMaster campus as fair trade began last spring when the University of British Columbia became the first campus to be certified as such.
Members of the McMaster chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) decided to push for the same certification at McMaster as a result of this initiative. They proposed the idea to the MSU and subsequently pitched the idea at the MSU’s 2011 General Assembly.
“We were definitely on board,” said Katie Ferguson, Vice President of Administration for the MSU. “It’s something that students really wanted.”
The MSU was responsible for ensuring that its two food vendors, the Union Market and TwelvEighty, met the requirements for certification.
“At Union Market we already offered the majority of our coffee as fair trade,” she said, as well as fair trade chocolate, leaving only tea as a point of concern.
As of Jan.1, the Union Market carries only fair trade coffee along with a selection of certified teas and chocolate. The majority of products did not need to be changed to meet fair trade standards.
Along with the MSU and EWB, McMaster’s Office of Sustainability, Hospitality Services, SRA members and other interested groups have also been involved in the effort.
McMaster’s Hospitality Services is doing its part to ensure that it meets fair trade requirements, while other independent vendors and cafes on campus are also following the trend.
On-campus franchises such as Tim Horton’s are exempt from fair trade regulations.
Ferguson noted that the availability and price of products and services at Union Market and TwelvEighty are not expected to change because of this process. “We’re not offering any less than we were offering previously,” she said.
Along with making fair trade products available, the certification effort further aims to spread awareness of the choices students have when purchasing products and the social issues related to fair trade initiatives.
An application was submitted to an independent fair trade certification board to recognize McMaster as an official fair trade campus. It is currently under review and is scheduled to be determined later this month.
Ferguson, however, is confident: “Regardless of whether the [certification] comes through this year or not ... I can see this being something that starts to create a little bit of buzz around campus.”