Coffee with a side of fairness: Laurier gets fair trade designation

Wilfrid Laurier University has earned a fair trade campus designation from Fairtrade Canada. It means products like coffee and chocolate sold on campus must offer farmers and producers fair wages, but the school also has to do outreach to teach students about what fair trade means.

Fair trade products like coffee and chocolate part of accreditation process

Coffee sold on Laurier's campus is 100 per cent fair trade. The school recently received a fair trade designation by Fairtrade Canada.

Students buying the survival elixir known as coffee at Wilfrid Laurier University can do so knowing that cup of joe is supporting the farmers and producers who created it.

The school has officially been designated a fair trade campus by Fairtrade Canada.

"When we talk to the student body about sustainability issues, food consistently is top of mind," Tyler Plante, outreach and program coordinator in Laurier's Sustainability Office, told CBC News.

"It's something that is very tangible because they need to eat every day and we drink a lot of coffee and that's one of the main focus areas of fair trade. That's really why we chose [a] fair trade campus as one of the avenues we'd go down," he said.

Outreach about fair trade needed

The designation was a year in the making, Plante said. It involved creating a fair trade committee, then taking inventory of all the food sold on campus – in particular coffee, tea and chocolate. Then, they had to meet minimum requirements: that 100 per cent of coffee sold on campus is fair trade, and that each food outlet had at least three fair trade tea options, and one fair trade chocolate option.

But along with ensuring the fair trade products are available to students, the school also has to make students aware of what fair trade means.

"We can have as much fair trade products on campus as we like, but unless people know it's there and what that means, we haven't really fulfilled our commitments," he said.

"We really appreciate the fact that this program is one where students can send a message with purchasing power. They make the decisions on what they buy on campus so if they want fair trade and they understand where that money goes and what the positive impacts that come from that are, then we're doing our job."
This sign on a thermos of Wilfrid Laurier coffee shows it is a fair trade product. (Wilfrid Laurier University)

'Just a start'

Corrie Bird, the marketing and communications manager with Aramark – the school's contracted food service provider – said students want fair trade products.

"Our students are passionate and knowledgeable about food when they arrive on our campuses," Bird said in a release. "We want to support and ignite this passion with the continued education and discussion of our fair trade practices."

Plante said there is co-operation across campus to ensure the requirements for certification are met, and they will be asking for feedback on what more they can do. That could mean anything from accessing fair trade bananas to fair trade Golden Hawks gear.

"It is just a start," he said.

To celebrate the new designation, the school is hosting an open house on Jan. 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at BYTE 75, the coffee shop in Lazaridis Hall in Waterloo.

There are about 20 schools with the designation, Fairtrade Canada says on its website. Laurier is the second in the area to be certified - the University of Guelph and Western University in London are also a fair trade campuses.


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