Fair Trade at UW Oshkosh
Why did UW Oshkosh decide to become fair trade?
UW Oshkosh has been committed to sustainability and greening the campus throughout this decade. We also affirm the responsibility of the university to take stands for social justice and ecological integrity. For instance, in 2002 we became one of a handful of campuses that officially endorsed the Earth Charter. Supporting fair trade is an extension of those commitments.
What was the process of becoming a fair trade university?
We started selling fair trade products and had our first Fair Trade Festival in 2005. In the fall of 2007 we started a campaign to become a Fair Trade University. This involved:
- shaping an initial proposal, based on the Fair Trade University criteria in the United Kingdom
- educating students, faculty and staff about fair trade and the proposal
- working with our dining services provider, Sodexo, to bring more fair trade to campus
- consulting with the administration concerning their request for proposals for the new dining services contract
- speaking with the Fair Trade Towns movement concerning the resolution (as there is no national Fair Trade University governing body)
- working with the University administration on the wording of the proposal
- revising the proposal based on the above conversations
- bringing the proposal to student groups and academic departments for their support
- bringing the proposal to the four governance groups: Faculty Senate, Senate of the Academic Staff, Classified Staff Advisory Council and Oshkosh Student Association, which was approved by early May of 2008 when they all voted to support the resolution
- sending the proposal to the University of Wisconsin legal department to make sure the proposal was appropriate—small changes were made (summer 2008)
- having the new wording re-approved by the four governance groups (late summer 2008); and
- the Chancellor declaring that we are a Fair Trade University (Sept. 2, 2008)
What are the characteristics of a Fair Trade University?
Since there is no governing body to supply a national standard in the U.S., right now it is up to individual universities to decide what the criteria are for a Fair Trade University. We developed our criteria by adapting the Fair Trade University guidelines in the United Kingdom to our particular situation. The guidelines in the U.K. are as follows:
1. Has a Fairtrade University Steering Group
2. Has a written Fairtrade Policy
3. Sells Fairtrade products in all outlets
4. Uses Fairtrade products at internal meetings and events
5. Campaigns for increased consumption of Fairtrade products on campus
Is there a governing body that bestows the status of Fair Trade University?
Fair Trade Colleges and Universities supports Fair Trade campaigns, decides on which campuses get Fair Trade status, and monitor those campuses to ensure the integrity and progress in their Fair Trade status.
Are there constraints in purchasing Fair Trade products?
Yes. In some cases, we may be legally bound to contracts with suppliers who do not have Fair Trade products. In other cases, certain types of Fair Trade products simply might not be available yet—there are more becoming available every year. And it might be that in a few cases a Fair Trade product is so much more expensive that its cost is prohibitive. This is why in our declaration we use the term “whenever possible.” We have to be realistic about constraints, otherwise you end up saying you will do what you really can’t. But at the same time we need to keep pushing not only ourselves but also our suppliers, and we have to avoid using the constraints as a rationalization for not doing what we can and should.
What are the costs associated with Fair Trade items on a large scale for the university?
Actually, the additional costs are not that much. Sodexho estimated that offering Fair Trade coffee at the student dining hall would cost students around $1.00 a year. Individual cups of coffee at satellite stations will be slightly more. As more Fair Trade products become available, other items may cost more. This is something we will have to monitor.