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UW Oshkosh became the 1st Fair Trade university in the US in 2008.

Discover what the designation means for UWO and why we decided to go for it.

As part of our fair trade commitment, we:

  • sell fair trade products wherever possible (check the Corner Store, Bookstore, & Mi Taza satellite cafes!)
  • use fair trade products at internal events (eg coffee & tea at catered events)
  • educate campus about fair trade through media, events, class curricula
  • have a committee made up of students, faculty, and non-academic staff
  • have a written resolution and procurement policy
  • promote the international fair trade campaign and its principle

Why did UW Oshkosh decide to become fair trade?

We have been committed to sustainability throughout the past two decades! We also recognize our responsibility to take a stand for social justice and ecological integrity. Supporting fair trade is just one 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 a proposal based on existing criteria and with the help of Fair Trade Towns, presenting it to the campus community and administration for feedback, lots of revisions, legal checks, approval by all 4 campus governance groups over the summer of 2008 and finally an announcement of our fair trade status by the chancellor on September 2, 2008. We even received a congratulatory letter from Senator Herb Kohl!

Throughout the process we also educated the campus community about fair trade and worked with our dining services provider, Sodexo, to bring more fair trade to campus and set goals.

Is there a governing body that bestows the status of Fair Trade University?

Fair Trade Colleges and Universities supports Fair Trade campaigns, decides which campuses get Fair Trade status, and monitors 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, although 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 we'd end up saying we will do the impossible. At the same time, we must keep pushing not only ourselves but also our suppliers to avoid using these constraints as an excuse for not doing whatever we can.

What are the costs to the university?

There are no fees to participate in the Fair Trade Colleges & Universities program, but someone on the ground at UWO has to do the legwork so we hire interns, creating student jobs right on campus! As for ordering fair trade on a large scale, it's actually not that much. Sodexo estimated that offering Fair Trade coffee at the student dining hall would cost students around an additional $1.00 total per year. Individual cups of coffee at satellite stations may be slightly more, but some of those costs are also internalized by dining services. As more Fair Trade products become available, other items may have more of a cost difference. This is something we will consider & constantly evaluate. Ultimately, we believe that if paying a few cents more each time you buy a fair trade item makes the world a more equitable place, we should all make that investment.

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