We may think that foods like bananas and coffee – being so natural – are made and distributed with humane practices. But everything is not as it may seem. Many of the products we consume today are processed in factories in underdeveloped countries – in factories with workers who labor in unsafe and hazardous conditions, as was the case in Bangladesh in 2013 when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, killing thousands.
Since then, the question of where products originate has been a topic of discussion and with it a new phrase has made its way into the lexicon of many: fair trade. We know what it means to be fair and we know what trade is. So what is fair trade?
Fair Trade is the practice of selling and distributing products manufactured or grown by individuals in foreign countries who are paid fairly. Instead of working in sweatshops and living on wages far below those of the common minimum wage, workers are paid a reasonable income, are given more opportunities for advancement, work in safe environments, and are given financial assistance when needed.
Colleges and universities in the U.S. have taken the initiative to gain more knowledge on these practices and have successfully implemented fair trade options on their campuses.
Cabrini College is one of these colleges and universities. In June 2011, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) awarded Cabrini College and Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia a $14,000 grant in order for them to further their efforts to implement fair trade in their schools and spread the importance of this system. After much student advocacy the Cabrini College joined forces with Sodexo, the College’s dining services provider, to provide fair trade options like coffee, chocolate, sugar, bananas, teas, quinoa, and rice in the campus dining locations.
By November 2013, Cabrini College had been recognized as one of 17 colleges and universities nationwide to hold a fair trade status. The College now offers a course that focuses on educating students on the dynamics of fair trade.
On your next grocery store run, look for a fair trade logo somewhere on the packaging of the products you purchase so as to ensure that what you are purchasing was made or grown fairly. Either logo will contain the phrases “Fair Trade Certified” or simply “Fair Trade International.” But, beware of companies who claim to be providers of fair trade, as some may only offer a single line of a fair trade option compared to the many other unethically made lines of products they offer.
Purchasing fair trade options and encouraging others to do the same will ultimately lead companies to use this method and guarantee that there is fairness among employers and the workers who do so much for so little. ~ submitted by Danielle Perez, Cabrini College student and communications intern