Our journey to Fair Trade

Fairtrade Fortnight brings together thousands of campaigners, shoppers, students, and businesses in a show of support for the farmers behind our food on the front line of the climate crisis. These farmers are often exploited and badly paid. 

Read on to hear from Rose Rooney, the University’s Circular Economy and EMS Sustainability Manager, as she shares her insights into the importance of embedding Fair Trade values into the University’s ethos, as well as her advice to students wanting to be more involved this Fairtrade Fortnight (21 February – 6 March 2022). 

Can you tell us a bit more about your role? 

I manage our circular economy and environmental management system (ISO 14001). I also lead within the team on sustainable procurement and sustainable food, and Fair Trade overlaps between these two areas.  

Why are Fair Trade values important to Bristol University? 

Bristol University has always had strong roots within sustainability and a large Sustainability team. We’ve been an early adopter of various sustainability policies and practices, with Fair Trade being one of those initiatives of interest. Fairtrade is a great framework for reducing negative impacts on the environment and on the community, both local and global. 

Over the years, we’ve developed our Fair Trade offering far beyond just basic commodities (such as teas and coffee) and into other areas. For example, our print serves team sources fairly traded products for promotional gifts and events, and we’re currently in the process of tending for Fair Trade workwear for university staff. This is just a broad overview and there is of course a lot more work to do! 

Bristol University has Fairtrade accreditation. What does this involve? 

We have a subscription to the National Union of Students (NUS) which administers Fairtrade accreditation on behalf of Fairtrade.org. We subscribe to the NUS online workbook, which features different criteria for their different levels of accreditation. Once we completed the required criteria, we were awarded bronze level Fairtrade accreditation, which we received in 2021. The next audit of our accreditation will take place in 2023. 

This accreditation was achieved due to the support of several stakeholder groups around the university. We have a Fairtrade steering group, led by Rob Logan (our Director of Procurement), which brings the university’s senior management into the decision-making process. We also work with the University’s Fairtrade Network, a student-led group, which has been key to the lobbying process, along with Bristol University’s Student Union. 

What Fair Trade initiatives has Bristol University run? 

Many of our engagements happen during Fairtrade Fortnight, where we offer students and staff the opportunity to learn more about Fair Trade and purchase Fair Trade tea, coffee, and chocolate. We also host pop-up events to provide information and encourage students to pledge support towards the Fair Trade mandate. We also promote Fair Trade products throughout the year, for example, encouraging students to switch to Fair Trade chocolate during Easter, and our catering team offers Fair Trade food and drinks. 

How can people get more involved with Fair Trade? 

We encourage staff and students to make more conscious purchasing decisions by looking out for the various labels that are used to certify fairly traded products. We also have lots of engagements planned for this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight such as a Fairtrade Film Screening at Senate House and a Fair Trade hamper giveaway.  

The University of Bristol works to promote ethical and sustainable supply chains across all its services, from its cafes to retail at the Student Union. If you’re interested in learning more or would be keen to offer your suggestions, please reach out to our Sustainability or Procurement teams. 

Do you have a favourite Fair Trade product? 

Oh absolutely, who doesn’t love Tony’s Chocolonely? They’re a fantastic brand and I love their messaging. 

And finally, where can anyone interested in Fair Trade learn more? 

You can learn more about Fair Trade at Bristol University via our website. The Fairtrade Foundation also has some great resources on its website. 

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