A fair trade group calls for greater student involvement in societal change


Photo courtesy of Howard Lake, Flickr

Using fair trade is a step that educational institutions can take to prioritize sustainability. Ramapo created a fair trade initiative in fall 2018 as part of the college’s commitment to civic engagement.

Neriko Doerr, assistant professor of anthropology and international studies, hosted the first return meeting of the fair trade group on Tuesday, November 9 with the aim of creating new plans to establish fair trade in Ramapo.

According to Ramapo’s “Fair Trade in Ramapo: A Campus-Wide Project” page, the objective is twofold: education and the presence of fair trade products. Doerr and meeting attendees discussed options for the two routes.

“Fair Trade is a kind of movement to certify products that doesn’t involve, say, destruction of the environment or horrible working relationships,” Doerr says. “If, as consumers, we say no to cheap things that have a lot of bad effects in different parts of the world, then companies will be pushed to do a better job. “

Fairtrade products are not made in the country and their certification often makes the product more expensive, although it represents a different product quality. On a campus, it might be like ordering different office supplies or selling fair trade coffee in coffee shops.

Campuses can become Fair Trade Certified through Fair Trade campaigns by taking actions such as listing offices and catering, and passing Fair Trade resolutions. Students from more disciplines than environmental studies can be involved in the learning and help complete these steps.

“Fair trade involves various social issues – business ethics, labor relations, human rights, gender equality, environmental sustainability, public health, etc. – and is region and commodity specific,” says Ramapo’s website. “Building interdisciplinary and collaborative knowledge allows us to understand the need for and implementation of fair trade in a holistic way. “

During the meeting, several professors discussed how fair trade could be integrated into their spring programs. This could imply that students focus projects on statistics, civic engagement or sustainability around fair trade.

Professor Ashwani Vasishth notes how important it is for students to be aware of this initiative and play a leading role in the change. Through further education on the subject, students will be able to develop ideas on how to create concrete steps to have more Fair Trade products on campus and beyond after graduation.

Doerr and Vasishth hope that with awareness raising, student groups will connect with the fair trade group and find ways to engage their organizations through services, research or advertising.

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