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Joanna Wall has published 9 articles

Going bananas for Fairtrade

St John's and Brasenose consider applying for Fairtrade status
Joanna Wall on Thursday 3rd March 2011
Photograph: Hannah Bond

A national Fairtrade Fortnight initiative has prompted debate in colleges, and several JCRs are now working towards ‘Fairtrade status’. </p>

While Oxford Brookes became the world’s first university to attain Fairtrade status in October 2003, and Oxford itself has held Fairtrade City status for over five years, Oxford University has not yet achieved Fairtrade status. The University would need over two thirds of colleges to conform to Fairtrade Foundation rules to qualify. </p>

Alastair Marsh, OUSU Environment and Ethics Officer, said, “Oxford as a whole is a sizeable Fairtrade consumer.</p>

“OUSU has a Fairtrade policy, and we believe that using more Fairtrade products wherever possible in Common Rooms and Colleges/PPHs is a good practice.”</p>

Commenting on the use of Fairtrade products, Marsh said, “Of course, we all know the world is a very complicated place, and there are certain features about the Fairtrade system that are less than ideal.</p>

“However Fairtrade is a good place for us to start: all it requires is reading a label and making a conscious choice.”</p>

St John’s is one of several colleges considering an application for Fairtrade status. A motion proposed by  the JCR Environment & Ethics Officers, Ed Love and Shaahin Pishbin, stated, “The JCR should have a Fairtrade Policy as it raises awareness and commits future years of students to the cause of advancing the use of Fairtrade products, and contributes to the College achieving ‘Fairtrade status’.”</p>

Commenting on the motion, Love said, “With this we hope to have a platform from which to begin presenting changes and helping them being made when working with College with respect to sourcing and supplying new products.</p>

“St John’s College already sources and supplies some Fairtrade products for its food provision in hall and in the College bar. However the steps have not yet been taken to make a serious application for ‘Fairtrade Status’.”</p>

Concerns have raised about the issue of financing a move to Fairtrade as some Fairtrade products are more expensive. However,  Love points out  that, “as currently only a small proportion of food that is provided in hall, in the bar and at meetings can be replaced with Fairtrade alternatives...the increased cost or indeed decreased volume should not be significant.”</p>

 Brasenose JCR is also working towards Fairtrade status. Roberta Iley, the college’s JCR Environment & Ethics Representative, said, “Fairtrade Fortnight provides the perfect arena for these ethical issues to be brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds.</p>

 “Personally, I think it is most important to get people engaged in the issue – thinking about what you buy and where it comes from is not restricted to, but can be started with discussions on Fairtrade.”</p>

As part of the nationwide Fairtrade Fortnight, the Oxford Fairtrade Coalition plan to wrap Fairtrade bunting around Oxford’s landmarks. </p>

There will also be a Fairtrade Fair in the Town Hall on Tuesday of 8th Week, which is set to include a fashion show and cocoa farmers from Ghana speaking about their experiences.</p>

Fairtrade status has already been awarded to some colleges: Linacre became the first in 2006, followed by Wadham in 2007 and Hertford in 2008.

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