Make Trade Fair; Make the Right Decision

Friday, November 18, 2005

Written by Bre Walt

I wrote an article in a recent issue of the Peak that documented various injustices by some companies such as Taco Bell, KFC and Starbucks. I failed to document one of the big injustices on this campus, which are the contracts we have signed with Tim Horton’s. Many people may have noticed that in McNaughton where “Pages Coffee House” used to be, there is now a brand new Tim Horton’s, and Pages is gone. This was done over the summer, when many students were not around, and they came back to see one of the most original coffee places has been replaced by yet another chain, and surprise, a chain that does not offer a fair trade blend of coffee.

This university passed a code of ethical conduct last December that would limit the university from being able to purchase from suppliers that do not meet certain criteria. It is highly likely that Tim Horton’s lack of fair trade coffee would fall under this code, yet the university has signed this contract knowing this. Perhaps they are trying to sign these contracts before a time comes when they will not be able to. The Code of Ethical Conduct Committee is currently in the process of working out the parameters of the code, and making compliance forms for departments to go by. Until this is all done, the university can do whatever they want, and they know this. Perhaps they should be working to comply with the code, even though it is not yet being enforced. Either way, we have undertaken a contract with a third Tim Horton’s on campus, which is unacceptable.
Tim Horton's has their own blend of coffee called Tim's Own. They buy arabica beans from Nabob, which is owned by Kraft Ltd. Kraft is a wholesaler and distributor of coffee that buys from large plantations in Latin American countries. The owners of these coffee plantations often clear-cut valuable tropical trees for their personal gain. They hire marginal peoples who get paid about 300 USD A YEAR - barely enough to provide the basic needs for survival. When we buy our $1.10 cup of coffee from Tim Horton's, what we're really paying for is the destruction of the ecology and society of the Latin American countries. Not to mention the many paper cups and plastic cup lids that come with every single coffee sold are contributing to ever expanding landfills. The decomposition of materials found in landfills contribute to global warming by emitting methane which is a Green House Gas more potent than Carbon Dioxide. Spread landfills means faster global warming.

Tim Horton's locations total to more than 2000 stores in Canada and coffee is internationally the second largest commodity following behind oil. Thus there is a HUGE market for coffee. Why are we paying for the destruction of tropical lands and the way of life for many people in the lower hemisphere? Why don't we instead, pay for coffee that was made in an environmentally friendly way and that will actually pay the farmers what they deserve?

Tim Horton’s has made no attempt to develop a fair trade blend of coffee that is something that students on this campus feel very strongly for. With such a booming fair trade coffee market, and an overwhelmingly high demand for it, why has this large company not taken any steps towards ensuring fair payment for farmers?
Oxfam Canada, founded in 1963, is an international development agency working with over 100 partner organizations in Africa and the Americas. We work with partners to tackle the root causes of poverty, injustice and inequality, helping to create self-reliant and sustainable communities. There is now a CSA club on campus called “Oxfam @ Guelph”, it’s a chapter of Oxfam Canada. They have started up an on-campus Make Trade Fair campaign to complement Oxfam’s international MTF campaign. The on-campus campaign will focus on the lack of fair trade options on campus, and the international issues associated with free trade.

Fair Trade is a growing, international movement that ensures producers in poor countries get a fair deal. This means a fair price for their goods (one that covers the cost of production and guarantees a living income), long-term contracts that provide real security; and for many, support to gain the knowledge and skills that they need to develop their businesses and increase sales. The Fair Trade movement has been one of the most powerful responses to the problems facing commodity producers. It gives consumers an opportunity to use their purchasing power to tilt the balance, however slightly, in favour of the poor.

In the past decade, the Fair Trade movement has really taken off, as consumer awareness of - and indignation at - the treatment of producers in poor countries has increased. More retailers than ever are stocking Fair Trade goods, the number of products on offer continues to grow as demand increases, and more poor communities are feeling the benefits. It does not seem right that this university, supposed to be the “moral and ethical conscience of our society”, has sidestepped the fair trade movement. The aim here is profits, not equality.

Maketradefair.com gives a voice to the farmers, labourers, and factory workers who are being cheated by the blatantly unfair rules of world trade. And it gives a voice to you, the consumer, if you want to join them in the call to end exploitation and make trade fair. Our university needs to step up and realize the importance of offering fair trade coffee, among other fair trade products. The CSA and the GSA are selling only fair trade coffee in the Bullring and Grad Lunge respectively. Even Starbucks (though their efforts are not equivalent to what they could be given the size and financial status of the company), has begun to offer a fair trade blend on campus. The university has an obligation to listen to its students, so we need to let them know that we want only fair trade coffee on campus. Or they should at least for fair trade to be an option at every on campus outlet.

Oxfam @ Guelph will be running a Make Trade Fair campaign beginning November 22nd, so keep your eyes open, have some fair trade coffee, and learn why fair trade is the right choice to make. For more information email , or visit Make Trade Fair.

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