The University of British Columbia has been named Canada’s first “Fair Trade Campus” – and will get its very own blend of ethically sourced coffee – as a result of its national leadership on Fair Trade purchasing.

The designation, the result of a collaboration with UBC’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, is by Fairtrade Canada, the Canadian arm of a global non-profit Fair Trade certification system that supports producers in developing nations and encourages individuals and organizations to purchase ethically-sourced consumer goods.

With the accreditation, UBC’s Vancouver campus  joins the City of Vancouver – which last year was the first city in Canada to become a “Fair Trade Town” – and more than 100 global universities that have committed to buy Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate and tropical fruit from producers who guarantee higher social, environmental and pay standards for farmers and workers.

“UBC’s commitment to Fair Trade benefits people in developing countries and provides our students and other large organizations with an important example of institutional global citizenship,” says Andrew Parr, Managing Director, UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services. “As an institution dedicated to advancing sustainability and intercultural understanding, we are very proud of this recognition of our ethical purchasing initiatives.”

Students have played a key role UBC’s Fair Trade initiatives. UBC became the first Canadian university to adopt Fair Trade coffee – in Alma Mater Society (AMS) student union eateries in 2004 and UBC Food Services outlets in 2006 – as a result of student feedback. Since then, in collaboration with students, UBC has developed sustainable purchasing principles, a code of conduct for suppliers and has added Fair Trade chocolate, tea and tropical fruit to the menus of more than 20 campus food outlets.

Although UBC was largely already compliant with Fair Trade Campus accreditation criteria as a result of past efforts, the designation did require the creation of a committee to advance Fair Trade action and awareness, plus promotional signage in campus eateries. Students from UBC’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders were instrumental in driving the completion of these final steps.

“From Fair Trade coffee to this Fair Trade designation, students have helped to make UBC a leader on ethical purchasing,” says Kaan Williams, 25, Director of Fair Trade in UBC’s Engineers Without Borders chapter. “EWB has chapters at every other major University in Canada and many of them are already working towards achieving the award for their schools too.”

To support UBC’s Fair Trade commitments, local Vancouver coffee company Milano Coffee is creating its first Fair Trade-certified blend of coffee for UBC that will launch at campus food service outlets in September 2011.

Parr says UBC spends more than $8.5 million annually to feed its Vancouver campus’ average daily population of 70,000. “That purchasing power gives us the ability to work with suppliers in ways that make a positive difference,” he says, noting that UBC consumes more than 11,000 pounds of Fair Trade coffee annually. “The new UBC brand of coffee will be a good example of that.”

“The recognition of UBC as Canada’s first Fair Trade Campus sets an example for other campuses across the country and further demonstrates Canadians’ commitment to fairness and respect for the farmers and artisans who produce the products we enjoy,” says Michael Zelmer of Fairtrade Canada.

UBC Fair Trade products and suppliers include Ethical Bean coffee, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, Discovery Organics produce and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars. The Fair Trade Campus requirements apply to primary UBC and AMS entities and exclude campus franchises, including Starbucks, White Spot and Tim Hortons.

Learn more about UBC, a living laboratory for research and action on sustainability, at:

UBC Fair Trade statistics (2010-2011):

  • 8,975 kg of coffee, or nearly 1,436,000 eight oz. cups of coffee
  • Approx. 429,000 tea bags
  • More than 2300 chocolate bars
  • More than 1,885 kg of bananas