Claire Martin, Projects Coordinator for Events and Student Engagement, reflects on how Fairtrade Fortnight 2016 was celebrated by both the University and the city.
In February I attended the University of Edinburgh TedX event, where I had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Michael Gidney, Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation. He reminded us that, collectively, we have the power to change the world. This was striking, as a few weeks later the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability would aim to do just that. From 29 February to 13 March, we brought together staff and students from around the University to mark Fairtrade Fortnight. The aim was not only celebrate the achievements of the University (of which there are many!), but also to highlight what still needs to be done.
Our flagship lecture, Modern Slavery: Are we complicit, which took place on the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight, explored the problem of forced labour, an issue that large organisations, including universities, are being forced to tackle thanks to the Modern Slavery Act, which was passed last year. We were joined by a panel of experts, who gave a comprehensive overview of the issue. Academic and journalist Mei-Ling McNamara set the scene, highlighting that modern slavery isn’t exclusive to one industry and warned us that we might come across it more often than we think. Edinburgh University’s Director of Procurement, Karen Bowman, opened our eyes to the complicated world of supply chains and the steps the University is taking to keep track of where our products come from. Mary Hanlon, gave us an insight into the fashion industry and touched on the impact of online activism. And Head of Christian Aid Scotland, Kathy Galloway, reflected from the perspective of an international charity, who fight tirelessly to end poverty.
Modern slavery is a complicated issue to discuss in an hour and half, however everyone agreed that the most important thing we can do to tackle this ongoing problem is to keep talking about it and question things that don’t seem right.
The Fairtrade Fortnight campaign was also an opportunity for the University to connect with groups in the local community. We supported the annual Edinburgh Fairtrade Festival, where local businesses hosted stalls, and fair trade was promoted through series of activities including story telling for children, competitions, singing…and a flash mob photo bomb by the Fairtrade Foundation, complete with inflatable bananas.
We were reminded of the real impact of Fairtrade on Monday 7th March, when Luz Marina Garcia Ruiz, Certification Manager for Asprocafe Coffee Cooperative in Colombia, spoke at the One World Shop. Luz told the packed audience about the far reaching impact of the Fairtrade Premium; providing support and guidance for farmers, improving working conditions, supporting education and health programmes for communities, empowering women, and more.
Through collaborative events, such as Fair Trade on your Doorstep, where student societies and services from across the campus showcased their commitment to fair trade, and our online campaign, such as the Six Word Stories competition, we managed to reach people from across the University and beyond. We hope that these connections and discussions will continue beyond the two week campaign, and continue throughout the year. So on that note, I’m off to buy my fair trade Easter eggs.