This month the University of Gloucestershire and Students’ Union have been accredited to the new Fairtrade University award. We gained an extra one-star bonus, recognising our significant efforts to embed policies that ensure trade justice and ethical procurement and consumption are considered throughout our practices.
This achievement marks the 17th year for which the University has held Fairtrade status as part of its sustainability commitments, with the new accreditation valid until 2024.
The extensive audit process is part of a new framework carried out jointly by Fairtrade Foundation and Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK), the charity that drives sustainability change across the education sector. The audit approach gives University students the chance to gain professional auditor experience and the audit was delivered by three of our students: Ethan Forrest from Gloucestershire Business School, and Becky Hales and Bee Ray-Smallcalder both from the School of Natural and Social Sciences.
Students are really valuing the importance of ethical purchasing at the University of Gloucestershire, and it is apparent that student team members are interested and engaged with the Fairtrade award. We can see that staff are eager to gauge student interest and upper management are actively interested and eager to keep up the Fairtrade award.
The pandemic has had significant impacts on the organisations in the Fairtrade partnership in ways that can affect Fairtrade practices, particularly pressures on catering services. Despite this, overall sales volumes of Fairtrade items between September 2021-March 2022 compared to the previous period have gone up, including a 26% increase in Fairtrade coffee sales.
Despite normal routes for communications with students also being disrupted by the pandemic, the Sustainability Team led online campaigns for Fairtrade Fortnight, including a virtual bake off in 2021. The Live Smart blog also raises awareness among students of the ethical and sustainable choices they can make, covering varied topics from diet to spending.
The Students’ Union are actively involved in promoting Fairtrade, ensuring that all clothing lines in the Students’ Union shops are sourced ethically including 8% that are Fairtrade.
Research and teaching activities are assessed as part of the audit, with the Business School module, ‘The Global Business Environment’, making an important element of the accreditation evidence submission. In this module, students can explore ethical and sustainable supply chains using product and company case studies, for example coffee beans.
Thank you and congratulations are due to the Fairtrade partnership which includes the University’s Sustainability and Estates teams, Students’ Union and BaxterStorey. As part of the ongoing commitment to Fairtrade, this group will continue to meet annually to monitor progress and to take opportunities to continue building on this work.