CTV: UBC named Canada’s first Fair Trade Campus

May 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

 Congrats to UBC for leading the way. Hope to see this on other campuses across Canada!!

UBC named Canada’s first Fair Trade Campus
CTV

By: Kendall Walters, ctvbc.ca

Date: Thursday May. 5, 2011 5:07 PM PT

There’s something different about the way the University of British Columbia wakes up and smells the coffee in the morning – the steaming caffeine poured into warm mugs across campus is fair trade.

UBC just became the first Fair Trade Campus in Canada. The Fair Trade Canada designation follows Vancouver’s recognition as a Fair Trade City this time last year.

Coffee, tea and chocolate bars sold at UBC and student society AMS-run eateries are ethically purchased and provide equitable compensation to farmers for their product.

The commitment does not include campus franchises – Starbucks, Tim Hortons and White Spot.

Kaan Williams is the director of fair trade with the UBC chapter of Engineers Without Borders. He was instrumental in pushing the designation initiative forward.

“It’s not just a recognition of past activity at UBC,” he said. “It’s also a commitment to retain the momentum that UBC has.”

The campus had already put into effect many policies fitting with Fair Trade Canada’s designation requirements. UBC has offered fair trade coffee for the past decade; the campus sold nearly 1.5 million cups of fair trade coffee in the last year alone.

“All the reactions I’ve heard so far were enthusiastic and excited,” Williams said. “People are excited to see some recognition for what’s going on here at UBC.”

Only a few extra steps had to be put in place to meet designation restrictions.

The campus dedicated itself to using fair trade products whenever possible, Williams said. That’s why it’s gone beyond the minimum requirements of the designation.

Fair Trade Canada asks that Fair Trade Campuses sell only fair trade coffee and offer at least three fair trade teas and one fair trade chocolate bar option.

Nearly all of the teas offered at UBC are fair trade and campus eateries are also selling fair trade tropical fruit such as bananas.

“We’re always looking for new things to use as well,” Williams said.

The designation has already fueled action by local businesses.

Vancouver-based coffee companies Milano and Ethical Bean have jumped on board. Milano produced its first fair-trade certified blend of coffee for UBC.

And there’s buzz in the air of fair trade designation hopes at several other Canadian universities. Williams has already been contacted by other institutions interested in following UBC’s example.

Andrew Parr is the managing director of UBC student housing and hospitality services. He was closely involved in the designation.

He said the campus wasn’t aiming to be the first fair-trade certified in Canada, but he said he thinks it’s a nice message to other institutions.

“This is something that is feasible and doable and worth doing,” Parr said.

The initiative is a matter of educating students on something more than the subject matter they study in the classroom, Parr said, adding he hopes the move can help UBC students become more socially-conscious citizens.

Williams agreed.

“That’s a nice way that we as an institution are able to make an influence in a broader community,” he said.

UBC joins 100 global universities that have already made the commitment.

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American Apparel Adventure

May 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

It was only a few months ago that I discovered American Apparel is a sweatshop-free, made in America clothing line (hence the name American Apparel). Before that, I’d passed it many times but never went in – it seemed like the same sort of clothing you could find at Old Navy or Banana Republic. But upon discovering their merchandise is not produced in sweatshops, I decided it was worth checking out.

Turns out I was completely wrong about it being a generic clothing store. There are many pieces in fashion now that are eighties revival that I like, some that I sort of understand, some that I would never wear but think might look trendy on a few brave souls. But I could only describe their line as Denise Huxtable whacked out totally eighties-style clothing. I actually stood confused at the front of the store for a few minutes  because I felt like I’d walked into the wrong decade.

After looking around a bit, I found a shirt that I actually liked and ended up buying. That was a lucky find though because I’m neither ‘trendy’ enough nor brave enough to wear most of the clothing in the store. They do have undergarments and nice accessories which I think would be worth a trip there a few times a year. But otherwise, I was pretty disappointed. Maybe the solution is for me to be more daring in my clothing choices? Maybe not.

H&M’s New Conscious Collection

April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

H&M has launched a new collection that they claim is made with more sustainable materials and with social consideration (i.e. made fairly). Check out the video on the new collection:

http://www.hm.com/ca/conscious-collection#conscious

Muslims in Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly Fashion

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Organic and Islamic” – Muslims Showcase Ethical and Fair-Trade Fashion
By Arwa Aburawa

Source: Green Prophet

Islam, fair-trade is more than just a fashion statement, it’s a deeply-ingrained value

Many people wouldn’t normally associate Islam with fair-trade and ethical fashion but that is all set to change as a growing number of Muslim companies rediscover Islam’s fair-trade message. Whilst fair-trade fashion would generally conjure up images of well-dressed hippies, there is a new generation of Muslims who are placing ethical concerns at the heart of their work and wardrobe. Not only does this indicate rising green and ethical awareness in Muslim businesses, it also means there is a growing demand from normal Muslims for environmentally-friendly options. I spoke to some of the people behind these unique companies from across the UK, Canada and the Middle East to find out more.

Muslims go Organic with T-shirts and Hijabs

Urban Ummah is a UK-based clothing line that sells fair-trade, ethically produced and environmentally-friendly printed t-shirts with catchy Muslim slogans. One t-shirt which caught my eye was the ‘Yes, I am Organic and Islamic.’ It explains on the website that going organic is not only good for your health but ultimately leads to a better quality of life for you and those growing the crops, who would otherwise suffer from the side effects of harmful pesticides.

“As Muslims, it is our duty to put a stop to this [farmers in third world countries becoming ill due to the use of chemicals in the crops they produce]. If we switch to a few organic products on our shopping lists instead of the usual rubbish we subject our bodies to, perhaps we can make a real difference to someones life. Becoming fairtrade, organic, ethical and environmental, is all expected of a Muslim, so please give a damn!”

But it’s not just t-shirts that Muslim businesses are providing; Artizara sells fair-trade hijabs for eco-conscious Muslimahs, and in Canada Queendom Hijabs offer a full range of eco-hijabs made from certified organic cotton and bamboo.

Organic cotton is particularly eco-friendly as it has minimal impacts on the environment, while bamboo grows at a rapid rate, requires very little pesticide and is 100% biodegradable. Founder of Queendom Hijabs, Abeer Al-Azzawi spoke to Green Prophet about why she decided that all her products would be environmentally-friendly.

“Islam promotes values of caring for nature and God’s creation,” she explained. “So it’s our responsibility to respect nature and do what we can not to damage it. If we have opportunities to contribute positively to environmental issues, we should seize them.”

Green Credentials spread to the Middle East

Aber, who is originally from Iraq, added that she hopes her green credentials will inspire the rest of the Muslim world to be more eco-conscious. In fact, an ethical fashion revolution seems already under way due to SHUKR Clothing, a company which is championing ethical and fair-trade practices in the Middle East.

SHUKR was launched in 2001 by Jaafar Malik and Anas Sillwood, both British citizens who have recently moved to the Middle East. Anas explained that like many other younger Muslims he struggled with the dilemma of trying to dress in ways that were faithful and modest on the one hand and fashionable and modern on the other. “SHUKR was, therefore, launched to meet the need for contemporary, fashionable Islamic clothing,” he explains.

“Interestingly enough, we soon found that members of other faith communities also seemed to have similar dilemmas to a certain extent, and it wasn’t long before we also had loyal Christian and Jewish customers amongst the SHUKR clientele.”

Anas explains that in terms of fair-trade, the majority of SHUKR’s raw materials – especially cotton – are purchased from Syria under fair, fixed prices which support cotton producers.

“Islam’s emphasis on fairness and justice spills over into a concern for fulfilling workers rights, the second main goal of the fair trade movement. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, famously said that the worker should be paid his wages before his sweat dries…”

“As for environmental sustainability,” continues Anas, “The Qur’an repeatedly informs us that wastefulness is an appalling trait, and traditional Muslims in the Muslim heartlands have internalized this message; they may not have had the exposure to widespread governmental “green” campaigns like we have in the West, but their religion has taught them, for example, not to waste.”

As SHUKR, Queendom Hijabs and Urban Ummah have illustrated, the green and fair-trade message is growing amongst the Muslim population who believe ethical standards are important as they are rooted in Islamic principles. Minimizing waste, protecting the environment and providing fair wages may have only recently become fashionable but they have always formed part of the Islamic ethic of fairness.

http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/08/muslim-ethical-fashion/

A Sweeter Business Model

September 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

What I really like about Josef Zotter is that he not only created an environmentally friendly, socially conscious fair trade business, but that he also does not desire to advertise (advertising is huge mental pollutant in my opinion) nor does he wish to expand to become global company. Simple is better in his world. Too bad I would have to go to Austria to try his chocolate!

Local Chocolate, for Local Consumption

H. Lehmann

The Zotter factory in Bergyl, Austria, produces more than 200 varieties of organic chocolate.

By ALICE PFEIFFER
Published: September 2, 2010

BERGL, AUSTRIA — In 1996, Josef Zotter’s bakery business in Graz, Austria, was floundering. Facing bankruptcy, he decided to close shop and go back to his roots, a village named Bergl in the Feldbach district of Styria. There, with 2 of his 40 former employees, he set up a tiny chocolate factory in a converted cowshed on the farm where he had grown up.

His plan was to build a microbusiness, buying “fair trade” chocolate beans from smallholder producer cooperatives in Nicaragua and Brazil for the small-scale production of chocolate confectionery using local produce, for local consumption.

Turning out bars with flavors like apricot and sheep’s milk, he built a following among customers who liked the concept of Austrian specialty chocolate made in an environmentally conscious way.

Today, the factory has grown to cover more than 5,500 square meters, or 60,000 square feet, from its original 200 square meters. The company, Zotter Schokoladen Manufaktur, employs 112 people producing as many as 50,000 to 80,000 bars a day in a range of more than 200 classical and exotic flavors.

Among the odder ingredients: Fish; soy; green tea; açaí berry; and ketchup and peanut butter — a tongue-in-cheek celebration of American taste, for President Barack Obama’s election victory.

Sales have grown by word of mouth. “We don’t advertise whatsoever,” Mr. Zotter said in an interview last month.

The company organizes factory tours, however, that bring about 150,000 visitors a year to taste and smell and also to sit on cocoa bean bags in the on-site “Cocoa Cinema,” where they can watch presentations on the brand’s history and ecological principles.

Other attractions include a “Drink Chocolate Online” room where a small cable conveyor system, like a miniature ski-lift, trundles bars of chocolate around the room, waiting for visitors to pick them off and turn them into cocoa drinks at an adjoining hot chocolate bar.

A recent visitor found crowds of children drinking from cocoa fountains at the entrance to the factory while their parents cut chocolate chunks from brimming samplers.

But behind this playful, almost whimsical, presentation lies a strong commitment to sustainable production and equitable trading relations with the company’s suppliers.

The company’s chocolate beans have been certified as “fair trade” products since 2004, meaning that it buys directly from the producers, offering them a higher price by cutting out middlemen. Mr. Zotter said he traveled regularly to Nicaragua and Brazil to meet with the producers, for whom he has financed the purchase of machinery and the construction of storage space.

“I know how much they earn, and how much of their salary such equipment represents,” he said.

Residues from grinding the beans are fed into a biomass converter to produce heat, power and fertilizer. Between the biomass plant and solar panels, 60 percent of the energy required by the factory is produced on the site. “We aim to reach full energy autarchy in the next 10 years,” Mr. Zotter said.

Since 2006, the factory’s output has been certified organic. Mr. Zotter uses dairy products from organic farmers in the mountains of Tyrol and specialty organic products, like seeds, fruit and nuts, from local farms. “I want to use as many local specialties, and specialists, as possible. Steiermark needs the jobs,” Mr. Zotter said, using the German name for Styria.

Mr. Zotter has also established an organic canteen on the factory site for his employees “so they get used to quality,” he said. “Also, I want them to work not just for money, but in a place they feel good in.”

Other environmental gestures include using water from local springs only, which is then recycled for cleaning; and using environmentally friendly packaging, without glossy coatings.

“You can make changes by paying attention to the smallest details of everyday life,” he said.

Applying the same principles to his private life, he says he has driven an electric car for the past 15 years and powers his home with a domestic solar/ biomass generator that produces more energy than he needs.

“My home energy production is really efficient,” he said. “I actually produce too much, so I wind up reselling it.”

In an extension of his fair-trade principles, Mr. Zotter is also involved in several social projects, including one in Colombia that aims to wean coca growers onto cocoa as a substitute crop, and his product line includes fund-raising chocolates, like the Zuki bar, a flavorsome blend of açaí, mango and brazil nuts.

The company says it donates 30 percent of Zuki bar sales to an aid project for Calcutta street children.

Mr. Zotter says he is not interested in developing a global presence or selling through large distribution chains. Franchising has no place in his strategy, and faster growth is not an object.

“I’ve reached my ideal size,” he said. “Plus, I don’t think we need yet another global brand. The world needs a completely new approach to making the economy work. I find it so frustrating to see the same products in every corner of the globe.”

“The world is changing,” he added. “There is a return to simplicity. Greed is over.”

Source:  The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/03/business/energy-environment/03iht-rbogchoc.html?src=busln#

Fair Trade Sports

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

In discussions about sweatshop labour, some of the big names that always come up are sports apparel and equipment companies: Adidas, Puma, Reebok, and of course the big one, Nike. In a conversation the other day, a friend of mine wondered what the alternative could be to supporting these companies, and even lower-end brands, since all sporting goods seem sweatshop produced. I’m sure this is a problem for a lot of conscientious athletes and people who just love athletic wear.

Today I was happy to find the website of a company that is committed to fair trade, green living, and to supporting charities! Fair Trade Sports seems to be a great alternative to supporting the mighty brands. Check them out:

http://fairtradesports.com

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