University Sponsors Fair Trade Conference


Rakesh Singh, Staff Writer

Fair Trade is a movement to ensure that the farmers and workers of the world are paid fairly and are provided with safe, humane working conditions. This movement is global, and it is one that has garnered a lot of traction in recent years, especially at St. John’s  University.

Fair Trade Campaigns is an organization based in the Bay Area, California, that designates places and institutions –  towns, congregations and schools – as “Fair Trade friendly,” meaning that they promote Fair Trade by educating students and offering Fair Trade products.

St. John’s was officially recognized as a Fair Trade campus in the spring of 2017, after years of hard work.

“Circa 2013, a steering committee named St. John’s for Fair Trade –made up of students, staff, faculty, as well as employees of Chartwells and the Bookstore – connected with Fair Trade Campaigns and began the journey toward becoming a Fair Trade designated campus,” Professor Sean Murray, who spearheads the Fair Trade effort on campus, said.

“St. John’s decided to take this journey because our values align with those of the Fair Trade movement,” he continued. “For instance, part of our Vincentian mission is, ‘Wherever possible, we devote our intellectual and physical resources to search out the causes of poverty and social injustice and to encourage solutions that are adaptable, effective and concrete.’”

The Fair Trade Campaigns Conference, held in Chicago, from March 1-3, was sponsored by St. John’s. The conference was composed  of activists, businessmen and businesswomen students and educators who are pushing the Fair Trade movement forward in their communities and companies. The conference allowed for the opportunity to speak about various facets of the Fair Trade movement. A group from St. John’s, including Professor Murray and Dr. Andrea Licari, and students Jamie Sculco, sophomore and Zoe Sheppard, junior gave a presentation on how the University’s Office of Mission, Campus Ministry and Office of Academic-Service-Learning have been instrumental in promoting Fair Trade service and activism.

“It’s what feels right to me,” Sculco said. “I love being a part of the Fair Trade movement both on campus and in my personal life. My values – equality and worker’s rights – just would not allow me to live in any other way.”

For Sculco, and the entire Fair Trade Committee, it is important that the message of Fair Trade is promoted.

“Here are my suggestions for students: We’d love to have more members of the Fair Trade Committee and of Catholic Relief Services (CRS),”Sculco said. “Look for Fair Trade seals on the products you buy, research where the products come from, who makes them/how much they are paid, the goals and commitments of the company or how transparent the company is and actively seek out Fair Trade brands and where to buy Fair Trade products.”

Sheppard echoes these sentiments but adds, “I like starting out by educating people, which is why SJU Fair Trade is so big on educational activities like tabling events and movie showings, so that people understand the movement and care about it before investing in it.”

Sculco also emphasized the need to educate those who don’t quite understand the importance of Fair Trade.

“Most importantly, start conversations with those around you and tell them about these exploitation issues and that Fair Trade is free from slave labor. Tell them that their actions and purchases make a difference in the world.”