University Recognized for Commitment to Fair Trade

Condiments lined up on a counter include organic pepper and organic sugar, both with green Fair Trade labels
Fair trade pepper and sugar are now available in the Campus Center dining area. (Photo by Roxanne Welch)

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 16, 2021) — The condiment tables in the Campus Center have some new additions – fair trade sugar and pepper – and new signs in 518 Market point out the fair trade products available there.

It’s just a small part of UAlbany’s new designation as a Fair Trade University, the first SUNY school to be so recognized and one of just 68 in the United States. The official designation, through the organization Fair Trade Campaigns, means UAlbany is committed to incorporating ethically produced products into institutional purchasing as well as educating students and the campus community about fair trade practices.

The movement toward fair trade designation at UAlbany began in 2018 with the student organization SSTOP (Students Stopping the Trafficking of People), which works to raise awareness of human trafficking in all forms. That includes sexual exploitation, slavery and forced labor, and working conditions that are similar to slavery.

“Many of the products that we eat, wear and use in our everyday lives are grown or made by slaves and exploited workers,” said Dennis McCarty, a lecturer at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) and the faculty advisor for SSTOP. “Speaking just for myself, I wasn't aware of this until I started teaching my human trafficking course. Fair trade gives impoverished workers a just wage for their work and is an important tool in the quest for global social justice.”

The Fair Trade label on products ensures consumers the items were grown, harvested, crafted and traded with fair working conditions and in ways that improve and protect the environment.

“UAlbany is a model for large, public universities throughout the nation that are passionate about purchasing globally sourced products that benefit people and the planet,” said Stephen Pearse, executive director of University Auxiliary Services. “In addition to fair trade products, we also have a longstanding commitment to locally sourcing a minimum of 20 percent of the produce, meat, poultry, fish and dairy products that are served in our dining rooms and at catered events. This combination of objectives reflects the deeper nature of UAlbany’s commitment to global equality and sustainably.”

Joseph La Barbera, the president of SSTOP and an EHC and Psychology major, credited past SSTOP presidents Gabriella Bartley, Ashley Davidson and Ali Hansen for getting the ball rolling, as well as partners throughout the campus community. Work toward gaining University’s fair trade designation included representatives from the University’s Office of Sustainability, UAlbany Auxiliary Services, UAlbany Dining, the University Senate and the Student Association and Senate. The campaign was bolstered by resolutions from the Student Association, Graduate Student Association, Faculty Senate and UUP, and support from CEHC Dean Robert Griffin.

Fair trade products now available on campus include sugar and pepper at two condiment stations in the Campus Center, as well as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, select Green Mountain coffees, Bark Thins and Lily’s chocolates available at 518 Market and at catering events on campus.

Fair trade events today

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Fair Trade Committee members will have an informational table set up in the Campus Center Great Hall. Stop by for information about fair trade at the University, and for a free sample of some ethically sourced chocolate.

Tonight at 7, you can join a Zoom informational gathering, and play Kahoot!, a trivia game about fair trade. The Zoom meeting ID is 957 7568 3505, passcode FairTrade.