Fair Trade In Your School

Middle YearsHigh School

Schools are at the heart of any community, and because of this they have a very strong influence and voice within their particular community. What better way to spread the word about fair trade and promote it within the broader community than to get the fair trade movement into your school!

There are countless ways that you can take action to support and promote fair trade, so here are just a few of our ideas.

Get connected!

Every action starts somewhere, so why not follow MCIC’s Fair Trade Manitoba Facebook page, or sign up to receive our fair trade e-newsletter at www.fairtrademanitoba.ca to get the most up-to-date information about products, events, and campaigns at the local and national level!

Vote with your dollar! Buy fair trade products!

  • Look for the Fair Trade Certified label.
  • Ask questions about where products come from and how they are produced.
  • If a product claims to be fair trade, but you’re unsure because it doesn’t have the label, get online and do some research about the product or company.
  • If your favourite coffee shop, supermarket, or retail store doesn’t carry fair trade varieties of your favourite products, let them know that if they did, you would spend your money on these products!
  • If you don’t know where to find fair trade products, check out Fair Trade Manitoba’s consumer guide.
  • Fair Trade Canada also has a very handy Fair Trade Finder just in case you find yourself somewhere else in Canada and in need of a fair trade chocolate fix!

Get vocal and spread awareness!

  • Set up a fair trade information area, or post fair trade facts around the school.
  • Get people hooked on delicious fair trade products by setting up a fair trade food stand and hand out (or sell) samples of different products.
  • Have a fair trade film festival where you show one fair trade film per lunch hour for a week, or a few days. For some ideas of which films you can watch, see the Fair Trade page.
  • Invite MCIC to do a workshop for your classroom, or even entire school! Your teachers can book a workshop by filling out the form in the Workshops in your school section, or by calling Rebecca at 987-6420.
  • Have an ethical fashion show at your school where the models wear fair trade clothing and accessories! Check out more about this great idea in the Fair Trade Fashion Show section.
  • Ask permission to put up a clothesline in a hallway with information about working conditions written on T-shirts or other clothing hung on the line
  • Halloween is a time of year where we consume TONS of chocolate. Why not use this opportunity to educate others about fair trade chocolate, and allowing them to sample some of the delicious treat? Find out more about the Reverse Trick-or-Treat campaign.
  • December is a time of giving. It is also a great time to spread awareness about ethical consumption and fair trade products. Fair Trade Manitoba has a great consumer guide that is constantly being updated, so you spread the word about where to find great fair trade gifts around Manitoba!
  • Starting on Valentine’s Day each year, MCIC challenges Manitobans to consume only fair trade varieties of coffee, tea, and chocolate. Why not encourage your class, or even your whole school to sign up? It’s a great way to spread awareness, and there are lots of prizes to be won as well! Learn more about the One Month Challenge.
  • Fair trade has gained such momentum and support, that there is now a World Fair Trade Day every May! You can plan a great event at your school to help join the global movement.

Change what your school buys!

  • Get your school cafeteria or canteen to carry some fair trade products
  • Encourage your school to put even ONE variety of fair trade chocolate in the vending machines
  • Did you know that it takes 690 stitches to make one soccer ball? Why not ensure that no child made even one stitch on your school’s sports equipment by ordering fair trade sports balls! To get more information, see the catalogue, and even make an order, see our Fair Trade Sports Balls section.
  • Contact Fair Trade Manitoba at fairtrade@mcic.ca for a list of organizations that have school campaigns for fair trade fundraisers

Take it further – Pass a fair trade policy at your school!

Adapted from: Dave Hall, Y Focus Fair World Sports

Schools tend to purchase a variety of products in bulk, including coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, sports balls, t-shirt, etc. A great way to take action and spread awareness about fair trade is to help your school develop an ‘Ethical Purchasing Policy’, where the school would commit to purchasing fair trade varieties of some, or all, of these products, whenever possible. Here’s how you can get started:

Start a Fair Trade Committee

This committee can be limited to members of your school, or you could reach out to the broader community. Potential members include: students and teachers from your school, or other schools in your board; members of Student Council, or other school groups, such as a Sustainability or Environmental Committee; parents, school or board alumni, retired teachers; staff and members of organizations like the MCIC, Development and Peace, Maquila Solidarity Network, OXFAM, OECTA, etc. You will likely start as a small group, but will grow as your message spreads & you seek new members!

Research & Develop Allies

See what kind of products your school currently carries & if any of them are fair trade. How do you know if a particular product is fair trade? Look for either one of the two symbols below:

Fair Trade certification logos

Look for these symbols on the products that your school buys such as coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, t-shirt, and sports balls, and if you can’t find them, then start to ask some questions about where this product came from and how it was produced. Find out who makes the products, and in what countries. Once you know which fair trade products your school already has, and which it doesn’t, then find out who’s responsible for policy decisions about uniforms, sports balls, coffee supplies, etc; is it the school board or the individual school? If the school board makes the purchasing decisions, or sets policies for such decisions (most likely), contact your local trustee. The trustee can tell you about the current policy (if one even exists) regarding all the products we just outlined, and the steps you need to take to change it. If your trustee isn’t very sympathetic, call another trustee who might be more helpful. Don’t give up!

It’s always good to learn from others and to find out what other students have done to get an idea of what components make a good policy. For example, Evergreen School Division in Manitoba adopted a Fair Trade Purchasing Policy in January of 2009, with much help from Gimili’s Youth Community Partnership. You can learn more about all of their efforts at http://www.gimliyouth.com/gcfairtrade.htm. A fair trade community committee, working toward Gimli being recognized by Fair Trade Canada as a Fair Trade Town, met with the ESD Superintendant and then made a presentation to the whole School Board. The Board voted to endorse purchase and use of fair trade products wherever possible and from that the Fair Trade Committee then also presented to the Division’s “Leadership Group” (principals, division staff, purchasing officers, etc.), a high school staff meeting and numerous classrooms. Since then, staff rooms use fair trade products, schools are purchasing fair trade and ethical apparel and sports balls, and many fair trade-related events take place throughout the division. Because the Committee had previously been working with merchants, church congregations and community groups on fair trade, the concept and products of fair trade were not foreign to the schools.

Make a Presentation to the School Board

Now that you’ve formed the committee and have done all of your research, it’s time to take action and tell others what you’ve learned. A great way to get your foot in the door is to request to speak at a Board meeting. Share with the trustees the importance of such things as child labour, safe working conditions, fair wages, full public disclosure, and other components of a strong ethical purchasing policy. Then, recommend that the Board develop a policy and include members of your committee on the policy writing team. Emphasize the power of the Board to make a difference by providing an information package to the Board members.

Be a Part of the Policy Writing Process

One of the best strategies to ensuring a strong policy is to have representatives from your committee on the Board Policy Writing Committee. While working on this committee, be sure to receive support from members of your committee and outside organizations with expertise, as the language used is critical a strong policy. It can be a tough negotiation process, but be sure to always stick to your principles.

Present the Policy to the Board of Trustees

This is where everything comes together. Be sure to get a copy of the proposed Ethical Purchasing Policy, because if the policy is weak, it is critical that you contact the trustees to explain to them the weaknesses and to suggest appropriate action (changes, voting ‘no’, etc). Organize an urgent action campaign to lobby trustees to take action. Lastly, request an opportunity to speak at the Board meeting when the vote on the new policy will happen. This is your moment to shine & to reiterate your opinion of the importance of the policy.

MCIC Fair Trade Manitoba Government of Manitoba Global Affairs Canada

This program was made possible with financial support of the Government of Manitoba,
and was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC)