Fair Trade and Catholic Higher Education


It is good for people to realize that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply an economic —  act. Hence the consumer has a specific social responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with the social responsibility of the enterprise. 
   — Pope Benedict  XVI, 
Caritas in Veritate


ACCU works to ensure the dignity of work and a commitment to economic justice by promoting fair trade values, products, and practices. Fair trade seeks to promote greater equity in the international trading system by securing rights, better working conditions, and sustainable practices for often-marginalized producers and workers. The following fair trade principles act as minimum criteria in order to label a product as "fair trade" by organizations such as Fair Trade Federation, and World Fair Trade Organization. They outline the ways in which this system ensures the dignity of work:

  • Paying a fair wage in the local context
  • Offering employees opportunities for advancement
  • Providing equal employment opportunities for all people, particularly the most disadvantaged
  • Caring for God’s creation by engaging in environmentally sustainable practices
  • Being open to public accountability
  • Building long-term trade relationships
  • Providing healthy and safe working conditions within the local context
  • Providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever possible
    Adapted from Fair Trade Federation and World Fair Trade Organization
  For Catholic colleges and universities, fair trade presents an opportunity to respond to the urgent call to promote social justice, the dignity of work, and the wider sharing of resources and development. The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities has created Fair Trade and Catholic Higher Education, highlighting how ACCU member institutions engage with the fair trade movement.  Fair-Trade-and-CHE-cover
More Campuses Engage with Fair Trade

Carroll College Incorporates Fair Trade into Business Class and Engages the Local Community

Students at Carroll College studied the issue of fair trade in a “Market Research” class through a research project on fair trade awareness in the community and on campus. Using research from this project, students from the Enactus student club, which focuses on developing business skills, designed a pocket-sized brochure on fair trade and Catholic Social Teaching, which also listed local businesses selling fair trade products. More than 4,000 copies of the brochure were distributed across the Carroll and Helena communities.

St. Norbert College Combines Art and Storytelling on Fair Trade

St. Norbert College hosted "Enslaved: A Visual Story of Modern-Day Slavery", a exhibition of artist Lisa Christine's photographs at their on campus art gallery, the Bush Art Center. As a part of this exhibition, St. Norbert's invited Caroline Brennan, Senior Communications Director at Catholic Relief Services, to share on how fair trade programs affect change in the area of modern day slavery and worker rights, reflecting on the moving artwork.  At the end of the reception, hundreds of postcards in support of the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act were signed by visitors to the exhibit and reception attendees and given to representatives of Catholic Relief Services to send to Congressional representatives. 

Additional Fair Trade Resources

Catholic Relief Services Ethical Trade

CRS Ethical Trade builds upon the strong principles of fair trade while also engaging with other business models that have a positive impact on workers, the environment and local communities.

  • Learn more about fair trade and ethically produced products as a vehicle to follow the Catholic social teaching principles of respecting the dignity of work and caring for the poor.
  • Find a list of CRS Ethical Trade partners that are leading the way in fair trade, environmental sustainability and ethically produced products.
  • Find materials including banner ads, videos, and print materials to spread fair trade values around your campus community.

Additional Organizations and Campaigns

  • Find toolkits, testimonies, and case studies from Fair Trade Campaigns to help your institution complete the five goals to achieving fair trade status.
  • Fair Trade Federation has a searchable directory of vendors who sell only 100% fair trade products available online.
  • Fair Trade USA showcases a variety of delicious recipes featuring fair trade goods.
  • Visit the Ignatian Solidarity Network for more information about fair trade, links to vendors for the individual consumer, and other helpful resources.

If you would like to share how your campus is involved with fair trade, please contact Lexie Bradley.


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