The accreditation granted by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand means Otago University has signed up to offer Fair Trade designated products alongside other products throughout its campuses.The University of Canterbury, very wisely, has not done so. My colleague Stephen Hickson pointed out the reasons against pursuing Fair Trade certification a while back.
The university will also serve Fair Trade tea and coffee products as standard, and run a steering committee to encourage their take up by staff and students.
Otago University's Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne says the accreditation is proof the university acts in an ethically, socially and environmentally responsible manner.
Here are Sinclair Davidson and Tim Wilson on problems with Fair Trade certification.
Here is Colleen Berndt's study of the workings of fair trade coffee in Costa Rica and Guatemala.
I am very very happy that the University of Canterbury has not pursued costly feel-good policies like this that do far more to produce clouds of smug than they do to help developing countries. Indeed, I am proud.
Any University that is serious about helping people in poor countries instead of just mouthing off about it would increase the number of targeted scholarships for students from developing countries. For the cost of one $80k bureaucrat dedicated to a dumb campus fair trade initiative, you cover the living expenses of four international students from developing countries, or maybe three if you want to cover airfares too. Want to increase costs on domestic students at the on-campus shoppes to help developing countries? Put a 5% levy on everything and put the money into a fund to bring more smart, poor students here from developing countries. It's cheaper than a fair trade mandate and does more good.