Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine

What is Fair Trade?

According to Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, consumers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first. 

Third-party certification guarantees these qualities to producers and consumers. Fair Trade raises the standard of living for over two million Fair Trade producers in the Global South who are growing coffee, chocolate, tea, and sugar, among many other items.

Fair Trade is based on the following principles that align well with many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aspire to eradicate poverty and influence climate change. 

Icons representing people and Fair Trade principles

1.    Opportunities for Disadvantaged Producers
2.    Transparency and Accountability
3.    Fair Trade Practices
4.    Fair Payment
5.    No Child Labour, No Forced Labour
6.    No Discrimination, Gender Equity, Freedom of Association
7.    Good Working Conditions
8.    Capacity Building
9.    Promote Fair Trade
10.  Respect for the Environment

We are a Fair Trade campus

Fair Trade has a special significance at Penn State Brandywine. First, our campus is located near Media, PA, the first Fair Trade town in the United States. Second, Penn State Brandywine is Penn State’s first and only Fair Trade campus.

Students and staff participating in a Fair Trade event on campus

In 2011, then-student Abbey Dufoe approached Laura Guertin, professor of Earth and mineral sciences, about completing an independent study with Fair Trade as one of the topics for investigation. Their collaboration sparked a larger conversation about the campus working to become a Fair Trade University. With support from the campus community, a group of students, the Fair Trade Trailblazers, led the effort. Penn State Brandywine was declared a Fair Trade campus in May 2012.

Holding the designation of a Fair Trade University means our campus is dedicated to raising awareness of the movement and incorporating Fair Trade principles into our policies and campus culture. Specifically, it means that we sell or use a number of products with a Fair Trade seal, indicating they are made by workers who “work in safe conditions, protect the environment, build sustainable livelihoods, and earn additional money to empower and uplift their communities” (Fair Trade USA).

Today, Fair Trade food and apparel products can be found at the campus cafe and bookstore. Faculty also teach about Fair Trade and the campus library maintains a Fair Trade research guide.  

In addition to promoting Fair Trade products, Brandywine is also committed to educating the campus community through Fair Trade-themed events and programming – from t-shirt swaps, clothesline art sales and pancake breakfasts to documentary screenings, guest speakers and leadership seminars.

Fair Trade and Sustainability 

Respect for the environment is a key Fair Trade principle. Our Chancellor’s Commission on Sustainability and our Center for Ethics and Civic Engagement work together to promote the Fair Trade movement on our campus. Sustainability starts with people and the actions that each of us can take. In addition to protecting the environment, the goal of sustainability is to create a holistic approach to human health, economy, and wellbeing — the same ideas that are shared by the Fair Trade movement.