Fairtrade condoms at university, demands former student society head

By Joshua Powling

Fairtrade condoms should be introduced by The University of Manchester, according to the former head of the Fairtrade student society.

Both Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University have stepped up their efforts throughout Fairtrade Fortnight, which wrapped up last Friday.  

But Francesca Le Lohe, who stepped down as Chair of the University’s Make Trade Fair Society this week, thinks that more could be done.

“Fairtrade Fortnight is great, but throughout the year you could do much more,” she said. “As we move forward an example would be where there was a fortnight deal on Banana Cakes, but they weren’t put up in prominent places. The University also told us there would be free publicity for the Fairtrade activities.”

She added: “I still see lot of avenues to pursue and there are more products out there: Fairtrade fruit, oranges, lemons, and more fruit juices as well.

“Fairtrade condoms could be stocked by the University, at least some of them because they’re free.”

Despite these criticisms, Manchester believes it is doing as much as it can. Alison Aucott, General Manager of the University of Manchester Catering Services and Chair of their Fairtrade Steering Group, is proud of her six years at the helm.

She said: “As an institution we have a duty to our students and the community to push Fairtrade products.”

Manchester was the first University to stock One Water in the country after she met Duncan Goose, the brainchild of the ethical bottled water.

“Because it’s so entrenched the students have very little comments because we do so much. I’ve had one or two complaints about the Universities’ Fairtrade policy in about six years in my position. So it is clearly what staff and students want,” she said.

“It is important and it is the right thing to do. And implementing sustainable procurement is the right thing to do.”

Considering the size of both Universities student and staff populations, bringing in Fairtrade products across the board can have huge implications. The University of Manchester has 39,438 students and 11,226 staff as of March 2011, and consumes 1.5m cups of Fairtrade coffee a year and 300,000 cups of tea.

“With the amount of students and staff we have it’s like a small town. We have 10 units around the University catering for 2,500 students every day and coffee shops too,” she said.

According to Miss. Aucott, the next big move will be in Fairtrade cotton, but while there is a market for it, there just are not any suppliers out there.

“We’re always on the lookout for new products which are commercially viable. The very new products are usually too expensive so we have to wait until the price drops down. At the moment we’re looking at Fairtrade uniforms, but they’re difficult to source. In the future our staff’s aprons and shirts could be made from Fairtrade cotton.

“But the market just isn’t there for adult clothing. There are lots of children’s Fairtrade clothing, but not so much for adults. Some of the markets just need some new and brave entrepreneurs to push it. There are people seeking Fairtrade products, there just aren’t the suppliers yet.”

Jason Smith, Environment Team Assistant for MMU and the person in charge of co-ordinating its’ Fairtrade events, is also proud of what they have achieved over the fortnight.

He said: “We had a charity football match between staff and students from our Cheshire campus using a Fairtrade football, laying on Fairtrade snacks and drinks for the players.”

MMU embroidery students also contributed to the “Show off Your Label” campaign, where the Fairtrade Foundation attempted to break the world record for the longest continual piece of bunting.

They received their Fairtrade accreditation three years ago and are keen to keep it. “Accreditation doesn’t just get given, we have to continue to work for it,” Mr. Smith said.

MMU is focusing on bringing Fairtrade to its’ other faculties outside of central Manchester, like its’ Hollings Campus.

All our hospitality is Fairtrade. The next stage is to take it to the faculties and put the pressure on them,” he said.

“The other strand is getting students more involved. We had students give away 1,500 bananas in the park and invited retailers like Debenhams and other local stores to set up stalls in the union.

“We emphasise to them that the only way the Fairtrade Foundation can continue is with their support.”

This comes as the University of Salford was given Fairtrade certification on March 8th, five years after the city of Salford was awarded Fairtrade status. Manchester was given its’ status a year earlier in March 2005.

The Fairtrade Foundation also announced that sales of its’ accredited products have reached £1bn a year, a 40% increase from last year.

Miss Aucott finished by stressing that Universities had to collaborate to source and bring in new Fairtrade products.

She explained: “We talk to each other regularly about issues like this, and we aren’t in competition with each other, we just want to make our institutions’ better.”

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