Living Our Values: Colleges Promote Fair Trade

As institutions inspired by faith, Catholic colleges and universities live their values in many ways, including through academic pursuits, business decisions, and student activities. One way Catholic colleges and universities reflect their mission to care for the poor and vulnerable throughout the world by protecting the rights of workers, upholding ethical economic practices and supporting sustainable environmental practices is through fair trade.

Fair trade is a designation placed on products to ensure that producers are paid a fair price for what they create by examining factors like price, labor conditions, sustainability, and community development. Carroll College and St. Norbert College are two examples of Catholic institutions that have successfully implemented different strategies to raise awareness for fair trade products and practices in creative ways.

Carroll College has promoted fair trade through academic courses, student life, and the Hunthausen Center for Peace and Justice. Fair trade principles and practices were introduced in the class “Theological Foundations,” part of Carroll’s core curriculum, as a case study during a unit on Catholic Social Teaching. Another course, “Market Research,” also examined the issue of fair trade 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 businesses in Helena selling fair trade products. More than 4,000 copies of the brochure were distributed across the Carroll and Helena communities. The student life department, with the Hunthausen Center, also sponsored a public fair trade market in the campus center where fair trade products were made available for purchase. Additionally, three “Fair Trade Friday” events featuring free samples of fair trade products and information on fair trade practices were held in the campus center, promoting greater awareness of the issue. These fair trade–focused projects were funded through the Global Solidarity Grant program, a collaborative program of ACCU and Catholic Relief Services that awards funding to Catholic colleges and universities to increase awareness of global injustice and expand student involvement in bringing about change. After signing a fair trade resolution, Carroll College became a Fair Trade certified university in 2016, the first university in Montana to be certified as such.

Another Global Solidarity Grant recipient, St. Norbert College, incorporated art into the discussion of fair trade. On exhibition in the Baer Gallery of the Bush Art Center was photographer Lisa Kristine’s work “Enslaved: A Visual Story of Modern Day Slavery.” St. Norbert hosted a reception with Catholic Relief Services called “Shine a Light” that used the powerful images on display to present a testimony of the need for change in the area of fair and ethical trade. Featured speaker Caroline Brennan, Senior Communications Officer at Catholic Relief Services, discussed the effects of fair trade programs around the world and how attendees could become involved. She also shared her own story and photographs as a member of the CRS emergency response team to an audience of faculty, students, and members of the local community. 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.

St. Norbert College students also run a fair trade business called Discoveries International. Run by international business students, Discoveries International sells fair trade items, such as jewelry, coffee, and tea, donating the profits to charities chosen by the group. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Discoveries International is donating to Feed My Starving Children, The Zambia Project, and Doctors without Borders. This business incorporates support for ethical markets with the teaching of management skills to students who are going to be involved in the international market.

Bring Fair Trade to Your Campus

Colleges and universities can connect with Catholic Relief Services Ethical Trade to help promote fair trade principles on their campus. CRS Ethical Trade provides academic resources that include various modules related specifically to incorporating fair trade and labor issues in the curriculum. In addition, they provide campus engagement materials, ranging from prayers to event ideas, that can help raise awareness on the issue of fair labor practices in the campus community. From their experience working with many campuses on promoting fair trade, CRS Ethical Trade tells success stories of Catholic colleges and universities that used the CRS Student Ambassador program to incorporate educational and faith formation resources into campus life while faculty offer academic modules in courses. In addition to these online resources, CRS staff members are available to present on ethical trade and its importance to the campus community.

Many Catholic universities also work with Fair Trade Campaigns to become a fair trade–certified university through their multi-step process. To start, a campus creates a team to support fair trade, who then reaches out to campus outlets to ensure a minimum of two fair trade products are available in campus-owned and -operated venues. The team works to grow the movement, using fair trade products at university meetings, events, and in university offices, and planning fair trade educational events or celebratory activities. The final step to certification is for the college or university to develop and pass a fair trade resolution. Fair Trade Campaigns has a toolkit available for ideas on how to meet these goals. As of February 2017, 21 Catholic colleges and universities are certified as fair trade institutions. ACCU provides more information on how to become a fair trade university, why Catholic institutions value fair trade, and additional creative ways to incorporate fair trade on campus on its Fair Trade webpage, where visitors can also download the Fair Trade and Catholic Higher Education brochure.

A rising number of Catholic colleges and universities are using their purchasing power as a way of expressing their Catholic mission by supporting the rights of workers to a fair wage and safe working conditions through fair trade items. Carroll College and St. Norbert College are engaging the issue of justice for workers, global solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and care for creation through a variety of programs and awareness campaigns. By bringing together students through business practices, academic courses, and cultural events, these colleges are showing how fair trade practices in the daily workings of an institution can make a global impact.

Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea and Maritime Human Trafficking Information

In conjunction with the secular holiday National Maritime Day on May 23, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced that the U.S. Church will observe the annual National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea. All are encouraged to pray for and remember all those “who are seafarers, fisherman, and those whose occupations require them to spend most of the year away from their families, in the high seas, and sometimes facing dangerous situations,” remarked Bishop J. Kevin Boland.

As 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea and the waterways, it is important to remember the 1.2. million seafarers worldwide that make this possible. In addition to praying for and remembering them, we must also be aware of the harsh conditions and danger that they sometimes face.

According to the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT):

modern slavery at sea […] occurs at all stages  of the seafood supply chain, from catching the fish to processing and shipping it for export. The virtually unregulated fishing industry in many countries, coupled with the global demand for cheap seafood, create the lawless condition under which trafficking at sea flourishes.

CCOAHT reports that trafficked workers are subject to extremely long work-days, hazardous conditions, starvation, disregard for medical needs and injuries, beatings, torture, and even killings. Workers can be lured into modern slavery “by false promises of living-wage and incur crippling debts that then become their trafficking situation,” and migrants are especially vulnerable.

The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance will include special Masses on Friday, May 20 at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. at 12:00 p.m. and on Saturday, May 21 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. at 12:10 p.m.. In addition, on Sunday, May 22, pastors are encouraged to use the text for the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea.

Below are three ways to get involved:

  1. Learn practical ways of becoming an ethical consumer of seafood.
  2. Learn about and join USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services’ anti-trafficking efforts.
  3. Donate or take action with Apostleship of the Sea, an Catholic charity that seeks to “provide practical and pastoral care to all seafarers, regardless of nationality, belief or race.”
  4. Pray with us:

Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Mother of God and our Mother, you know all the dangers of soul and body that threaten mariners. Protect your sons and daughters who work and travel on the waters of the world, and protect also their families that await their return. Star of the Sea, Mother of the Church, give light and strength to those chaplains and lay ministers who bring the love of your Divine Son among mariners. Fill their hearts with a supernatural and life-giving zeal for the apostolate. Star of the Sea, light shining in the darkness, be a guide to those who sail amid the storms and dangers of life. Enlighten the hearts of ardent disciples and bring us all to the safety of heaven’s port. Amen. – Apostleship of the Sea

How does your college or university engage with anti-maritime trafficking efforts? Let us know! 


CCOAHT Launches Lenten Postcard Campaign

During Lent, Catholics are called to abstain from consuming meat on Fridays to be in greater solidarity with those in need, leading many to eat more fish throughout the season. This year, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT) has started a campaign to call for the end of exploitative labor in seafood harvest and production.

CCOAHT’s Lenten Postcard Campaign is an easy way to get involved with anti-human trafficking efforts this Lent.  The campaign was launched in an effort to encourage “greater vigilance on the part of our suppliers to ensure that the seafood we eat is not tainted by slave labor.” The postcards, ask that seafood suppliers “do all in their power to guarantee that their supply chains are free of forced labor.” The two suppliers CCOAHT has chosen to target are Costco and StarKist.

Anyone can download the postcard to Costco here, and the postcard to StarKist here. To have printed and stamped postcards sent to your parish, school, or social justice ministry please contact CCOAHT at

How is your college or university engaging with anti-human trafficking efforts? Let us know! 


Seattle University Raises Awareness of Homelessness

Earlier this month, Seattle University and the University of Washington came together to bring awareness of homelessness in Seattle to their campuses.

The two campuses jointly sponsored an event, titled “Ending Homelessness in Seattle,” featuring Edward Murray, Mayor of Seattle, along with experts on homelessness, according to a National Catholic Reporter article.

For Seattle University president Fr. Stephen Sundborg, SJ, the issue of homelessness is of paramount importance for both the University and Seattle as a whole. He noted that while three of five Seattle homeless men and women are in shelters or transitional housing in the winter, two of five are still on the street.  He says, “It is not like this is something ignored or underplayed in our region, […] but it remains a state of emergency – a shock and scandal that the problem is getting worse rather than better.”