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This article was published 14/10/2014 (1042 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ben Sparrow thinks it's only fair workers in developing countries who produce the coffee, sugar and tea we consume earn a decent wage and live above the poverty line.
It hardly sounds unreasonable when roasters and retailers, such as Maxwell House and Starbucks, have long reaped the benefits from workers' sweat and sore backs to become some of the biggest companies on the planet.
The CEO of Winnipeg-based Sparrow Hotels will be one of 75 people attending the launch of Winnipeg - A Fair Trade City 2015 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights today at 4:30 p.m.
Fair trade is an international movement that aims to change the terms for many products we buy by ensuring the farmers growing them earn a fair price. Other fair trade products include spices, bananas, wine, beer, cocoa, clothing, children's toys and soap.
"Our goal is to distinguish Winnipeg as a leader in fair trade. We have to encourage local consumers to buy into this and make ethical and sustainable choices and we have to create awareness of fair trade with educational institutions, businesses, non-profits and government," he said.
Winnipeg is far from a trailblazer in this regard. Sparrow said if the city succeeds in attaining the fair trade designation, it will become the 20th in Canada, trailing places such as Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Brandon and Gimli.
Fair trade standards give farmers income security and insulation from market volatility, said Ian Hudson, an associate professor in the department of economics at the University of Manitoba. "No matter what the world price is, fair trade guarantees them a minimum price," he said.
It also gives farmers a sense of participation in a democratic structure, as they work together in co-operatives and get to vote on how their fair trade surplus is used in their communities, such as schools, housing or roads.
In order to become a fair trade city, it needs to meet certain goals that are set and monitored at a national level. They include community support, including working with non-profit organizations, churches and universities; being available at grocery stores; coffee shops selling fair trade coffee; a local committee that promotes and educates about fair trade practices; and a civic commitment to adopt fair trade policies.
Sean McHugh, Vancouver-based executive director of the Canadian Fair Trade Network, will speak at today's event. He said the network is working with both the University of Manitoba and Red River College on attaining a fair trade campus designation.
One of the challenges in a country such as Canada is out of sight usually means out of mind. So, most Canadians don't know 70 per cent of the world's chocolate production comes from Ghana and Ivory Coast, countries where child labour is a significant issue.
"The numbers are pretty staggering. There are two billion people who earn less than $2 per day. That's one-third of the world's population," he said.