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This article was published 7/3/2016 (2101 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ben Sparrow has high hopes that Winnipeg will soon officially become a bastion of fair trade.
Sparrow is the CEO of Sparrow Hotels that includes the landmark Norwood Hotel in St. Boniface, which is located at 112 Marion St.
The St. Vital resident was a key player in the 4th annual National Fair Trade Conference that was held in Winnipeg from Feb. 18 to 20, and was also profiled in a video about corporate fair trade that was part of the 26th annual International Development Week in Winnipeg that was held between Feb. 7 and 13 — an initiative led by Global Affairs Canada, and celebrated in the province by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC), to increase awareness about the contribution of Manitobans to international development.
Sparrow, 41, is a member of a steering committee that is striving to make Winnipeg a Fair Trade Town. The Fair Trade Town program is a global movement that recognizes municipalities that demonstrate a strong commitment to fair trade through community stakeholders.
"We’re confident that in the next few months that Winnipeg will join cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton, Vancouver and Brandon in achieving Fair Trade Town status," Sparrow said. "We’ve met all of the requirements and we’re just waiting from an official declaration from city hall. We’ve been working at this for over 18 months now, so we’re very proud."
Sparrow said to achieve the status a city must meet several criteria, including having fair trade products readily available in stores and restaurants, and the city has to have garnered a certain amount of support from businesses, institutions and community groups.
"The movement has gained considerable momentum over the last 20 years and the purpose is to recognize that the growers and manufacturers of commodities such as coffee, sugar, cocoa, spices, fruit and wine, as well as other products, have been susceptible to exploitation. Fair trade seeks to pay the farmers or growers a fair price for their products," he said.
"Today’s consumers want more information about the products they buy than ever before. This includes nutritional information, whether it’s gluten-free, whether it’s local and their purchase affects the people and the communities where it was produced."
Sparrow said the underlying principles of fair trade match his values as a local business leader.
"My objective as a business owner is to create long-term value for my shareholders. By creating a corporate culture based on strong core values we’re able to create a loyal customer base and loyal employee base, which increases sales and reduces costs. As an entrepreneur, I want to make a profit, but I also want to benefit the community," Sparrow said.
"Our loyalty is to our customers, our employees and our community, as well as the people who supply products and services. We treat people as we wish to be treated. If you don’t have strong core values in the hospitality industry, it’s hard to provide a high level of customer service."
In April, Sparrow will be part of a contingent that will tour farms and facilities that produce certified fair trade products in Peru.
Sparrow Hotels also includes the Inn at the Forks and Mere Hotel, and it also provides food services at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.
Visit www.sparrowhotels.com for more information.
Simon Fuller is the reporter/photographer for The Lance. Canstar’s senior reporter, he joined the team in June 2009 to write for The Sou’wester, which was then the new paper in the Canstar family.