Richard Miller, AUSA President 06/07, NUS Executive Member 07/08 and former Scottish Fair Trade Forum Board Member gave us his thoughts in this exclusive 60 second interview with Duncan Smart, former Universities and Colleges Development Intern for the Forum:
What was the motivation behind going for Fairtrade accreditation at Aberdeen University?
Ooh, well there were a couple of good reasons and a few lame ones! The main reason behind it, and what actually kept the process ongoing was the belief in the cause. Aberdeen Students Association and the University both felt that they had a part to play in making the world a better place (which gets called corporate social responsibility these days). Also we found out that Edinbugh University had done it too, and we didn't want to fall behind the times!
How did you find the process of gathering the evidence and submitting your application? Did you encounter any problems?
There were some things that held up the process, but nothing that held it back. At the start I felt concerned that polictically there would be people who wouldn't want to cooperate, but the more the idea got rolling, the more people got involved. Once you've got the Director of Campus Services and the Principal on board then you find there's a lot of open doors. At first the list of criteria seemed daunting, but once it was broken down and planned for it became easier.
What do you think the benefits of achieving Fairtrade status are?
It's not often you'll hear people describe the feelings of an organisation like a university, but for me I think the main benefit was the feeling of achievement, of becoming an active part of the solution instead of watching the problem of global trade getting worse. It certainly raised awareness, but more so then awareness it raised action, and brought students and staff together on a shared concern, I also think it makes the instituion more appealing to prospective students.
How did the relationship work between the university and the Students Association in this initiative?
It became a joint project once it was realised that there was a stir coming from both the SA and the University about Fair Tade. there was a policy proposed and a steering group set up, which had a range of representatives from across the University including students from the SA and People & Planet.
The grassroots campaigners from the Shared Planet society had been rightly campaigning on it for a long time, and had even set up a Fair Trade cafe. They raised a lot of the profile, and the SA and Univeristy ran with it from there. The relationship worked well, the dynamic of working together can often be productive for both organisations, and I found I got to know more about the university.