Vancouver recently became the first city in Canada to achieve Fair Trade Town status - signifying that the city aims to purchase products that have been made ethically and for which largely low-income farmers and labourers have been paid fairly. And it's largely due to the efforts of an SFU graduate: Jeff Geipel.
It’s a popular fact that many SFU students take longer than the traditional four years to complete their degrees, and according to Jeff Geipel, it’s well worth it! Geipel spent a fair amount of time getting his BA in Political Science, mostly because he kept leaving the country to see the world. He visited 38 countries by the time he left his studies at SFU, and it was his travels across developing countries in Asia, West Africa and the Middle East that inspired him to work in international development.
After volunteering in Ghana in 2007, he returned to SFU to take classes as a visiting student. It was then that he became involved in the Oxfam chapter on campus and began to promote Fair Trade. Members of Oxfam SFU teamed with the Engineers Without Borders chapter to push for a more effective Ethical Purchasing Policy on campus. Through awareness-raising events and pressure on the administration, the Ethical Procurement Committee was reconvened after three years of inactivity in June 2009. Geipel is currently a member and is working towards incorporating more Fair Trade into the policy.
In the Spring of 2009, inspired by the success of Fair Trade promotion on campus, Geipel founded Fair Trade Vancouver - a non-profit society that works to alleviate poverty in developing countries through increasing awareness, availability and sales of Fair Trade products in Metro Vancouver. Drawing in other SFU alumni and students, as well as partners from the professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders, the organization worked hard to make Vancouver the first major city in Canada to be certified a Fair Trade Town.
When asked why he chose Fair Trade as a cause, he replied “People want to help solve the international poverty they see, but feel helpless to do so. Most people do not have time to volunteer overseas, and even if they have money to donate to charity, they’re not sure it accomplishes much. However, purchasing Fair Trade products is something that every single person can do that makes a meaningful difference. You have tremendous powers as a consumer to shape the world we live in.”
Geipel’s advice to soon-to-be-graduates is to always “measure twice, and cut once”. The job market has never been tougher and it is essential to take the time to research and plan these important years after university. Get involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible, and always make connections with people whenever you can.
Find more information on Fair Trade Vancouver at www.fairtradevancouver.ca
Read The Vancouver Sun's announcement when Vancouver received Fair Trade City status [Read more]