NUS (National Union of Students) have voted to make all the clothing they sell through students’ unions like Sussex 100% Fairtrade by 2021.
Last summer Sarah, the Union's Society & Citizenship Officer, was elected onto the NUS charity advisory board for sustainability. This is a group made up of elected officers from around the UK, students and members of staff from various students' unions as well as the head of sustainability from NUS.
A few members of the NUS sustainability advisory board, including Sarah, visited India to see the supply chain of the ethical clothing company Epona, which NUS owns, and the advisory group have been working to get NUS and students unions to commit to go 100% Fairtrade in their clothing for a period.
In Sarah’s report from the trip, she stressed the importance of a switch to stocking exclusively Fairtrade clothing:
“This is where we need students’ unions to commit to sourcing from Epona for all their clothing and extend this to our Universities too for things like uniforms. Epona and NUS are committed to improving the situations for those people involved in the supply chain and as a student movement we should be involved in bringing about the changes we want to see, even if it's only in a small way.”
Presidents and staff from Students’ Unions around the UK voted in April to make NUS 100% Fairtrade by 2021. This means that by 2021 all clothing that the NUS purchasing consortium buys will be Fairtrade, so when unions buy it from NUS they will be buying Fairtrade too. Hundreds of unions around the country buy clothes either for staff or for sale in outlets, so this means much more clothing will have an improved ethical supply chain.
Sarah was incredibly proud of the decision made by staff and officers nationwide, and encouraged students to get involved with national committees:
“Being part of an advisory group has been a really great experience, I've learnt so much about how various elements of NUS work and following this decision, really felt like I was really contributing to the sustainability agenda of NUS and making a difference. I met some wonderful people from a huge range of institutions and unions, the time commitment is definitely manageable and it’s a great way to represent students at a national level as well as taking ideas back to your own campus”
There are many NUS committees that accept students, and you can view the list of them on the NUS website. As Sarah has shown: you can be part of a national conversation and work to shape the habits of students’ unions across the country!