In June 2023, I (Zoia Pavlovskaia, full-time lecturer in business at Penn State Brandywine and Media Fair Trade committee member, far right in the photo) attended and presented at the Fair Trade International Symposium 2023 at the University of Leeds in the UK (https://eu.eventscloud.com/). This was my first time in the UK, and I visited three cities: London, Leeds, and Manchester. In London, I walked around Hyde Park, saw Kensington and Buckingham palaces, and Big Ben before it started raining and I took a train to Leeds. It was interesting to see the 9 ¾ platform photo attraction at the King’s Crossing train station in real life!
This global Fair Trade symposium started in 2002 and it happens every few years in different countries. Like Penn State Brandywine and Media, PA, both University of Leeds and the city of Leeds have Fair Trade designations, so it was interesting for me to learn from both campaigners and academics.
This three-day event was full of informative presentations and workshops, and attracted approximately 80 participants (50 in-person and 30 online) from universities and organizations. At dinner in the evenings, I sat with faculty from different UK cities, European countries, USA, and Canada. Unfortunately, there were no representatives from the Global South. The two American scholars I met were Laura Reynolds from Colorado State University and Elizabeth Bennett from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. It was really great to meet the authors of the publications that informed and influenced my understanding of Fair Trade over the years.
My presentation was about my ongoing academic research project called “Barriers and Opportunities for the Adoption of Fair Trade Products in the US: A Qualitative Study of Perspectives of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.” There are approximately 328 different businesses in Media, PA, and only 18 businesses currently use some Fair Trade products or ingredients. This means that only about 5% of all businesses in town are “Fair Trade.” Why not more? The goal for our study is to interview 20 business owners and managers in Media as to why they use or don’t use FT practices and present our findings in an academic paper later.
Overall, it was a great event of learning and networking. I learned from experts in the field about Fair Trade research and initiatives in different countries, and met people that I hope to stay in touch with in the future!