Ethical Purchasing at Catholic Universities Provide a Model for Colleges Across the Country

Labor 411’s Sahid Fawaz sat down with Buy Your Values Steering Committee Member and Catholic Ethical Purchasing Alliance (“CEPA”) coordinator, Grace Adams, for a Q&A about its role as a partner in the Buy Your Values UCLA Campaign.

Sahid: Thank you for taking a few minutes to chat about CEPA’s work in the ethical garment manufacturing movement. Can you give us some background on the alliance and what it does?

Grace: Of course. CEPA was formed as a partnered project of Ethix Merch and the Ignatian Solidarity Network (“ISN”), in collaboration with Equal Exchange, and The Carolina Textile District. It works with Catholic colleges and high schools to integrate the principles of Catholic Social Teaching into purchasing decisions.

I’m proud to say that the alliance has seen impressive results, as five university bookstores have agreed to purchase from ethical manufacturers. They are John Carroll University, Xavier University, the University of Dayton, Mercyhurst University, and the Catholic University of America.

Another important mission of CEPA is education on campuses about topics like labor issues and sustainability. We have hosted workshops, presentations, and immersion opportunities with our production partners at various schools like St. Louis University, Villanova University, College of the Holy Cross, and Fordham University.

Sahid: Can you tell us about your role at CEPA?

Grace: I am the CEPA coordinator for ISN, my employer. ISN focuses on social justice education at Catholic schools, colleges, churches, and parishes. It is a lay-run organization that works in partnership with Catholic universities, high schools, parishes, and institutions.

As the CEPA coordinator, I reach out to colleges and organizations to promote education on ethical manufacturing and grow the network of bookstores that work with these manufacturers.

Sahid: How does CEPA fit into the Buy Your Values UCLA campaign?

Grace: They both share the same mission connecting ethical manufacturers with university bookstores. CEPA brings years of experience and knowledge to the UCLA campaign because we have achieved this with five university bookstores.

To my knowledge, the UCLA campaign is the first of its kind to take place at a major non-Catholic university.

Sahid: Are there any positive trends that you are seeing in the ethical garment manufacturing movement?

Grace: Definitely. Students on campuses have a growing concern for workers and the environment, which are two issues that are often intertwined. Students want sustainable manufacturing practices.

Interestingly, we have seen more and more business students become involved in learning about ethical manufacturing. And some Jesuit universities are creating pledges based on the encyclical, Laudato Si, by Pope Francis, who has been a long-time advocate of workers. Two of the seven points in the encyclical are centered on workers and sustainability. Various universities have action platforms and some have student representatives to work on implementing those platforms. CEPA sees these developments as promising opportunities to create broader alliances on campuses.

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