Guest blogger Bonnie Azab Powel, Director of Communications for Bon Appétit Management Company , explains the mission behind the company and how they incorporate Fair Trade products into their business model.
At Bon Appétit Management Company , we believe that workers in other industries and other countries deserve the same rights and protections that our 11,000 chefs, line cooks, and front-of-the-house staff enjoy in our 400-plus cafés around America.
That’s why we’ve gotten involved in farmworker advocacy, partnering with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on a Code of Conduct  for our Florida tomato growers in 2009 and coauthoring a 65-page report  on the state of farmworker treatment in America, released in March 2011. We’re also the proud sponsors of a special TEDx conference on farmworkers and labor issues, called TEDxFruitvale: Harvesting Change , which will be held this Friday, on October 14. (Watch the live webcast , attend a viewing party , or later, watch the archived videos here .)
That’s also why we care about Fair Trade. All year around, various Bon Appétit cafés around the country — from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to St. Olaf College in Minnesota and TASTE at the Seattle Art Museum — offer Fair Trade items such as coffee, bananas, and chocolate. On Valentine’s Day this year, we announced that Cordillera Fair Trade Certified™ baking chocolate  would be available companywide.
Now, just in time for Fair Trade Month, we’re excited to announce that we’re extending our Fair Trade commitments beyond the plate. We’re launching a pilot program to supply Fair Trade Certified shirts to student employees in two of our university cafés; if all goes well, in 2012, we’ll offer them to front-of-the-house employees in other Bon Appétit cafés. Managers will be able to choose Fair Trade aprons and shirts in a variety of colors, and with a slogan that reads, "Organic, Fair Trade…This Uniform is Ethically Delicious!"
Because to us, who made your shirt is just as important as who grew your strawberry — and who picked it. We are all connected, and we have a responsibility to workers everywhere to show them that their labor is valued as much as the products we purchase.
Bonnie Azab Powell is director of communications for Bon Appétit Management Company, the organizer of TEDxFruitvale, and the founder of the food-politics blog Ethicurean.com. Bon Appétit Management Company (www.bamco.com ) is an on-site restaurant company offering full food-service management to corporations, universities, and specialty venues. A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed programs addressing local purchasing, the overuse of antibiotics, sustainable seafood, cage-free eggs, the connection between food and climate change, and, most recently, farmworker welfare.