BY KELLY SWAN | August 9, 2022
In the summer of 2021, Julie Banks and Jennifer Napier, both of whom work for the University of Dayton, were invited to attend a workshop hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN)—Working Together: Building a Catholic University Culture of Ethical Consumption.
The workshop was the unofficial launch of a new initiative resulting from a partnership between ISN and Ethix Merch, a supplier of ethical promotional products, called the Catholic Ethical Purchasing Alliance (CEPA). The presence of Banks and Napier at the workshop created a rapid synergy between CEPA and the University of Daytonespecially around work ethically source promotional products and apparel for Catholic campus bookstores.
The University of Dayton has a long-standing commitment to ethical sourcing on campus, with sustainability being a priority since the 1970s. The school became the 38th U.S. Fair Trade Campus in 2016, and sustainable, fair trade and other ethically sourced products can be found on campus in the bookstore, copy center, cafes, dining halls and even includes a thrift store for UD clothing. The university has adopted this as part of its mission as a Catholic university in the Marianist tradition as a way to “promote liberty, equality, and the sanctity of life.”
Sara Harrison, another UD employee, is the school’s executive director of purchasing and fee-based services. Part of her role on campus is to track purchases for the common good, monitoring supplier diversity, sustainability, fair trade status, and human rights with respect to items purchased by the university. The fundamental question she is charged with asking, she explains, is “how much do we spend to support the things that are important to us” as a Catholic and Marianist university?
Jennifer Napier, who attended ISN’s Ethical Purchasing Workshop in 2021, is Senior Commodity Manager at the University of Dayton. His work at UD has always focused on ethical sourcing, including finding suppliers who do “more” but are not “certified”. This is where CEPA came in – UD is quite unique in that the campus bookstore is owned by the university itself, so its agility in adding new products is high. Napier was struck by CEPA’s work, particularly with ethical producers in the United States across Ethix Merch-including the Carolina Textile District—a member-led, member-driven network of values-aligned textile manufacturers in North and South Carolina with whom CEPA and Ethix have a strong relationship.
UD is very committed to telling the story of the products it buys, and CEPA’s work plays directly into that commitment. The Carolina Textile District, in particular, has a captivating story to tell— including the revitalization of a historic region of textile production, the cultivation and processing of local and sustainable cotton, and the ways in which a worker-owned factory business model can meet the needs of workers and their families.
CEPA’s products also touch on several priorities of UD’s purchasing program, namely personal care, but also a concept called the circular economy, part of the story that UD can tell about the products of his library. The circular economy model is essentially a zero-waste way of doing business – eliminating manufacturing waste and even creating new products from old ones, including recycling old socks into new university-branded socks.
The next step in UD’s CEPA commitment is to engage students in the work. When school resumes in the fall, the student government association will be called upon to provide input into product marketing and as student ambassadors, promoting CEPA’s products to their peers and enabling university staff to further train students in UD mission and Catholic social. teach…train individuals who challenge oppressive systems through their collective purchasing power.
Kelly Swan has served as Director of Communications for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.