Archive for the ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ Category

From the floor: PPAI 2013

January 27, 2013

 

Does your lip balm have a pedigree?

Does your lip balm have a pedigree?

The 2013 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo took place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas from 14-18 January. Fairware was there, sharing ideas with colleagues, scoping out new products, and noting trends.

What really struck us as we walked the floor of this vast trade show? It was the way that the concept of product responsibility has leapt onto the radar. Historically, the promotional product industry has viewed product responsibility through a compliance-based lens and paid attention strictly to the letter of the law. But in the Product Safety 201 session held at PPAI, Rick Brenner, CEO of Primeline, was quick to point out that product “safety” needs to expand to a product “responsibility” framework that includes social compliance, product quality and environmental standards.

When we walked the trade show floor, we made a conscious decision to ask vendors if they could supply compliance testing reports for their products to see where random suppliers stood on the safety aspect of the conversation. We were surprised at how many could supply those reports, and were clearly up-to-date on the issues. Our preferred organic lip balm supplier even had a poster of their testing and labelling standards in their booth.

The two sessions on product responsibility that we attended were full, and there were lively discussions regarding whose responsibility it is to manage product safety in an industry in which products travel through many hands before they reach the end user.

Also noted was the profile and attention PPAI has given to this important issue. They have a well-developed internal resource centre for members, featuring a dozen educational and capacity-building guides (from “How to Read a Compliance Document” to a guide on product, social and environmental best practices) as well as the Turbo Test, an intuitive online roadmap that will help distributors ascertain which rules, regulations and tests apply to which products.

We think that staying ahead of the curve on matters of safety and responsibility is good business, good citizenship, and good sense. It was great to see that so many of our industry peers think so, too.

 

 

FAIRWARE CRUSH: Nature Conservancy of Canada

December 29, 2012
Jacket

These jackets are made in Canada–and are Bluesign-approved.

 

Talk about a true force of nature! For an astonishing 50 years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been breaking ground in the conservation of areas of natural diversity across the country.

Launched by a group of naturalists in 1962 in an effort to protect natural spaces, the NCC has since blossomed into one of the country’s most cherished not-for-profits—and one of Fairware’s major crushes.

Since its inception, the NCC has gathered innovative conservation-science professionals to help manage land and waters for their natural value in a non-confrontational manner that promotes nature’s own processes. Over their 50 years of hard work, the NCC has helped protect nearly 2.6 million acres of ecologically significant land.

From the start, their mission has been driven by the belief that we Canadians owe it to our society and our country to do create something great in the present—and conserve what we have for the future.

We love when we hear stories of passionate people looking to make a difference—and truly make their mark. From its grassroots beginnings, the NCC has been a shining example of how Canadians have historically seen the value and the cultural importance of guarding our natural spaces.

In celebration of their 50th anniversary, we not only donated $9,000 to their continued efforts, but were proud to be the source of their commemorative jackets marking this amazing milestone. Made in Canada, the jackets are made primarily of recycled polyester—a Bluesign-approved fabric that meets the most stringent environmental, health, and safety standards.  We were so stoked to work with this amazing organization, and we look forward to 50 more years of their crucial work.

For more on the Nature Conservancy of Canada and to read up on their remarkable 50-year history, check out their website.

The best way to get mobbed up.

December 16, 2012
Fairware loves Vanctiy Good Money Mobs.

Fairware loves VancityGood Money Mobs.

Fairware has clients anyone would be proud to work with. It’s one of the great things about the kind of work we do. We’re particularly proud to work with Vancity. Vancity is not just Canada’s largest credit union; it’s an organization committed to sustainability, responsibility, and accountability—and to investing in its community.

We’re Vancity’s promotional product supplier, and we’re particularly in love with their Good Money Mobs. It’s one of the ways in which they live their marketing motto: “We make you good money by putting money to good.” Good Money Mobs involve encouraging a group of people to visit a Vancity-member business together and spend a modest amount of money there, thereby giving a local business a boost. For each Mob, Vancity selects a few of their small-business members, then chooses which business to “mob” via Facebook vote. The latest choice was Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro, which was mobbed on November 2nd. Previous Good Money Mobs occurred at another bistro, East of Main, and at CocoaNymph Chocolates and ConfectionsFairware sourced things like the buttons and t-shirts.

Vancity is involved in and supports a lot of other awesome things. If you live in the Vancouver area, their events calendar is a great resource for discovering interesting, worthwhile community activities.

Good Money Mobs are an idea that needs to spread far and wide. And unlike flashmobs, there is absolutely no choreography involved.  :-)

The Social Venture Network Hall of Fame

December 14, 2012

SVN

The Social Venture Network celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. SVN was started, in the words of co-founder Josh Mailman, “to build a new paradigm: one in which business operates to add value to society — without compromising the well-being of future generations.” SVN helps entrepreneurs who want to build businesses that are sustainable and responsible as well as successful.

On November 13th, Fairware founders Denise Taschereau and Sarah White attended SVN’s Hall of Fame Impact Awards dinner in New York City. This event, which celebrated, in SVN’s words, “25 of the most innovative and influential leaders of the socially responsible business movement,” benefited SVN’s Bridge Project. Denise and Sarah’s feelings about the night? “We were honoured to be amongst world-changing peers, clients, and heroes, and to be a part of creating such an awesome and inspiring event.”

Among those honoured were Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s, and Drew and Myra Goodman of Earthbound Farm; a number of Fairware clients were similarly honoured. Fairware is proud to be a member of SVN, and even prouder to be the source of the gorgeous awards themselves, which were made in northern California from recycled glass.

Expo West 2013 is coming!

December 12, 2012
Nature's Path at Expo West 2012.

Nature’s Path at Expo West 2012.

Natural Products Expo West is the world’s largest natural and organic products tradeshow. In 2013, it will take place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, from March 8th to 10th, with education and events beginning on the 7th.

A number of Fairware clients — Stonyfield FarmNature’s PathDaiya Foods — are in the natural food and products business, so planning for Expo West has become a big part of our own seasonal calendar. Leanne Stasiuk, Fairware’s Natural Product Category Account Manager, worked with Nature’s Path for six years, and is a five-time veteran of Expo West. She’s shared this list of tips and ideas that should prove invaluable to anyone planning to exhibit at the show.

General Planning Tips

  • Hold a pre-show booth audit and meeting. If you haven’t pulled out or reviewed your booth since your last trip to Expo West, make sure you give it the once-over to ensure that it’s in good working order and that you have what you need; also, confirm that it has any new brand elements you’ll need for this year. Meet with the team you’ll be bringing to the show, and make sure that everyone is briefed on the expectations for the team and the goals for the booth.
  • Get sizes for all team members working the show. This will speed things up when you order apparel.
  • Pre-make kits for sampling areas. Make kits that contain all you’ll need to offer a range of samples of your product in one box, and send them to each location ahead of time. Here’s a sample kit we put together for Nature’s Path.
  • Find out the last advance-shipping date for the show. You’ll need to have everything ready to go on that day; if you miss that date, you’ll have to ship to your hotel or bring things in your own luggage!
  • Keep your giveaways small. Pretty much everyone is travelling to this show, and they’ll all be picking up samples along the way. So if you’re giving something away, make sure it will fit in carry-on luggage.
  • Do a post-show audit. Get together with your team to review what worked, what they liked, what didn’t fly. Keep the list handy for future booth design, apparel, handouts, etc.
Merchandise and Promotional Product Tips

  • Call Fairware at 1.866.606.3247. We’ll talk you through the process of selecting promotional products. A great way to supplement your catalogue, for instance, is with USB memory drives. Did you know that the Expo West media centre is paper-free? If you want to leave a media kit, it’s best done on a USB drive. As well, you can use different colours of USB drives to provide information to different target audiences – marketing, sales, etc. Instead of the usual trade memos, put videos of product use or supply chain stories on these drives.
  • If you feature a bag, make sure it’s THE bag. If you go this route, it’ll be worth your while to invest in doing a truly great bag, as there will be a lot of competition on this front at the show. You need to offer the bag everyone wants – one that’s large, with great graphics, and long straps for over-the-shoulder carrying.
  • Consider table runners. If you can’t afford table cloths or want to change things up, try runners instead.
  • Give thought to staff apparel. Create a mix of apparel — button-downs, polos or tees —and let team members know if you want them to wear certain items on certain days. Have fun with your staff apparel.  Wear apparel that your consumers want to wear (hint: the typical left-chest logo is SO 1986). Make sure that your team members are comfortable — consider bamboo shawls or an organic scarf. If you prefer, you can avoid custom shirts by doing custom aprons, and just specifying a colour or style of shirt for staff to wear.
  • If you’re going with sample cups or spoons, make sure to order well ahead of time. This is especially so if you’re customizing; that requires a pretty long lead time.
  • Try water bottles on which you can write your name. All staff in your booth can have the same bottle, with each team member writing his or her name on it.
  • You’re sure to be popular with portable chargers. Someone’s gadget is always running out of power — a laptop, a phone, an iPad, etc. If you do a pre-show sales and marketing meeting, for example, gift each team member with a solar charger.
  • We still use paper, so consider padfolios or notebooks for everyone.These will offer a hard, stable surface on which to write, and they can easily be carried around the booth for taking notes.  Get one for each staff member, for the outdoor sampling stations, the main booth, and the Fresh Ideas Organic Marketplace.
  • You’ll never go wrong with everyday items. There is a reason why pens, Post-It notes, magnets, notebooks, and stickers are the top-selling catagories of product. We use these items every day – and they thus make a HUGE logo impression. You might want to create an FSC-paper grocery-list notepad; feature your product on the first line of each page, or include a coupon with the top sheet.
  • Thought of cutting boards? These make a great brand impression as people pick up samples. Keep them light and easy-to-clean with Chop Chop boards, or light and antimicrobial with cork boards.
  • Got a limited budget?  Give less-expensive items away to the general public, and make up 50 specially branded items or gift packages for those “special” folks – buyers, media, etc.
  • Use a press-show teaser. Send a postcard with, say, some organic herb seeds attached to it to prompt people to visit your booth; let them know in advance that they should book a time for a visit, or that there is an incentive or gift if they visit.


Keep this list handy, and have a smooth and fruitful Expo 2013!

GREEN AMENDMENTS: A Look at the Long-Awaited Revisions to the FTC’s Green Guide

December 2, 2012

 

 Guidelines on green marketing have gotten a lot clearer. Picture via Michael Caven

Guidelines on green marketing have gotten a lot clearer. Picture via Michael Caven

 

Green? Eco-friendly? Earth smart?

Marketers have been throwing these terms around freely for the past decade as consumers have taken more notice of the environmental impact their purchases can make. Until recently, these terms have had little restrictions placed on them—and advertisers have gotten away with misleading buyers through a scheme called “greenwashing.”

After five long years of deliberations, the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guide has been revised for the first time since 1998 to ensure that marketers’ green claims are truthful and accurate.

We talked a little bit about greenwashing a few weeks ago in our post exploring the proper disposal of sustainable alternatives to plastic. Put simply, greenwashing is exactly what it sounds like: stretching the truth about how sustainable or environmentally friendly a product really is.  Sometimes, the truth hasn’t only been stretched—but fully manufactured.

The Green Guide sets the rules on how marketers can promote the eco benefits of their products. As demand for these products continues to boom, these new revisions couldn’t have come sooner. After all, the Green Guide was written in 1992 at a time when “green” and “eco-friendly” weren’t exactly on buyers’ radar.

The most striking of the revisions made to the guide is the cautioning of marketers against the use of these terms in general, as they are “broad and unqualified.” To consumers, terms like “green” and “eco-friendly” suggest that the product has specific or far-reaching environmental benefits. According to the FTC: “Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from these claims.” Up until now, any slight changes made to a product that could be construed as beneficial for the environment has given marketers just cause to label a product “green.”

The newly updated Green Guide also requires that claims of a product’s degradability be backed up by evidence that the entire product does actually break down naturally and return to nature over the course of one year.

And we are happy to report that the guide calls for clearer labelling of how products can be disposed of—whether they are compostable, recyclable, or safe for landfills.

You can read more about the revisions to the FTC’s Green Guide here. We are stoked about these revisions not only because of what they mean for our industry, but also because it really shows a strong push towards growing the market for products that are accurately labeled.

Fairware Innovators Ranked Among Top Women Canadian Entrepreneurs

October 23, 2012

Denise Taschereau and Sarah White in their Vancouver office.

The co-founders of Fairware – a growing BC company based in Vancouver – are being recognized as two of Canada’s most successful, creative and business-savvy women entrepreneurs.

On October 1, Fairware’s Chief Executive Officer Denise Taschereau and Chief Operating Officer Sarah White were named 81st on PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 Ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs. The 14th annual W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs is produced by PROFIT Magazine and Chatelaine. The ranking profiles the country’s most successful women business owners, and is based on a composite score based on the size, growth and rate of profitability of business. Fairware’s ranking will be published in the November issues of PROFIT and Chatelaine Magazines and online at www.PROFITguide.com.

“The women of the W100 offer 100 shining examples of Canadian entrepreneurship,” said Ian Portsmouth, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of PROFIT. “They have achieved their elite status by creating valued products and services, applying deft management skills and exercising the determination required to succeed in today’s business environment.”

The duo were also named finalists today for a 2012 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award (CWEA), which recognizes women entrepreneurs from across Canada who make impressive contributions to local, Canadian or global economies. Fairware is being considered in the TPH Sustainability Award category, which honours women-led businesses dedicated to incorporating environmentally conscious initiatives and leading social change. Winners of the RBC award will be announced in Toronto November 28.

The company is also a finalist in the Better Business Bureau of Mainland BC Torch Awards Green Award category, which recognizes forward-thinking, sustainable business practices or contributions toward positive social change. Winners will be announced October 25 in Vancouver. “When we made the decision back in 2005 to found our company, Fairware operated out of my garage, and wasn’t much more than a phone and a computer,” said Sarah White. “Fast forward seven years: we now have a team of 10, a healthy annual profit, and national recognition alongside some of Canada’s most successful women entrepreneurs. It’s gratifying to know that all of our hard work and vision to change the world for the better is paying off.”

“All along, we’ve committed to being change-makers by thinking outside of the box, and being recognized on a national level is a reflection of that commitment,” said Denise Taschereau. “We believe that we can all change the world with the simple act of buying and clearly, supporting sustainability can be good for our environment and a great way to do business.”Fairware is a Vancouver-based company that creates a wide variety of unique, ethically sourced custom products made with environmentally preferred materials.

Fairware sources custom promotional items that say something about who the client is and what they believe in, successfully marrying sustainability and style with creative vision and profitability. Fairware’s clients include Vancity, Nature’s Path Foods, Mountain Equipment Co-op, AVEDA, Patagonia, Stonyfield Farms, Aspen Skiing Company, Canadian Federation of Students and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Taschereau and White said that building their business, founded in 2005, wasn’t easy, as they navigated their way through the worst global recession in over 20 years, managed rapid growth and the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff. Fairware has emerged as one of the fastest growing distributors in the promotional products industry, with growth of 117 per cent in the last three years and revenues of over $2 million in 2011. Earlier this year, Fairware was named one of the top ten fastest growing promotional products companies in North America, and the fastest growing in Canada, by ASI Counselor Magazine.

 

LABOR WARS: Samsung Joins Apple in the Latest Labor Controversy

October 18, 2012

A Steady Hand: Photo by Robert S. Donovan

As Samsung and Apple wind up for a legal dual in courts over digital tablet cell phone patents, the technology giants find themselves tangled in another, messier PR battle.

No matter how big and how seemingly well-run a company is, there remains a serious risk when outsourcing production abroad. Last month, Samsung joined the recently targeted Apple in the long list of companies that have been accused of violating workers’ rights in their international factories.

Just as we talked last week about companies embracing a trend towards being “flawsome,” Apple and Samsung have recently been forced to admit their mistakes amid a public controversy regarding labor conditions at their Chinese suppliers—though there is certainly nothing awesome about having to admit these flaws.

In late August, New York-based activist group China Labor Watch released a lengthy report bringing into question the working conditions at 8 Samsung factories in China—6 of which are owned by the company itself. Samsung was accused of a myriad of violations, including hiring underage workers, not compensating employees overtime pay totalling nearly 100 hours a month, oral and physical abuse of workers, and failing to provide proper safety equipment.

The findings mirror a similar report released by the CLW earlier in the year that brought charges of labor abuse towards Apple. The report came after undercover CLW workers staged an investigation into conditions at factories run by Apple’s supplier, Foxconn. Amid the controversy, Apple agreed to allow the Fair Labor Association to perform audits, while Foxconn underwent a serious reform of its internal systems.

At a news conference following the release of the report, a Chinese government official blasted certain companies for lacking “human care.” Following Apple’s lead, Samsung pledged to conduct on-site investigations of all 105 of their Chinese suppliers, while China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has promised to continue to monitor conditions at their factories. The Fair Labor Association has since released a report indicating that measures taken by Samsung suggest that the company is on the right track towards addressing these serious findings.

What all this really brings to light is a continued need for businesses to be more aware of the risks inherent in their supply chains.

In the 80’s and 90’s, major apparel and footwear suppliers found themselves tangled in the now-notorious sweatshop controversy. That brought about major changes in management systems and methods for social compliance reporting (and improved working conditions on the factory floor). These changes have been crucial in redefining the way companies are expected to conduct their businesses, both at home and abroad.

With this newest debacle, the message is clear: big or small, companies must take measures to ensure that their suppliers abide by ethical and fair standards of workers’ rights. We hope that this latest outing sparks a wake-up call for the electronics industry and leads to the development of programs to protect worker rights in their factories.

While this is a serious topic, the brilliant minds at Saturday Night Live recently took our need for faster, lighter, thinner phones to task…

EXPLORING SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES: A LOOK AT BIOPLASTICS (Pt. 1)

September 18, 2012

We talk a lot about sustainable alternatives to commonly used products here at Fairware—from re-purposed and recycled items to organic textiles. It’s actually quite amazing how many options there are when making a conscious choice to buy better products.

Take plastic for instance. From plastic containers and packaging to utensils and bottles—so much of what we come across in everyday life  is made from plastics and they can have a devastating impact on the environment, human health, species maintenance, and the ocean.

First, let’s talk about what makes common plastics so damaging. Common plastics are obtained from petroleum, which significantly increases the production of greenhouse gases and makes the plastics reliant on fossil fuels. Aside from what these plastics take from the environment during manufacturing, there is the major issue of what they leave behind. Some common plastics such as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polystyrene are notable for the hazards throughout their life-cyle.  The production and disposal of some plastics can threaten the life of ocean species and animals, but also humans.

So, in short: the production common plastics is threatening our environment and health. Yet, their uses are vast and the need for plastic is unavoidable.

Enter bioplastics or biopolymers, promising to be a safer, environmentally responsible alternative. While there are other types of “biodegradable plastics” on the market, for the purpose of this post, we’re looking at bioplastics such as PLA are plastics that are derived from renewable living sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, potatoes, and rice. And as with most innovations, they’re bring opportunity and have risks. We explore both below:

But the biggest draw towards bioplastics is in its lifecycle. Most—though not all—bio-materials disintegrate rapidly in commercially managed composting processed. In theory, this means there are less harmful waste left in our ecosystems. Bioplastics that are not biodegradable are used to make non-disposable items such as cell phone casings or car interiors. The objective of these bioplastic applications is the use of sustainable, renewable resources in production rather than the end of life biodegradability.

According to some studies, bioplastics account for a whopping 42% reduction in carbon footprint. However, that’s not say these studies haven’t had their fair share of disputes. For example, Environmental data from NatureWorks, the only commercial manufacturer of PLA (polylactic acid) bioplastic, says that making its plastic material delivers a fossil fuel saving of between 25 and 68 per cent compared with polyethylene, in part due to its purchasing of renewable energy certificates for its manufacturing plant.

There remain critical changes that need to be made in the bio-plastics game. Powering farming machinery and irrigating crops rely heavily on petroleum as an energy source. There are also concerns around the use of genetically modified organisms in agricultural feedstock production and using a food based crop for fuel.  Finally, there is a major lack in composting and recycling infrastructure. Cities like Seattle and San Francisco have successfully implemented proper composting and recycling infrastructures. Without this infrastructure, most bioproducts end up as trash in a landfill. The emergence of a third party certification agency (BPI in the US) tasked with certifying a manufacturers claims regarding compostability to international standards will help to standardize what is and isn’t suitable for municipal composting.

Getting consumers on board is the first step towards implementing the proper production and composting infrastructure needed to make the best of bioplastic technologies. The first step comes in helping consumers understand the environmental, human and economic impacts made by their purchases (no small task, we know). But confusing labels often mislead consumers. Take “bio-based,” for example, sounds like a product branded like this would be biodegradable, right? Actually, this is not necessarily the case.

“Biodegradable,” meanwhile, does not always mean compostable, but rather that the product will eventually disintegrate. Bewildering labeling is actually a major factor of improper recycling and composting – it’s confusing to say the least. We are going to further into the FTC Guidelines on compostable vs. biodegradable vs. degradable in our post next week, so stay tuned for that!

Like all new, sustainable technologies and initiatives, there is good and bad. The development of bioplastics shows a promising push towards renewability and compostability. But there needs to be continued consumer education of how these products are properly used as well as adequate means to compost and recycle these bioplastics before this technology reaches its full potential.

LENDING TOWARDS SUSTAINABILTY: LANYARD LIBRARY

September 10, 2012

Lanyards from our lending library.

 

This month marks one year since we launched a unique project aimed at expanding the lifespan of lanyards. We sell a lot of lanyards at Fairware—those fabric necklaces that are handed out at conventions or conferences, usually bearing the wearer’s name at the bottom. They circulate all day and are usually tossed in the trash (or the junk drawer) at night.

We thought it would be a cool concept to lend out lanyards with both the purpose of reducing the amount being produced and discarded, and to document the events they have traveled to and the people that have worn them. This idea inspired the Lanyard Library.

It works like a lending library: we send out lanyards to be used for an event or conference and they are returned to us along with snapshots of the lanyards in use. Our lanyards are made from recycled plastic bottles by a supplier in Ontario that meets Fairware’s Supplier Code of Conduct.

Event organizers that use our lanyards not only save money and get to promote their event on our website, but they also demonstrate to delegates a commitment to sustainability.

Our lanyards have made their way to many fantastic events over the past few years—all documented on our website. From the Power the Vision event supporting Vision Vancouver and Gregor Robertson’s mayoral candidacy, to the Social Change Institute’s conference aimed at personal betterment in the midst of change, to the LOCO event hosted by Fairware at our Vancouver office. It’s great to see how our lanyards have connected us to so many great events and people. The wonderful reception of our concept reminds all of us that even small changes towards reducing your environmental footprint can have a big impact.

Lending libraries have historically been associated with books, but this trend towards borrowing other items is starting to take off. In Vancouver alone—where our office is located—there are a number of inspiring lending libraries that run with this concept. The Tool Library is a cooperative tool lending library that gives members access to a wide selection of tools for gardening, home repair, and bicycle maintenance. The Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre has a lending library which lends out equipment and tools for caregivers starting their own businesses.

We are hoping that more people will begin to rely on these lending libraries for their needs. It’s a great way to save money and cut back on the overproduction of products that are too often only used once.

As the 2012 event season heats up, we are excited to see our Lanyard Library grow. We are excited to see the journey our lanyards take this year!

The facts on borrowing:

  • Event coordinators are responsible for shipping and returning at least 60% of the lanyards (or they’re charged $0.50 a unit).
  • We take returned lanyards and wash and air dry them for the next user.
  • We expect to get a photo of the event (with the lanyards in action).

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