Archive for the ‘Ethical Sourcing’ Category

From the floor II: PPAI 2013

February 5, 2013

The safety/responsibility issue is the serious face of the PPAI Expo; the super-cool fun face is the new product ideas featured there. We profile a few of them here.

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Shiny red boots!

1.      Rubber boots. These were among our favorite products — so cool, so well-made, and  manufactured from a usable, durable product.

Beautiful things come from all around here.

2.      Custom world globes. We loved this use of a globe and stand. So many of our clients have supply-chain stories to tell their customers about where their food is grown, where their ingredients are sourced, and where their products are made. Here is a great use of a globe as an educational tool – the Body Shop used this to identify the origin of their ingredients.

It’s felt! It’s cork! It’s lovely!

3.      Recycled felt and cork products. We oohed and ahhhed at this new line of recycled PET and cork accessories. The colours are fabulous and the styling contemporary. These were in keeping with the “sustainable style” trend we noted in a previous blog [link to blog post]…

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Liivng tools.

 4.      Grow-your-own toolkits. A fantastic use of herb and veggie seeds in these bookmarks – to encourage folks to grow their own food.

Mmmmm. Snacks . . . .

5.      Soft-touch vintage tees. A new t-shirt vendor from San Francisco that makes its product right in the USA produced cool looks, organic options and great designs.
It was a great show. We’re already looking forward to PPAI 2014!

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.

 

 

A corking idea!

January 23, 2013
A stylish kit - not your average promo product.

A stylish kit – not your average promo product.

It seems that every day we get more bad news about how our species is ransacking the planet — encroaching on more wildlife habitat by clearing more land; overfishing the oceans; depleting the sources of some wonderful or miraculous material until there threatens to be none left for anyone or anything. You may have seen, for instance, the recent Guardian article on the supposed problems with the quinoa craze, and the passionate responses to that article.

These days, conscientious people are pretty much primed to believe the worst about these things, and that’s understandable. But at Fairware, we believe two things: we believe that humans actually do play a role here — it’s not hopeless, and we’re not helpless — and that’s why we’re in the business we’re in; and we also believe that it’s still really important to get the facts. Because sometimes, despite everything, things actually aren’t as bad as they seem.

Take the issue of cork. The general consensus in recent years has been that cork sources are critically endangered, and it’s unethical to use them. Synthetic corks are now widely used in the wine industry, from which the prime demand for the substance comes, and that’s seen as a good alternative. The truth, however, is a bit more complex and nuanced than it looks at first glance (isn’t that always the way?). In fact, cork isn’t endangered. (That story may have started when wine producers stopped using cork — some for economic reasons, some to avoid cork mold.) Unlike other trees, which must be cut down during harvesting, cork oaks are harvested simply by peeling bark off the tree; the tree itself is left to regenerate and thrive. As well, a tree that is harvested on the usual nine-year cycle will absorb three to five times more CO2 than one that is not. Harvesting cork is an ancient, sustainable practice and supports the livelihoods of many people in parts of Europe, in particular Portugal and Spain.

Sami Grover at Treehugger has a really fine article on the truth about cork, with links to other pieces discussing both the pros and cons of harvesting and using it. At Triple Pundit, Leon Kaye has an interesting look at the wine industry’s move away from cork and its possible environmental impact.

Fairware features some very handsome and practical cork products sourced sustainably from Portugal, such as the distinctive toiletries bag above. Take a look. Because it’s nice to enjoy some good news.

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 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!

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…

SOCIAL ENTERPRISES: Giving Communities a Hand

July 24, 2012

Helping Hands. Image Creative Commons > @Iowa_Spirit_Walker

We’re big advocates of driving change by being the change. That’s why we are big fans of social enterprises. Specifically, we’d like to bring to light a wonderful organization that we’ve been fortunate to work with: Helping Hands Rewards.

Social enterprises put a spin on traditional revenue-generating businesses. On the surface, they operate like any other business, applying commercial strategies to maximize revenue and promote their brand. But unlike other companies, social enterprises are run by either nonprofit organizations or for-profit companies with the intention of earning revenue for the sole purpose of improving social and environmental standards.

In short, social enterprises prioritize improving human and environmental well-being as opposed to increasing shareholder profits. They strive to spur local economies and give well-paying, benefit-based jobs to workers within the neighbourhood. Profits are not distributed to individuals—they are pooled in a trust that goes to benefit the community.

We love social enterprises because they are a fantastic representation of “impact purchasing,” wherein what you buy has benefits beyond corporate interest. What companies like us gain from offering products made by social enterprises is the knowledge that every purchase has a direct influence on the workers, the community and the planet as a whole.

One of our key social enterprise supplier is Helping Hands Rewards. Helping Hands Rewards is a not-for-profit organization that partners with social enterprises and assists them with marketing and venture development, as well as helping them expand their business to incentive-based companies—including Fairware. Their mission is purely to help people earn a living and support their families. They represent some truly great examples of social enterprises, including Greyston Bakery, which makes the famous brownies for Ben and Jerry’s.

Helping Hand Rewards has connected us to two suppliers—Bright Endeavors and Chicago Lighthouse — for our social enterprise category. Bright Endeavors is a Chicago-based social enterprise that makes eco-friendly spa products and provides career training and jobs to young parents. Chicago Lighthouse, meanwhile, benefits visually-impaired people through its production of home accessories and promotional products. Helping Hands Rewards aids both ventures to reach their full potential as a commercial business and increase funding for their social incentives.

To really get the full impact of what Helping Hands Rewards does, it’s interesting and inspiring to read some of the stories of the individuals who have personally been given a “helping hand” by the organization. Want to learn more about Social Enterprises – check out the resources listed below.

Enterprising Non Profits

Canadian Social Enterprise Marketplace

Social Enterprise Alliance

 

 

 

Bamboozled? Getting the facts on Bamboo Textiles

June 11, 2012

We’ve re-posted this from 2010 because it’s still a good primer on bamboo & it’s still a material that people have lots of questions about.

At Fairware we’ve had plenty of interest in apparel with bamboo content. In addition to being easy to care for, soft and silky, bamboo fibers have been loudly touted as the newest and greatest in eco-apparel.

But there are conflicting facts about the environmental attributes of bamboo textiles so we’ve taken a closer look. The following is based on our online research and we welcome your comments, input and suggestions.

Bamboo: The Plant

The premise that bamboo textiles are eco-friendly is largely based on the sustainability merits of the plant. Part of the grass family, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on Earth (giant kelp is second). Instead of taking centuries to mature, like hardwood, bamboo can be harvested after only 3 to 5 years.

Bamboo is also self-sustaining with an extensive root system that sends up new shoots each year. This substantially reduces the need for intense cultivation practices. The large root system also helps prevent soil erosion and improves the water-holding capacity of the watershed. With sufficient rainfall, bamboo crops don’t require irrigation. (more…)

A Changing Market: Fairware’s Success Reflects a Shift Towards Corporate Sustainability Efforts

May 21, 2012

Fairware is pleased to announce that we have been ranked #9 on a list of the top ten fastest growing promotional product distributors in North America by the ASI Counselor Magazine .

We have more than doubled in size over the last 3 years, growing an astonishing 117%. This bit of news is not only an acknowledgement of the hard work we’ve put in, but also recognition of the changing face of business.

According to PPAI.org, distributor revenues increased only 5.89% from 2009 to 2010, with other reports suggesting growth slowed to the single digits from 2009 to 2011.

Our staggering growth in an industry otherwise in a slump reflects a welcome shift towards corporate social responsibility. The market is embracing doing business differently, and it’s refreshing to see that our longstanding commitment to ethical sourcing and sustainable product distribution is becoming a standard.

This positive market response is not only encouraging for us at Fairware, but also for the planet. An interesting report done in 2001 by Greenbiz.com and Ernst and Young on Trends in Corporate Sustainability mirrors this sentiment. According to the study, this movement towards corporate sustainability efforts is made ever stronger by its resilience during the current recession and recovery.

Fairware is proud to exemplify a flourishing company that limits its impact on the environment. We hope our success inspires other businesses to adopt our commitment to doing business differently. For more information about our corporate social responsibility best practices, please contact Denise Taschereau at denise@fairware.com.


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