Archive for the ‘Sustainable Brands’ Category

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.

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!

Fairware Supplier Crush – ETS Express Line

December 6, 2012
ETS water bottles

Ever wonder how your artwork gets printed onto drinkware? I mean really, how do you get a logo on a curved surface?

ETS Express Line, our fabulous drink-ware supplier, takes us on a tour of their production offices with this great video introduction on their exceptional products and in-house screen printing capabilities. It’s like magic.

They’re our supplier crush of the month – we adore them because:

  •  They focus on providing innovative and fashion forward products, which keeps them at the forefront of the drink-ware industry.
  •  Their printing quality is exceptional, we’ve seen some of the most complex logos reproduced with precision on their products.
  •  They have a great team! From JB (our stellar sales rep) to Mike Williams (VP of Sales) to the beloved Leeton Lee (who works tirelessly to ensure global standards are met for quality, safety; social responsibility; supply-chain security; and environmental stewardship, they’re stars.

Ok, now check out how the magic happens… and then call us 1.866.606.3247 or email contact@fairware.com.

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…

FLAWSOME: Humanizing Businesses

October 10, 2012

Flawsome. It’s a seemingly silly word that paints a bigger picture of the changing face of customer-business relationships—and it’s a concept we think is pretty downright awesome.

Coined by Trendwatching.com as one of their 12 Crucial Customer Trends of 2012, “flawsome” is built on the idea that customers don’t want companies to be perfect—but rather they’d prefer companies to admit and even embrace their flaws.

Tired of the same old stories of unethical business practices and corporate greed, customers are drawn to stories of businesses doing good. Companies like Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia have shown customers and the competition alike that corporations can grow and profit, while being honest, compassionate and fair. Being flawsome goes one step beyond—it’s the concept that businesses should not only show their good side, but their human side as well.

Take for instance Miracle Whip’s new campaign slogan: “We’re not for everyone.” Or Domino’s bold effort at creating an open dialogue with customers by live-streaming positive and negative customer feedback on a Times Square ticker. Lululemon, meanwhile, took a jab at their image by uploading a YouTube parody of the popular “Sh*t Girls Say” videos: “Sh*t Yogis Say.”

For decades, advertisers had it easy. The one-way flow of communication through television, print and radio allowed for brands to be presented to the public as perfect and flawless. And even if customers were unsatisfied with the truthfulness of the ads or the quality of the products, there was no real way for them to convey it to others.

But with the Internet, that all began to change. Today’s social media boom has refined the way businesses communicate with customers. Customers can now “friend” brands on Facebook, “follow” them on Twitter, and critique them openly on Yelp to an audience of millions.

It’s made it nearly impossible for companies to hide behind even the most expensive and carefully crafted reputations. McDonald’s, for example, experienced a major advertising blunder last year when a Twitter campaign aimed at getting customers to share their feel-good dining memories at fast food giant backfired—and a tirade of bad reviews hit their feed instead.

What we love about this trend towards being flawsome is that it promotes transparency—something we think is really important when running a business. From how sustainable and efficient a business runs, to how workers are being treated, and down to the actual quality of the products being produced—we think customers should have a right to know it all, and share their thoughts.

So, while the word sounds a little cheesy, the message is anything but. Technology has created an open forum between customers and businesses, and customers are demanding companies to be good, to be honest, and above all, to be real.

Customer feedback has helped us grow into the company we want to be—one that resonates with customers and stays true to our mission. We hope this trend continues to push more companies to embrace their flawed awesomeness!

FAIRWARE CRUSH: EVERGREEN A Mission Towards Urban Sustainability

October 2, 2012

Evergreen > Bringing Nature to our Cities Since 1991.

This month, we want to give a big shout-out to a charity that hits close to home—our cities. Evergreen Canada is a national charity that has been at the forefront of making our cities more liveable for almost 20 years!

Evergreen’s mission is simple: to inspire and engage Canadians to take action towards urban sustainability. Let’s face it: as our cities grow, developers are buying up land to meet residential and commercial needs. We are losing integral green space, and it’s taking a toll on the environment, the air we breathe and our well-being. Evergreen is making moves to change that.

From planting trees to expanding park space, over the years Evergreen has gathered a diverse group of Canadians to take part in projects aimed at bringing nature back into our cities. But that’s not all—the charity is also committed to promoting green building practices, so our cities can grow sustainably. Evergreen convenes city builders, researchers and environmental innovators to encourage a environmentally responsible and resource efficient structure during a building’s life-cycle.

Since their launch in 1991, Evergreen has helped fund over 3,000 School Ground Greening Projects and more than 2,000 Community Greening Projects in parks and recreation spaces. One of their most innovative projects is Evergreen Brick Works. Named one of the top 10 geotourism destinations in the world by National Geographic, Evergreen Brick Works is a community environmental centre in the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley offering interactive workshops and community festivals aimed at inspiring visitors to live, work and play sustainably.

For the past two years, Evergreen has been a part of a great event that we love—the Molson Red Leaf Project. Evergreen teamed up with brewing giant Molson Canadian to throw the event, which this summer inspired nearly 2,600 Canadians to roll up their sleeves and clean up our parks.

Following its launch in 2011, the program has expanded from 10 to 100 events across Canada. Volunteers from communities across the country came out to give back to land—and their efforts made an amazing impact! 3,241 trees were planted and 277 bags of litter were collected. Volunteers not only got to make a difference in their cities, but they were also rewarded with passes to music festivals like the Craven County Jamboree in Saskatchewan and LIVE at Squamish in BC—which is fittingly held at the beautiful Logger Sports Grounds and Hendrickson fields, surrounded by forests and mountains.

We’re especially stoked about this event, because this year we got to get our hands a little dirty for this campaign too—or rather, kept our hands clean! We provided all the gloves used by volunteers for this event. Product with purpose is a concept we are totally committed to at Fairware, and it was great to see our gloves put to work by so many awesome volunteers.

It’s not only a passionate commitment to urban sustainability that makes Evergreen so crushable in our eyes—it’s how the charity has brought together so many great Canadians to take back our cities and take action towards a green future.

To learn more about Evergreen and it’s remarkable achievements or to take part in their programs, check out their website.

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).

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

 

 

 


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