The Eco CEO
For Denise Taschereau, entrepreneurship and activism are one. That’s why she co-founded Fairware (asi/191452) – a Vancouver, BC-based distributorship that provides clients with sourced and custom products that have been produced in accordance with practices of environmental sustainability and fair treatment of laborers. “Business has incredible power to drive positive change,” says Taschereau. “For us, sustainability isn’t a sidebar – it’s our mission.”
Growing up in politically progressive Vancouver, eco-mindedness and human rights were important to Taschereau from her earliest days. Keen to wed her passion and her profession, she pursued a “green” career, rising to become director of sustainability and community at Mountain Equipment Co-op – Canada’s largest outdoor retailer. At MEC, Taschereau oversaw the co-op’s national environmental programs, community grant-making and ethical sourcing programs, and wrote the organization’s award-winning first Sustainability Report.
While Taschereau loved and exceled at her job, she got the itch to transition to the promo sphere after, she says, realizing it was difficult for brands she admired to source logoed merchandise that reflected their social and environmental priorities. It was a point hammered home when she witnessed two PR debacles for such organizations that caught flak for buying promotional gear from sources with checkered records on laborer treatment and human rights. On the business side, Taschereau also recognized the marketplace was ripe for a company that could provide sustainable products. These realizations combined with a love for brand storytelling to form the genesis of Fairware – a company born in 2005 in the garage of co-founder Sarah White. “We had humble beginnings,” says Taschereau, “but we had a lot of confidence there was a need for this.”
They were correct.
From Patagonia to UNICEF USA, Daiya to Whistler Blackcomb, a bevy of conscientious organizations have become Fairware’s clients. In part, customers remain loyal because they trust in the integrity-driven business practices of a company that lives its principles by only working with suppliers it has vetted through a rigorous supply chain review process. For sure, that trust is reinforced by Fairware’s status as a B Corp – a for-profit company certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. “When I buy products from Fairware, I know that the companies that manufacture the stuff I sell to guests and employees are deeply aligned with the values of our company and foundation,” says Matthew Hamilton, executive director of the Environment Foundation of Aspen Ski Company.
While meticulous sourcing is essential, it must be linked with great service and unique branding solutions that benefit clients. Fairware delivers on those accounts too, particularly when it comes to creating eco-friendly products from scratch. As one example, the distributorship repurposed soon-to-be-retired employee ski uniforms into a line of totes and messenger bags for Aspen Ski Company’s Environment Foundation. “Fairware staff is willing to listen to and understand our needs, then spend the time needed to find the right product,” says Hamilton.
The praise from clients is motivating for Taschereau, who feels fortunate to have found a niche in the promotional products industry where she can help advance the goals of brands that share her principles. “Values bind everything we do.”