sustainability at fair/square
Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility are not just buzz words for us. From day one, we have integrated environmental considerations and giving back into our small business.
Our vetting process ensures that all the products we sell are vegan and cruelty-free. On top of that, we look for the following four aspects when sourcing our products.
We work hard to find businesses that source their ingredients carefully and ethically, support fair wages and give back to their communities.
We highly favour Canadian businesses, especially those that manufacture in Canada and use domestic ingredients.
We also favour brands that use plastic-free and eco-friendly packaging and highlight these in our plastic-free collection.
Lastly, as a woman-led business, we love seeing fellow female entrepreneurs succeed. You can find all their products in our Female-founded Collection.
As a small business trying to use and support ethical and sustainable business practices, sourcing brands and products that follow this same ethos is a challenging, yet important and rewarding task.
We first check to see if the brand is a member of organizations that we trust such as Fairtrade International or B Corporation or if their products are independently certified by organizations such as VegeCert or Canada Organic.
These organizations conduct rigorous evaluations for each business they work with, and often require audits by independent third-party organizations.
If a brand is not a member of any third-party organization, we examine how transparent they are about their supply-chain. Many of the companies we work with have established long-term, direct trade relationships with producers.These are often small businesses who give back directly to the communities they work with.
Many of our coffee, tea and chocolate brands fall into this category.
If we are not satisfied with the information we can find about a brand’s supply chain, we get in touch with them personally to inquire.
To make the direct inquiry process more efficient, we are currently working on a vendor survey and sourcing matrix. This process is not perfect, and will continue to evolve, however, our goal remains the same – to ensure that the products we sell are as ethical and sustainable as possible.al and sustainable as possible.
Many consumers look to reduce their environmental impact and are very critical of plastic packaging. However, did you know that packaging only accounts for 5% of the GHG emission of food production?¹
Despite this relatively small number, packaging is still very important, and we often get asked if the products we sell are packaged in sustainable and/or eco-friendly materials. While we can’t dictate what our vendors use , we highly favour products that come in plastic-free, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable packaging. This is more challenging for food products that rely on packaging to give their products a long shelf life which in turn reduces food waste.
Looking forward, we’re happy to see more brands thinking critically about their packaging choices, and actively choosing to use more environmentally responsible options such as home-compostable plastic films.
We’re also hopeful that with the recent proposed ban on single-use plastics in Canada, more sustainable packaging alternatives will become accessible to small scale producers.
The concept of food miles has gained popularity in recent years with the resurgence of the ‘local food’ movement. They are generally regarded as the distance that food travels from producer to consumer, with the acknowledgement that a higher distance produces more emissions.
Food miles are an easy concept for consumers to focus on. However, it’s important to put their impact into context. According Harvard University, *what* we eat matters much more than where it comes from, and how it’s been transported:
For most American diets, the carbon cost of transportation is slight compared to the carbon costs of production (running the tractors, producing chemical fertilizer, pumping irrigation…). Therefore, the most effective way for most Americans to reduce their diet’s carbon footprint is not by buying local, but rather eliminating or reducing their consumption of animal products.²
Still, we generally only source products from Canadian companies, many of which have been made in Canada. By focusing on Canadia products, we reduce the food miles and related emissions.
Efficiency plays a part too. If the products we are looking for are available from one of our local distributors, we order it from them rather than the brand directly. All of our distributors are located in the GTA or Southern Ontario.
This helps us make our sourcing process more efficient and avoid unnecessary emissions by having a distributor send us products from multiple brands at once, rather than ordering and shipping products from each brand individually.
Many market places operate with a drop-ship model where each vendor fulfills their own order. This leads to multiple packages being shipped which doubles or even triples the transportation related emissions. Instead, we have our own warehouse and ship all your ordered items out in one package.
We also don’t sell things that we don’t have in stock right now. On the rare occasion that we offer items for pre-order such as seasonal items, we wait until that item is in stock to ship the entire order.
Shipping is also very expensive for small businesses, so we naturally try to pack everything as efficiently as possible. Not only does it give us more reasonable shipping rates, but a smaller package takes up less space so the CO2 footprint is lower.
At checkout, we offer various shipping methods and speeds. Our standard economy and free shipping method uses ground shipping which has produced the least amount of emissions. Express shipping and refrigerated shipping is almost always carried out via airfreight and thus has a higher carbon footprint.
We ship plastic free wherever possible. Our shipping boxes are made out of 100% recycled and recyclable content. To protect the contents, we use 100% recyclable, compostable and biodegradable wrapping paper, rather than oil-based bubble or foam wraps.
Our gift baskets ship with a wood derived crinkle which is also compostable and biodegradable. Compared to paper-based crinkle we found it to be more efficient, so we can use less to give your gift basket the same protection.
Basically if there’s plastic on or in your package, it’s something that we received from our vendors and have decided to reuse.
Our custom tissue paper and paper-based stickers are printed by No Issue with toxin-free and biodegradable soy ink.
Food waste isn’t just a household issue, in fact, Canadian businesses account for double the food waste compared to consumers. That’s why we’re working to reduce our contribution as much as possible, through a number of ways.
We don’t have a physical store, so we don’t need to order excess products to fill shelves or giant displays to attract customers.
We order responsively – We only purchase what we think will actually sell and don’t over-order products, especially not perishable items.
If we do have items that are about to go past their best before dates, we offer them to our customers at a reduced rate. A best before date in Canada is a freshness indicator and doesn’t mean that the product has expired, especially not for shelf stable products such as cookies or crackers.
Lastly, we donate what doesn’t sell to local food banks.