PPB June 2022

Den i se Tasche r eau Setting An Example First-year PPAI Board Member Denise Taschereau has always seen sustainability as a strategic business opportunity. Now most brands see it that way, too. As CEO and cofounder of Canadian distributor Fairware, Taschereau says our industry needs to set the example for sustainability. by Kristina Valdez When Denise Taschereau opened Fairware in 2005, she had absolutely no business experience. “We had to Google what a P.O. was,” Taschereau says. “We just had this idea that we could change how people get merch, the kind of merch they get and how that merch could reflect their values. We had the business idea, but no idea as to how to actually do it.” Today, Taschereau still runs Fairware with her co-founder and partner, Sarah White. “It was a big risk, but I am eternally grateful I made that leap,” she says. Taschereau got the idea for Fairware while working as the community and sustainability director for Canada’s largest outdoor retailer. “I was trying to find merchandise for that brand, and I couldn’t find organic cotton t-shirts or lip balms without parabens, or essentially, products that aligned with the values of the brand that I worked for.” Taschereau says she found a market gap. “Great brands were giving away terrible things,” Taschereau says. “I think the best businesses start when you see a true gap in the marketplace, and that’s what we saw. In 2005, there were very few people in our industry looking at sustainability as a strategic business opportunity. We came in with the idea that sustainability was a strategic endeavor, and we were going to leverage our merchandise to do that for our clients.” Seeing the promo industry rapidly evolve with sustainability has been incredible, Taschereau says. “In some ways, it’s unbelievable. One specific way I’ve seen the movement change is, historically, sustainability in our industry was really focused on just the products. Does it have recycled content? Or, it would be focused on philanthropy. Does it have a giveback portion? “The biggest wholesale shift is it is now about how companies approach their entire operations. Sustainability has moved from a commodity or a discreet act, like donating to a community, to simply how you run your business.” Taschereau says there are two reasons why sustainability is critical for the promo industry. First, there’s the industry’s reputation. “Our industry has a reputation problem,” Taschereau says. “It doesn’t hold its rightful place in the hierarchy of marketing tools by brands. I think it’s changing a little 32 | JUNE 2022 | GROW