The Limitless Nature of Fair Trade

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Leah Feor Fair Trade Simply SustainableHave you ever wondered what it takes to run a good and ethical business?

Growing up I knew the importance of being good to others & being ethical, however when it came to business I really only had one comprehension.  Business is about making money.  It is about high returns for the shareholders.

Throughout university, much of my understanding remained the same until one day when I was assigned a term project on the topic of Environmental Auditing.  It became clear to me that business goes far beyond dollars and cents, and even further beyond shareholders and boardrooms.

Sustainable Shift

One thing led to another and I shifted from thinking of the Shareholders to better understanding and working with the Stakeholders

For those of you new to this, here’s a little Business 101:  Shareholders are the financial investors in the shares of the business.  Stakeholders are those involved in daily operations or ones affected by a course of action (eg: the employees, the community, the environment).

There I was on route to being a designated accountant for a global firm (my dream job) when something shifted internally, and life as I knew it changed.  Words like transparency, accountability, and social responsibility began having further meaning.

This change taught me about the Value of Commercial Goods & Conscious Consumption

I couldn’t go back to who I was – a walking billboard for all the wrong brands.  I began to travel, learn a new language, a different culture, and best of all an independent way of life.  I used my artistry skills making jewelry to sustain my adventures of exploring & volunteering.  I worked on projects in Guatemala surrounding the environment & accountability, learning many things.

This new direction allowed me to Support Communities Globally

Having family ties here in Niagara, I decided to share my year between North and South bringing colour to Canada with Traditional Artistry from Artisans of Latin America.  After some adjustments along the way, in 2010, Simply Sustainable Artisanal Creations formally came to life.

In operating this small business there was really only one way to go.  Fair Trade was the perfect fit.  A framework that goes beyond profit, emphasizing the importance of transparency, community, ethical business practices, and the empowerment of contributing members.

Profit is vital to the success of a business allowing for financial sustainability.  However, there is a bigger picture here which Fair Trade helped me see.  This is why I believe in promoting a triple bottom line way of doing business.  That means putting emphasis on people, planet, and profit.  All three components are necessary if we want to have a fair and inclusive economy.

Simply Sustainable first came to life while I was studying Environmental Management at Niagara College 10 years ago.  In 2015, I answered a call to go back to my roots.  My core passion that led me to volunteer in Latin America in the first place outgrew my jewelry making, importing, and travelling, though I wouldn’t change those years for anything. I knew that if I wanted to collaborate and further mobilize progress in my community, I needed to work at the ground level here in Niagara creating awareness with people from all age groups and areas of interest.

Last year I began to wrap up my jewelry production and Fair Trade operations in order to focus my energy on bringing sustainability and accountability into business meetings, homes, and schools.   Allowing Simply Sustainable to evolve organically as a grassroots organization has blessed me with the opportunity to be here today speaking with you, to create professional relationships with many of the vendors you’ll see here tomorrow, and to plant seeds locally and globally for a more just and equitable planet.

Throughout life you’ll be faced with many important decisions. My one piece of advice; always let your heart lead the way.

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Leah Feor

Leah Feor is the owner of Simply Sustainable, a small business that has evolved from a fair trade mobile shop to a strategic consulting firm serving entrepreneurs with a social or environmental vision. Balancing her clients’ Triple Bottom Line – people, planet, profit – is Leah’s utmost goal, and is supported by her background in accounting and environmental management.

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