Why is sustainability so important to me as an owner of Left Coast Naturals? I think primarily because it’s important to me as a person.
I’ve always had a strong affinity and deep appreciation for the environment, since my days as a young child. I grew up (like many of my generation) spending all of my free time outdoors playing with my friends. We lived in the Niagara Peninsula right below the Niagara Escarpment and spent hours playing in the woods, biking, and building forts in the pristine environment. This was our home and our playground. And in the summers we would visit family in Northern Ontario at a cottage where we canoed, fished and swam all day long in a lake that we still can drink from today. I had my first canoe trip there when I was 9 with my grandfather and caught my first fish—a 5lb bass!
We’d also spend time with family sailing on the Great Lakes and visiting the beaches of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. I feel lucky that my parents gave me all of this exposure to incredible outdoor experiences. Actually, my love for nature led to my favourite job of all time which was when I spent several summers in my early 20’s working as a canoe trip guide leading 10-25 day long trips out in the wilderness. This is where I have always felt the most at home and at peace with myself and the world.
It’s out of these experiences that grew a strong desire to protect our environment and help create a society that values nature’s precious resources. When Jason and I founded Left Coast Naturals in 1996, we decided that the earth would get special consideration in our business. If we were going to go to the trouble of building a business, it should darn well mean something. It just felt right to have the environment be a cornerstone of that business. But as we learned more over time, we began to understand that there was a greater picture.
The environment, while important, was just one element of sustainability which is why we chose to have a triple bottom line philosophy of People, Planet, and Prosperity. I saw firsthand how we could either impact people positively or negatively, and out of this learning our employees became family. And how you work with and treat people also directly affects how you succeed as a business. Although profit wasn’t our primary concern, it’s a critical piece in our understanding of sustainability because, at the end of the day, you need it to fund the efforts that benefit the planet, the community, and your employees.
The world faces many problems these days. However, I consider myself an optimist. I feel business has an important role in creating a better world, and part of that is building sustainability right into the heart of your business. I hope this idea catches on because I believe we collectively can make a true impact.