After humble beginnings in 2002, when long time surfing partners Andrew Paine and Rene Gauthier sold their first handmade surfboard, the Canadians joined forces to build Sitka, an eco-friendly, outdoor clothing and gear enterprise, based in Victoria, British Columbia.
Soon, Sitka embraced a nonconformist, more environmentally and socially responsible business strategy, manufacturing high-quality products that were built to last, in stark contrast to the “fierce” consumerism then urging consumers to replace goods at an ever-accelerating pace.
Not Impossible wholeheartedly endorses Sitka’s philosophy, which may be condensed in their motto: Creating a world in balance. As an active step in this direction, the co-founders have recently launched the Sitka Society for Conservation (SSC) [not to be confused with the Sitka Conservation Society], to actively safeguard the precious environment in which we all live.
Sitka recently ran a crowdfunding campaign seeking $100,000 for staff training and to provide funding around three ecological projects. Every new backer of the campaign (and/or purchaser of Sitka merchandise) automatically became a founding member of the SSC and, with every purchase made as a member, Sitka doubled their "1% for the Planet" contribution to 2%.
In addition, the money collected by SSC will help the setup of dedicated spaces within Sitka stores to engage their community around the battles to be fought for our planet’s sake. Sitka's long-term aim is to increasingly engage the community and, eventually, to transform the company into a co-operative.
The Sitka Society for Conservation’s agenda has prioritzed the following three projects:
1. Hydrophone Project.
The Hydrophone Project, a collaboration with Pacific Wild, aims at dedicating funds to create a designated area of the Great Bear Sea as a marine acoustic sanctuary. The sanctuary will guard the region against the increasing supertanker traffic from the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which got approved despite general opposition among British Columbians and 74 different First Nations.
Enbridge, consisting of two parallel 727 miles-long pipelines, is set to carry more than half a million barrels a day of unrefined bitumen from the Alberta tar sands over the Canadian Rockies, through the core territory of British Columbia to the Port of Kitimat in the Great Bear Rainforest. From there, supertankers would navigate the perilous waters of the B.C. coast bound for Asia and the United States.
The pipeline and tanker project is alarming for three main reasons: 1. It would promote the tar sand use, increasing the dependency of emerging Asian economies on the world's dirtiest oil; 2. Increasing a threat of spills from the pipeline itself; 3. Introducing oil supertankers to this part of the British Columbia seashore. As the loudest vessels in the world, they represent a source of acoustic pollution and jeopardize the ocean with potential leaks of viscose material.
As an “ecological counter-weapon,” SSC’s enhanced hydrophone network should deliver a quantitative evaluation of the marine acoustic disturbance, modifications in ambient ocean noise, and the potential effects of sound masking that concerns whales, dolphins and other cetaceans. This will be crucial for accurately evaluating the impact of shipping on oceanic environments.
2. Cabins for Conservation.
The second project is in collaboration with Skeena Wild Conservation Coalition, which boasts a 10-year history of working with First Nations in the area. The project aims to raise $50,000 to build two cabins in the Skeena Watershed to reinforce First Nations’ culture and reinforce their decision-making protocols related to the lands and waters (and hopefully fend off unsustainable industrial development).
It is hoped that this endeavor will appeal to a younger demographic and that by enabling younger people to work alongside the community's elders and peers, the younger generation will become stewards of their traditional territories.
3. Vote Together.
The third project identified by SSC for first funds aimed to support the Vote Together campaign.
In collaboration with Leadnow.ca, the crusade’s strategic goal is to make sure, through swing ridings across the country, that the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is less likely to gain re-election this year for the following reason:
Since 2006, Harper’s government has consistently cut funds to Environment Canada (EC), the Canadian federal department appointed to coordinate environmental policies and programs to preserve and better the natural environment and renewable resources.
The Government has also cut $100 million from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), whose roles are to favor economic growth in Canadian marine and fisheries sectors, and to support innovation and sustainable aquatic ecosystems.
In December 2011, again under the Conservative government, Canada was the first signatory country to declare its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, which entrusts signatory countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As later reported by CBC News on March 2, 2012, “the U.S. has adopted more open practices since the end of George W. Bush's presidency, while Canada has gone in the opposite direction.”
Sitka, and its affiliated SSC is utilizing crowd-funding and its retail community exposure to innovatively employ their spaces and supporters as a springboard to drive sustainable and environmentally aware practices.
Like TOMS and Warby Parker before it, Sitka joins the ranks of businesses bringing social awareness to the storefront - we are looking forward to more companies putting their brand where their brains are.