Tofino Business Profile: Fiber Options
by Darcy Dobell
In the summer of 1994, Gord Johns was a young business student headed
to Asia to launch a career in finance. Along the way, he stopped
for a quick holiday
in Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He never left—but
he hasn’t quite got around to his holiday, either.
At the time, logging companies and environmentalists were locked in
battle over the future of the rainforests of Clayoquot Sound. Looking
out at the forests from Tofino harbour, Gord began asking questions.
How can we take the pressure off ancient forests to supply the world’s
fiber and pulp needs? How do we meet the demand for quality goods without
damaging precious ecosystems? How do we encourage businesses to adopt
environmentally friendly practices—not just in Clayoquot Sound,
but around the world?
As he asked these questions, Gord found himself changing his mind about
his own future. Rather than join an economy that was based on exploiting
natural resources, Gord decided to put his energy into building an economy
based on promoting ecological sustainability. With the support of a progressive
local investment company, the first Fiber Options store opened in Tofino
in 1997. Gord partnered with Peter Skeels of Whistler, B.C., to open
a second store in Whistler in 1998. A third Fiber Options store opened
in Victoria in 2000.
The premise behind Fiber Options is a simple one: where there is a
market, the economy moves to meet it. When customers choose eco-friendly
products, the businesses that make these products can grow and expand,
and other businesses will change their practices to become more environmentally
friendly. In turn, as more businesses enter the eco-friendly market,
the range and quality of products increases, leading to more consumer
demand. Or so the theory goes…
In practice, getting started was a little more difficult. When Fiber
Options first opened its doors just a few years ago, the market for
hemp and organic cotton clothing, natural body care, tree-free paper,
and other products was so small that many suppliers could not stay
in business. This made it harder to offer a range of high-quality products
to our customers. As Fiber Options and other eco-friendly businesses
have grown, consumer awareness has increased, the market has become
steadier, and small suppliers have found a more stable footing. More
recently, Gord has been thrilled to see a shift towards eco-friendly
products taking hold among mainstream suppliers, as larger companies
such as Patagonia introduce their own lines of recycled pop-bottle
fleece jackets and organic cotton clothing. Today, you can find Fiber
Options stores in Tofino, Whistler and Victoria. You can probably even
find Gord at one of them. Just don’t ask him about that holiday.
Tofino business profile on Fiber Options, a natural clothing and eco friendly product store in Tofino.