Skip to main content
leadership lab

Tabatha Bull is the chief executive officer of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, Nicole McLaren is the founder of the subscription gift box Raven Reads and Courtney Robinson is the global head of financial inclusion for Block (formerly Square Inc.).

The goal of building a more resilient and inclusive economy means that Canadians must be committed to helping support a more prosperous Indigenous economy. Around this time of year, Canada’s CEOs and leaders are taking pause and looking for inspiration on how to effect meaningful change in the year ahead and beyond.

A good place to start is reflecting on your response to the question: What are you doing as a business leader to support Canada’s Indigenous economy?

Fostering Indigenous business relationships and opportunities

Heading into 2023, all businesses are experiencing supply-chain shortages, soaring costs and inflationary pricing. Indigenous-owned businesses are navigating these challenging macroeconomic conditions while also facing systemic barriers that limit their abilities to start and grow. The majority do not have access to the same capital, financial flexibility, internet connectivity and options that many non-Indigenous entrepreneurs take for granted to help them manage uncertain and evolving market conditions.

To truly support Canada’s Indigenous economy, corporate efforts should focus on fostering business relationships and opportunities.

Building business relationships

Raven Reads, the best-selling gift box subscription, was founded on the premise of raising awareness of our collective histories, lived experiences and supporting Indigenous authors and entrepreneurs. The business transparently updates its customers on how many Indigenous businesses it has purchased from and how much the company has invested in the Indigenous economy.

The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) estimates from its 2019 national survey that 83 per cent of Indigenous businesses with employees hire other Indigenous people, amplifying positive economic impacts at the community level. And 86 per cent of Indigenous businesses that employ others offer full-time jobs, with 68 per cent creating jobs for regular part-time and seasonal workers.

Another growing source of Indigenous-led prosperity is through Aboriginal Economic Development Corporations, which work on advancing economic development through subsidiary businesses and investments that create thousands of jobs and access to financial opportunities in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

An emphasis on respectful Indigenous relations

The CCAB offers a variety of tools and programs, including its Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certification program, to help business leaders deepen corporate commitments to leadership action, employment, business development and community relationships that contribute to growing a thriving Indigenous economy.

On the procurement side, CCAB offers an innovative Supply Change program to support Indigenous entrepreneur access to corporate Canada and government supply chains.

Creating opportunities through social impact investing

A powerful way to support the Indigenous economy is to invest in initiatives that are designed to overcome some of the barriers Indigenous peoples face.

One example is the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), which launched the Indigenous Growth Fund (IGF) in April, 2021, to make loans available to Indigenous entrepreneurs who require capital to start or expand their businesses through a growing number of Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs) across Canada. This past June, the fintech Block became the IGF’s first private investor, marking an important public and private partnership milestone focused on restoring growth and prosperity for the Indigenous economy.

Focusing on long-term impact

Building a diverse and prosperous Indigenous business community requires, from both the public and private sectors, a levelling of the playing field for Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Corporate leaders who are focused on achieving this goal must commit to effective, long-term action to support self-determination and reconciliation in Canada.

Our advice is to think creatively, make new connections and explore how you can maintain and build positive momentum toward supporting Canada’s Indigenous economy all year-round.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.