Doing business responsibly can be a competitive advantage for Canadian companies, but it involves overcoming some tremendous challenges. The question to ask is not whether we know enough or have enough influence to overcome our greatest barriers but, rather, whether we are good enough.
As Canadians, we know what sports excellence looks like and we romanticize images of U.N. Peacekeepers waging peace with Canadian flags proudly sewn onto their sleeves. But what does it mean to do business like a Canadian?
This is an exciting time for Canadian companies to shape the economy in a stronger, healthier and more equitable manner than ever before. There are enormous business benefits for doing so, such as customer and employee loyalty, to name just two. There are also unprecedented social, environmental and transparency challenges, but it would frankly be unCanadian of us to sit around and wait to see what others outside our borders decide to do about it.
When I graduated from Ryerson's business school in 2000, I was seen by some as a tree hugger and by others, a raging capitalist. I felt there must be a place in the middle. That exploration led me to take a job in London, England, where I was fortunate to meet business leaders like Anita Roddick, founding CEO of the Body Shop, and business authors like John Elkington. I learned about emerging business standards and exciting strategies that early innovators were using to compete in a shifting global economy. I could hardly wait to return to Canada and apply all that I learned, but what I found was a business community far behind the curve of what I was exposed to in the U.K.
The problem I found was confusion over what values we all shared and what we were really aspiring toward. Too often, we Canadians define ourselves by what we are not. What we need is a coherent set of Canadian business values. Being good enough isn't just about competency. It's also about decency and the great news is that as Canadians, we have this within us.
Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) has uncovered and summarized the following eight Canadian business values and we welcome all feedback on these:
- Gender balanced
- Globally minded
- Purpose driven
As a professional association focused on responsible business, CBSR gets to know the motivations of its member companies and shares their stories where Canadian business values are on full display. For example, when Keurig Green Mountain set its global 2020 sustainability goals, Keurig Canada made it its mission to reach them two full years ahead of the target date. Keurig Canada started with the K-cup pods and collaborated with recyclers, municipalities and others in its supply chain to test different materials and take a systems approach to ensure 100 per cent recyclability of its product across the country.
Another great example can be found at MEC, which has established some strategic long-term relationships with outdoor related non-profit partners such as Leave No Trace Canada, through which MEC encourages staff to become master educators and train people on responsible outdoor recreation.
We need more companies to take bold action and champion the adoption of Canadian business values. Our country may not have invented the idea of corporate social responsibility, but together we can take the lead and make Canadian business a more competitive force for good.
Leor Rotchild has a decade of experience as a Corporate Responsibility leader in the energy sector, and he co-founded a B Corp startup business, specializing in greening large music festivals and sporting events.
This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation