A set of values to inspire Canada’s future role in the world economy
Twenty-five years ago, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) helped introduce Canadian businesses to a ground-breaking idea: that businesses do better – by every measure – when they operate in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
Having spent the past two and a half decades helping companies manoeuvre through their social and environmental challenges, it is apparent that the low-hanging fruits have virtually all been picked. Today, companies that seek to do better face increasingly complex issues including both intensifying stakeholder expectations and rising cynicism among employees, investors and communities.
While tokenism and greenwashing are rightly and swiftly called out, misinformation sadly sows seeds of mistrust toward Canadian business. Canadian companies today must communicate compelling stories of their environmentally and socially progressive actions backed by evidence verified by credible, third-party partners.
A broad range of geo-political and socio-economic changes are also making life difficult for many Canadian businesses. Our national economy is hostage to a major trading partner moving further and further toward nativism. Domestically, trade restrictions within and across provincial borders hold us back from doing business effectively with one another. Among the unintended consequences, a nagging sense of disunity is keeping us from turning the page on a history of injustice towards genuine partnerships with Indigenous Canadians.
Similarly concerning, we have seen a rise in polarized positions about our country’s valuable energy production and distribution capabilities. Rather than champion Canada as the only major oil and gas producer with an economy-wide price on carbon, costly court proceedings are challenging the legitimacy of a system that has already benefited British Columbia for the past decade. Unless this disunity is addressed, Canada risks finding itself isolated in a vast ocean of untapped economic opportunity.
As a business owner myself, I have come to recognize that doing business like a Canadian means going far beyond merely pursuing profits. However, addressing broad social and environmental challenges is not the job of one company alone. Partnering with collaborative solutions-focused networks is also part of doing business like a Canadian.
Regional, cultural, ideological and language differences can all be overcome through the lens of a core set of common values that can unite us and lead us to solve our most pressing societal, environmental and economic problems together. Examples of this tremendous potential can be seen in small and large enterprises across the economy that show us what it means to Do Business Like a Canadian.
Young, emerging Canadian companies, such as Pond Technologies, are demonstrating a heightened level of innovation and environmental care by capturing carbon dioxide and using it to grow algae converted into consumer products such as food supplements.
Major Canadian brand Maple Leaf Foods is striving toward an ambitious purpose by making already-loved products even healthier and launching new plant-based products as part of a corporate drive to be “the most sustainable protein company on Earth.”
International companies that call Canada home are also demonstrating progressive leadership. Flooring manufacturer Interface, for example, employs an innovative closed-loop manufacturing process to eliminate production waste.
In fact, the vast majority of Canadian companies already demonstrate values that can make us all feel extremely proud. Inspired by such positive examples, CBSR has spent the past two years gathering input that has identified a set of eight Canadian business values that define what it means to Do Business Like a Canadian. These values are reflective as well as ambitious: Collaborative, Eco Conscious, Ethical, Gender Balanced, Globally Minded, Inclusive, Innovative, and Purpose Driven.
We invite all Canadian businesses to pledge support for these values at DoBusinessLikeACanadian.ca. By making this non-financial commitment, you will show you are part of a movement to make a values-driven, responsible business strategy the new normal for Canada.
As Wayne Gretzky once famously said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Let us position ourselves for a future economy where doing business like a Canadian means not only being the best in the world, but the best for the world.
Leor Rotchild is executive director of CBSR, co-founder of environmental startup DIG, and co-host of the popular energy and environment podcast Pipelines and Turbines.