Vancouver’s 1% for the Planet community turned out in full swing on October 28, 2014, for a joint networking event with Board of Change. The Board of Change (BOC) is a local membership society comprised of businesses committed to “fostering an economic model that values the pursuit of sustainability equally with the pursuit of profit.” As it does with its regularly scheduled events, BOC hosted this gathering in the offices of their corporate partner, SAP, adjacent to Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown district, bringing together many of the cities movers and shakers in the sustainable business scene.
The rainy Tuesday evening (it’s Vancouver, go figure) drew a crowd of about 70, a mixture of Board of Change members interspersed with 1% for the Planet’s network of businesses and NGOs. Newer 1%FTP members in attendance included Rene Gauthier, co-founder of Victoria-based Sitka, and Peter Raab, the first residential real estate agent in Canada to join 1% for the Planet.
The evening’s program consisted of a panel on the topic of environmental philanthropy featuring four prominent 1% for the Planet members. The format, especially as moderated by Mike Rowlands, Managing Director at Junxion, provided a thoughtful way for 1% for the Planet members to introduce the movement to a new audience of like-minded business leaders, many of whose companies already have some form of philanthropy instilled in their corporate DNA. Rowlands kicked off the dialogue by highlighting trends in corporate philanthropy, including employee engagement, especially for the Millennial generation, and reputational risk management.
Bre Hamilton, Brand Engagement Manager at MEC, spoke first about the co-op’s Community Investment program vis-à-vis their membership 1% for the Planet. Since joining in 2007, MEC has invested over $30 million in Canadian programs and organizations that either conserve recreationally and environmentally important places or inspire and enable Canadians to lead active outdoor lifestyles.
MEC’s membership in 1% for the Planet provides a framework for auditing and delivering their giving programs, Hamilton explained, providing “legitimacy and accountability.” What’s more, though, it pushes MEC to approach its giving strategically, as a way to achieve their core purpose to inspire Canadians to be active outdoors. “As we grow, the money we have for community investment grows too, so we always want to know, how can we have the most impact?”
As it does for MEC and other 1% for the Planet members, building the business at Salt Spring Coffee results in having more money to give away, an upside that can also be a challenge. “It’s important that the money we give has impact,” says Aron Bjornson, Director of Marketing, “not just on the projects we’re investing in, but on our brand as well,” he adds.
By and large, Salt Spring Coffee’s support focuses on its supply chain. Recently, says Bjornson, the coffee company has been looking more toward supporting coffee origin projects, focusing on the places where their beans are sourced, while projects closer to home remain focused on food and sustainability.
Bjornson used the example of Salt Spring Coffee’s recent Canopy Bird campaign, with $1 from each coffee purchase going to support the work of NGO partner Canopy in protecting endangered species and forests. “Canopy was a natural partner to work with on this campaign,” says Bjornson. Earlier in the month, 1% for the Planet was present at the Create for #Canopybird Art Auction, a fundraiser for Canopy’s efforts in Canada, with a focus on the Great Bear Rainforest.
Kris Holm, whose eponymous company designs and manufactures off-road unicycles, founded the first Canadian company, and internationally the first cycling brand, to join1% for the Planet. Kris believes that a key advantage of 1% for the Planet membership is being able to leverage his small company’s impact by being part of a large network.
“One percent of gross can seem daunting, but it’s do-able,” Kris told the audience. “It allows you to contribute and have something come back to you, to make something bigger than you could yourself.” He shared his experience being the sustainability sponsor of a major international unicycle event: “We had the Love Blue logo everywhere, which created huge awareness for the 1% for the Planet movement, as well as brand awareness for my own company.”
Like Salt Spring Coffee, Saul Good Gift Co. looks to create impact through its supply chain as much as its philanthropy. “I look at the local economy like a robust ecosystem full of creative businesses,” said Saul Brown, founder and Chief Story Officer of the Vancouver gift basket company, noting that he actively seeks out vendors who are aligned with his company’s values.
Brown wrapped up the panel with some sage reflections on the flow of money and its similarity to the flow of energy: “You need to keep them both moving for them to be useful.”