Image Courtesy : Maxine Bulloch Photography
“Be strong enough to stand alone, be yourself enough to stand apart, but be wise enough to stand together when the time comes.” This Mark Amend quote could have been the guiding brief for the recent B Corp Leadership Development (BLD) conference for Western Canada.
It was a day that reminded me that to belong at a B Corp is an inherently enriching experience, and that to be part of the broader B Corp community is a steady reminder that we’re not alone in our pursuit of social impact and sustainability.
My Junxion colleague, Garth Yule, recently shared a soul-stirring post about his experience working at our B Corp. At this year’s BLD, I realized that every day, both as consumers and producers, we make choices with our dollars about which brands we patronize and with our time and energy about which movements we support. So BLD’s ‘Vote Every Day’ theme was intriguing, driving home the humbling realization that each choice we make gives life to our sense of purpose and shape to ‘the change we seek.’
The day opened with more than 200 representatives of Certified B Corps and those aspiring to be B Corps being led in an opening prayer and listening respectfully to a territory acknowledgment by Syexwalia, a Squamish Elder & Knowledge Carrier. During these calming moments of inward focus, she reminded us to remain receptive in mind and body to the blessings and collective wisdom of our ancestors. It was the greatest possible context, and it gave us both the permission and the space to dream big and explore ambitious, even audacious ideas.
Building B Corps’ Momentum
The first session, a Solution Lab, had everyone thinking constructively about the how to increase awareness of the B Corp movement in Canada. The urgency was palpable, and discussions led to ideas of B Corp marketing, loyalty programs, and using face-to-face activation opportunities to make B Corps memorable for their customers and patrons.
As is the case for any campaign, developing attention, understanding, and loyalty for B Corps is complicated. Discussions of the relatively low awareness of B Corps, even among sustainably minded members of our communities, led us to the idea of a collaborative B Corp marketplace—a digitally native one-stop shop that would increase awareness of the B Corp mark and support collaborative marketing opportunities among Certified B Corps.
Ultimately, though, it’s clear that to increase uptake of B Corp, our best approach will be to work in new ways, demonstrating with our actions that there’s a better way to think about how to build our businesses. And demonstrating through our success that there’s a better role for business in our communities.
Might We Start by ‘Unselling?’
In an engaging session facilitated by Junxion friend and Fairware founder Denise Taschereau alongside Ethical Bean’s Viren Malik, the traditional, cold, number-crunching view of sales was turned on its head. They presented a values-driven approach that puts consumers and buyers at the heart of the sales endeavour.
For Taschereau and Malik—just as it is for Junxion—the best route to successful sales includes asking questions and listening deeply and appreciatively to the answers that come back. In short, sales are built not on ‘pitches,’ but on relationships. And afternoon sessions led by Daniel Kovacs of Jelly Marketing and Sasha Bricel from Tentree reinforced that relationships in turn, are built on transparency, on humanizing brands—not being afraid to make a bold statement like the Fearless Girl—and on user experiences right from initial introduction (like Splashdown’s viral campaign from 2014), to the final ‘aha moment’ that stops customers from scrolling past you on their newsfeed.
Building Something Magnificent….
The final keynote by Carol Newell, co-founder of Renewal partners and proponent of purpose-driven capital, was the perfect close to a day full of inspiration. She pointed out how financial crises have interrupted our focus on environmental conservation time and time again through history.
She spoke of the sense of responsibility she’d felt years ago as an heiress to family wealth, to play differently. Extraordinary wealth translates to extraordinary opportunity to try to make a dent in systemic problems. After being an anonymous contributor for a decade, she went public in 2002 to encourage others with the means to invest their money in purpose-driven causes, to be as bold as they could be.
In her characteristically beautiful and generous way, Newell ended on a note of optimism and hope, propounding ‘cathedral thinking’ and the prospect of leaving a bountiful legacy—a healthy planet and happy people, for future generations.
For me, the highlights of an experience like BLD are the little golden nuggets I make note to follow up on—a book, a podcast, a concept and most of all, the people and conversations that reaffirm my enthusiasm to continue down this path toward building something magnificent. This is no longer merely a career choice anymore, but a way of life.
Menaka Premkumar is a Consultant in Junxion’s Vancouver office. Reach out to her via [email protected]