Greener Horizons Vancouver: Profit from purpose
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In November, Bullfrog Power and our latest panel of sustainability experts gathered at the RBC Tower in Vancouver. RBC’s Dean Chamberland introduced the panel, which included:
- David Labistour, CEO, MEC
- Dave Nicholls, GM, Granville Island Brewing
- Kirsten Sutton, VP and Managing Director, SAP Labs Canada; and
- Rob Safrata, CEO, Changequity (Moderator)
Each panellist emphasized different kinds of knowledge needed for an authentic sustainability strategy: knowing your purpose, employees and customers.
Know your purpose
David Labistour, CEO of MEC took the topic head-on, questioning whether consumers’ self-reported ideals match what happens at the checkout. For MEC, Labistour explained, sustainability has to come by being a “purpose-driven organization, which means that we don’t just make money. You need some reason for existing.”
You have to know your organization: what are its positive/negative impacts? MEC primarily targets adults because they will have a bigger positive impact on society.
But MEC is well aware that they have to address the impacts of its supply chain:
“The more you can measure, the better your organization will be.”
For Labistour, MEC’s purpose-driven approach is a pragmatic aspect of the business: by understanding the positive and negative aspects of the business, MEC is able to be an authentic and credible voice that is true to its purpose: “getting everyone off the couch and out the door.”
Know your employees
Kirsten Sutton, the VP and Managing Director of SAP Labs Canada, explains how SAP, a software company, found its purpose by focusing on people: “Our employees make the biggest difference in driving sustainability and reinforcing why we need to be purpose-led.”
SAP was listed on RadleyYeldar’s Fit for Purpose Index as one of the twenty most purposeful brands in the world. SAP’s purpose? To help companies run better and improve people’s lives.
To put that purpose into practice, SAP employs both top-down and bottom-up approaches.
- Top-down: “We have purpose and we clearly articulate that we have the time, tech and ability to bring it to the world.”
- Bottom-up: “Our employees care. An example: once a month, SAP provides cake to everyone to celebrate a milestone, such as a product launch. It’s an opportunity to talk about sustainability: where you get the cake from, what goes into it, how we’re serving it. That may seem small, but details matter and people take it seriously.”
SAP works to engage its employees on sustainability with a whole range of efforts, including:
- Self-organized green teams in its offices
- In-office sustainability competitions
- Giving license, space and support to employees
SAP knows the importance of employee engagement because it measures the effects. “If our employee engagement goes down by 1%, it costs SAP 55 million euros of profit,” says Sutton.
Know your customers
For Dave Nicholls, Granville Island Brewery’s General Manager, sustainability is about understanding its customers: “There is a real thirst for knowledge about products today and that comes from the ease in researching companies on the internet—that creates a demand for transparency.”
But as Nicholls explained, even when you are narrowing your focus to a single category like craft beer, there are a lot of questions. The two central ones are ingredients and location.
GIB uses a local honey from the Fraser valley for its honey lager, local raspberries and even local partners, such as JJ bean for its mocha porter. But there’s a big caveat: being local isn’t a substitute for quality. Craft beer drinkers are a discerning bunch and so that combination of authentically local ingredients and high standards is really important.
Location is also key to sustainability. GIB can take action in its community, but it is also finding ways to extend the sustainability message to its customers across Canada.
“GIB is educating the beer world about sustainability through our packaging and social media,” says Nicholls. Here’s how it is doing this:
- Participate: Raising awareness for consumers to participate where possible. On Granville Island, GIB participates in the Zero Waste Island initiative, providing spent grains to farmers and recycling near everything.
- The brown bottle: “Canadians should be absolutely proud to have one of the best recycled bottle programs in the world,” says Nicholls. The average beer bottle is refilled 15 times!