Community investment 2.0

Businesses are creating innovative ways to help a cause
Photo of Beau's CEO and co-founder Steve Beauchesne
Beau’s CEO and co-founder Steve Beauchesne PHOTO BY MARC DOUCETTE
Editor's Note

This story originally ran in November 14, 2017 issue of the Giving Guide.

Across eastern Ontario, companies are becoming increasingly creative with how they help charitable causes by developing their own corporate social responsibility programs. “We are doing a lot more than just making good beer,” says Steve  Beauchesne, CEO and co-founder of Beau’s, a craft brewery founded in Vankleek Hill in 2006. “When you focus on doing the right thing for the right reason – the symptom is growth and profitability.”

It’s this type of forward-thinking that’s making a significant contribution to the nonprofit sector and giving some businesses a clear advantage in the marketplace.

Today’s consumers are looking for more than just a product or service; they want to align with companies that have a positive impact on people and the planet.

While Beau’s is viewed as a relatively young brand in the competitive beer industry, it has successfully created its own niche amongst consumers thanks to its progressive  community investment strategy.

Along with helping charities, the brewery focuses on ensuring its beers are certified organic and that ingredients are sourced from local companies with good environmental track records.

Beauchesne believes that  companies that “do the right things for the right reasons” will always outpace their competitors.

“Your customers and staff have a stronger relationship with your brand because they identify with your social purpose,” he explains. “If you can help them  understand how the work they are doing is connected to other people’s lives, they work harder.”

In its first 10 years, Beau’s  sales and social impact have both grown significantly. They set an original target of giving $1 million to community organizations. Now, for the next decade of operations, they will strive to reach $5 million of social good.

“When you focus on doing the right thing
for the right reason – the symptom is growth and profitability.”

“We are a company where our sales reps don’t just have revenue targets. They have donation targets too,” he says. “We’ve built social impact into the top and bottom line.”

The next phase for Beau’s involves an international project to help open the first woman-owned craft brewery in Rwanda. It’s a legacy project for Beau’s, and one that is a source of great pride for staff.

Photo of Beau's staff with Rwandian entrepreneur
From left, Beau’s CEO Steve Beauchesne, Rwandan entrepreneur Fina Uwineza, Beau’s chief financial officer Tanya Beimers and Beau’s creative director Jordan Bamforth PHOTO BY AN COUTTS

“This is an intensive five-year project, and right now we are getting all the groundwork in place to have the brewery finished and ready to start in 2018,” explains Beauchesne.

Once the structures are in place, the Beau’s team will mentor staff in day-to-day operations to ensure they start the business on a solid footing.

“It’s one thing when you donate money to an idea, but it’s very different when you get to meet the people who are going to be impacted,” says Beauchesne. “It gives you a much deeper connection to the project and motivates you to do more.”

Beau’s is one of several  companies in the region engaged in unique corporate social responsibility initiatives. Here are some of their stories:

Building a CSR program

If you are looking to set up a corporate social responsibility program, here are a few things that can help get you started.

  • Decide on an impact that aligns with your business model
  • Identify community groups that are aligned with or affected by your business practices
  • Interview charities and not-for-profit organizations to find out what their needs are (in addition to funding)
  • Establish a working group with staffers and brainstorm ideas. If your program grows from within the company (all levels of employees), it will be easier for staff to bring it to life
  • Take a look at what other organizations are doing – and don’t afraid to be creative!
  • Once you have set your sights on your key program initiatives, establish the strategy and framework for all levels of the organization and consult with your intended beneficiaries.
  • Set targets and update staff and stakeholders on your results.
  • Celebrate your achievements! It’s important that you recognize what you have accomplished, and how it makes an impact.

Community decision-making

Forming community connections are the cornerstone of Telus’ award-winning  community investment program.

In 2016, the company donated more than $42 million (2.5 per cent of net income) to  communities across Canada, $400,000 of which was invested here in our region. Those funds are awarded mainly to grassroot and start-up initiatives, with the funding decisions for Ottawa made solely by the local 15-member community board. The board includes some Telus team members, but the majority are external business and  philanthropic leaders.

“We put the decision-making power in the hands of those who know the community best,” explains Shannon Gorman, Telus’ national director of community affairs. “We focus on programs that impact youth at risk in the areas of health, education and the environment.”

Getting communities mobilized and taking action is a key target for Telus’ 2017 campaign. Inspired by Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, they’ve vowed to volunteer one million hours of giving across Canada. Telus team members and their families are lending their support to several projects including planting trees and sorting goods at local food banks.

“Canadian companies have to take an active involvement in making our country a better place to live.”

“Canadian companies have to take an active involvement in making our country a better place to live,” says Gorman. “It is not only a good business decision, but it also attracts the best people and clients to your organization.”

Building on success

Being involved in a project from the ground up is at the heart of Amsted’s partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. For the last 12 years, the locally owned home building and renovation company has saved the charity millions of dollars in labour and expenses as they rebuild and repair the Camp Smitty facilities near Eganville.

“During our first site visit, it was clear they needed help to give them a new kitchen and dining facility,” explains Amsted president Steve Barkhouse. “The existing buildings were in pretty bad shape, so we got our suppliers and staff together and we completed the project.”

It was an incredibly powerful partnership that resulted in a new $500,000 building for campers to enjoy as well as huge savings for the Boys and Girls Club.

Photo of five people working on building a cabin
Amsted has worked on various projects at Camp Smitty, located near Eganville, such as  tearing down old buildings, designing custom tree houses, replacing windows and updating door knobs.

Over the years, Amsted has worked on several projects, such as tearing down old buildings, designing custom tree houses, replacing windows and updating door knobs.
This fall, the team will be replacing the roof on the Welcome Centre and adding shelving inside the building to help spruce it up. They will also be tasked with drywalling and painting the health lodge, checking the electrical wiring throughout the site and putting the finishing touches on six cabins.

It’s a pretty exhaustive to-do list, but thanks to the army of close to 80 Amsted volunteers (which includes staff and their families), the items will be crossed off one by one and the camp will be ready for the 2018 summer season.

Barkhouse is still in awe of the magnitude of what his team accomplishes in such a short period of time.

“I have been to massive industrial sites and I have never seen a workforce more invested in their project,” he says. “Everyone is working so hard and on tasks that they don’t do every day. And oddly enough, at the end of the weekend – even though everyone is exhausted – they still thank me for the opportunity to be part of it. It’s pretty incredible.”

“I have never seen
a workforce more invested in their project.”

Driving social impact

Working miracles in a short period of time is par for the course for Rideau View Golf Club’s Matt Robinson.

Over the last 10 years, the pro instructor has raised more than $375,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and he’s done it all on the golf course.

The cause is one that is close to Robinson’s heart after his twin daughters – Kathryn and Kristina – were born prematurely at 28 weeks.

“Kathryn required a lengthy stay at CHEO prior to her coming home, and she spent countless hours in hospital during the first 18 months of her life,” Robinson recalls. “She has had 10 surgeries, ranging from a life-saving intestinal operation to cochlear implantations and multiple eye surgeries. Let’s just say we have spent a lot of time at CHEO.”

Photo of a family outside
From left, Matt Robinson, Dayna Robinson and CHEO philanthropy manager Tracy Donohue.

For Robinson and his wife Dayna, those early months in the spring of 2006 were some of the longest days they had ever endured, filled with stress, anxiety, worry and fear. As tough as those times were to overcome, they also served as an inspiration. The Robinsons channelled their energy and developed The Longest Day of Coaching fundraiser, an initiative that would have a huge impact for families facing a health crisis.

“We wanted to mimic some of the longest days we spent at CHEO, so we decided to host the Longest Day of Coaching,” explains Robinson. “I help people with their golf technique and at the same time give back to the hospital that saved our little girls.” The Longest Day of Coaching begins just as the sun comes up (around 6:30 a.m.) and  continues all day and into the following morning. Robinson spends more than 18 hours on the links hosting clinics for chipping and putting, private instructional sessions,swing analysis, and even the occasional club  fitting. He credits Paul Sherratt, along with the entire team at Rideau View and its members, for the tremendous success of the event.

“They have always been supportive of me on both a personal and professional level,” he explains. “They lived through the tough times with us and for that we will be forever grateful.” Even though the Longest Day of Coaching is a gruelling schedule, Robinson walks away each year feeling empowered – thankful that the event is having a positive impact for families in our community. This year, he raised a record-breaking $47,000, which will be put towards the purchase of vital, life-saving equipment at CHEO.

“I help people with their golf technique and at the same time give back to the hospital that saved our little girls.”

Open door policy

When QuickStart Autism’s fundraising art show had grown too big to be hosted in the home of one of its sponsors, organizers were concerned they would be unable to find a
venue that fit their zero-cost model.

That was until they met Greg Graham, the chief operating officer of Cardel Homes. He arranged for Cardel to open its doors to QuickStart Autism, allowing them to host Art for Autism in three of the developer’s spacious 2,000-square-foot model homes in the Blackstone Kanata South community.

“We find out what a charity needs and we help them achieve it, so that they can get maximum return.”

“We find out what a charity needs and we help them achieve it, so that they can get maximum return,” explains Graham. “With QuickStart, they needed a space, so it was a
perfect fit for us.” QuickStart Autism offers an early intervention program for children showing signs of the disorder, which includes challenges with social skills and
communication. The organization was founded by Suzanne Jacobson, a retired government worker, when her grandson was diagnosed with autism. She found it difficult for her family to navigate the system and get the help they needed.

“The system is hugely complex and while his parents were trying to figure out what our grandson needed, valuable developmental time was lost,” explains Jacobson. “We knew there was a window, but he just sat on waitlists while we knew that early intervention is key to a child’s success.”

Jacobson credits companies such as Cardel for helping the charity keep event costs low, so that more funds go directly to helping families.

This year’s Art for Autism fundraiser netted slightly more than $12,000, which is enough to fund three families in the KickStart Intervention program.

Image of a painting on display
Cardel invited QuickStart Autism to host its Art for Autism fundraiser in three of the developer’s model homes in Kanata South. PHOTO COURTESY OF QUICKSTART AUTISM

Pressing for change

Melissa Shabinsky and her RAW Pulp and Grind business partners, Jordan O’Leary along with Richard and Nicola Valente, got their creative juices flowing when they developed a campaign in support of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation, and the outcome was not just about raising cash.

“Ottawa is a very health conscious town,” explains Shabinsky. “We wanted to be able to use our ... juices to do good in our city.”

RAW sold 250 bottles of its signature Heart Beet immune-boosting juices, with the proceeds going to fund heart research and care. This October, they will be putting the squeeze on breast cancer, this time donating $2 from every sale of their Rise Up antioxidant-rich juice line to support the purchase of state-of-the art breast cancer technology at The Ottawa Hospital. The juices will be available at the retailer’s Preston Street location, as well as its new storefront in Westboro.

“We are all raising our families here in Ottawa and we feel a real responsibility and commitment to give back,” says Shabinsky. “It’s what makes Ottawa so special: everyone taking care of each other.”

For the RAW team, that means lending support to charities and working with local businesses for materials.

“All of our supplies are bought through local companies,” says Shabinsky. “Most of our custom items are provided by small local manufacturers. Those items are key to our products and give us an opportunity to support other local businesses.”

“We are all raising our families here in Ottawa and we feel a real responsibility and commitment to give back.”