Op-ed: Embedding a social mission into corporate strategy is worth the effort

Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh is CFO at Indiva Ltd., a Canadian producer of cannabis edibles and other cannabis products. File photo

By Jennifer Welsh

Traditionally, fall is the time when local Ottawa charities and non-profits gear up their biggest fundraising campaigns, leading up to the all-important Giving Tuesday in December where individuals are encouraged to donate to their favourite causes. 

But local companies can make an impact year-round by partnering with charities, with the added benefit of advancing their strategic agenda. 

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As someone who’s been deeply engaged in building a startup, I have seen firsthand how you tend to be totally focused on survival, using brute force to get your product to market and on-board customers. The challenges you face as you grow are different but just as stressful:  keeping customers happy, retaining great people, making payroll, managing demanding investors and adapting to stay ahead of your competitors.

Giving back is not often on the agenda for an entrepreneur. However, when it’s done strategically, embedding a social mission into your company early on can be a huge benefit to your business. Giving back can help you build your network, attract talent, build a strong corporate culture and position the company as part of a positive movement. 

And this approach is also a major asset to the local non-profit ecosystem, for obvious reasons.

From my experience as a volunteer at iSisters Technology Mentoring, a local charity enabling women and gender-diverse people in need to gain vital computer and employability skills, I’ve seen how the support of local tech firms has been key throughout our history. From donated IBM (now Lenovo) computers back in the early 2000s to recent program grants from Ciena and the Flex Foundation, we’ve been able to serve more learners more effectively thanks to the support of our community.  

Local tech firms have also provided us innumerable expert volunteers who’ve helped with setting up our learning management system, executing our data collection strategy and managing our website analytics. 

The most important aspect of selecting a cause is to genuinely care about the organization and its mission. Consult with employees about causes they care about; opportunities for volunteering can also deepen your impact. Talk with a few local non-profits to find out in detail the work they do and what kind of help they need.

Strategically planning your company’s social impact from the beginning sends a message to investors, employees and other stakeholders about your belief in your company’s potential. These hard benefits will help make your case:

  • Eighty-four per cent of consumers would switch to a brand aligned with a good cause, and 95 per cent think it’s a good idea for companies to support causes.
  • Socially responsible companies see 2.3 times better retention; 60 per cent of employees say a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their employer.
  • Being unique, interesting and caring is a highly effective and inexpensive way to build brand value.

Jennifer Welsh is CFO at Indiva Ltd., a Canadian producer of cannabis edibles and other cannabis products, a chartered professional accountant and the volunteer treasurer of the board at iSisters Technology Mentoring, an Ottawa-based women’s charity.

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