The Business of Social Impact

The world is changing at a fast pace. The impact of climate change, diminishing natural resources, income inequalities, species loss, aging infrastructure and increasing costs of crises are becoming bigger than any government or non-profit can solve on its own. Which is why many for-profit businesses are beginning to become more socially aware of their impact and how they can help their community. 

Strengthening Our Local Community

This year over 80 local BC small businesses were nominated for the Small Business BC Best Community Impact Award, sponsored by Vancity. Community impact is something that is close to Vancity’s heart. They actively seek to invest in, and work closely with, organizations that will have strong positive impact in their communities. 

One of those businesses is Victory Gardens. This organic food co-operative specializes in transforming all types of urban space into food production. It’s a challenging mandate—no two urban gardens are the same. But with the help of Vancity, Victory Gardens is successfully enabling people to grow food by providing the tools and infrastructure for developing a sustainable local food system, create a healthier environment and strengthen our local economy.

Socially Conscious and Profitable

The business of social impact is growing. Entrepreneurs are recognizing that they can be socially conscious as well as profitable. Although many have created social missions for helping the poor or creating sustainable goods, there are a number of service providers in the mix too. It is about considering your employees, community and the environment when making business decisions, rather than being solely bound by profits. 

Previous winners of the Small Business BC Awards, Lunapads and nominees Fairware have become certified B Companies. Recognized by the B Corporation, a non-profit that recognizes businesses for their corporate social responsibility standards, it’s a badge of honour for just 750 socially and environmentally conscious businesses. Where once businesses and non-profits viewed each other largely as competitors, they are increasingly finding places where they can bring complementary knowledge, experience and skills to help solve social problems. 

These businesses offer investors the biggest returns in both impact and capital. Numerous studies in recent years have shown that consumers prefer to buy from companies that blend social purpose with corporate mission. But partnering with the right people is essential. When seeking investors, it’s not enough to go where the money is. You need to know the intentions behind that money. In other words, you need to find investors who share your goals and mission for the company. This is where banks like Vancity can help. With a mandate to ensure that their members money is invested in ways that ensure a healthy, collective future, it’s a shorthand for both the business and the customer to know you’re a socially conscious business. 

Looking Ahead

Adapting to this new wave of social impact can pose as a challenge for small businesses. Changing where and how product development is done, being aware and in tune with local market needs, suppliers and distributors, requires commitment. Which is why we celebrate that achievement each year with the Small Business BC Community Impact Award. To commend the outstanding achievements of businesses in our communities that contribute to our collective economic, social and environmental well-being. 

“Community is vital to my product and how I've grown my business. You see, by involving my community so closely in how I produce my products I've been able to instill and continue something in my dolls that has been the magic spark from when I first started. That spark is love and you can't offshore that. It's been the heart of my success as a company and the heart of how I've grown Bamboletta,” says 2013 winner Christina Platt, founder of Bamboletta Dolls. “Winning the Best Community Impact Award was a big turning point for Bamboletta because I was able to really root down into my ethics and values and be proud of how I run my business. It was recognition and fuel to keep me going.”

Visit the Small Business BC Awards website to view this year’s finalists of the Best Community Impact Award, sponsored by Vancity.