By Melissa Schweyer
Gone are the days when responsibility for protecting people's rights and liberties lay solely with governmental bodies. Society’s approach to combating negative ideologies is undergoing a transition, with businesses and major corporations playing a larger role in mitigating inequalities and injustices.
Fortunately, there’s a growing number of businesses taking on the challenge, including several Canadian B Corporations, who use their platform to eradicate hate and discrimination in their workplaces, their communities and the world, more broadly.
Here are four Canadian B Corps taking a stand against discrimination and hate in their own unique ways.
Kent Employment Law
Kent Employment Law works hard to provide sound advice to other businesses looking to make their workplaces more inclusive and diverse.
Trevor Thomas, a lawyer with Kent Employment Law, notes that externally, the law firm speaks to clients about the human rights code and how to protect the rights of employees.
As Thomas puts it, “we all share similar values with our stakeholders.” This is one reason why the firm is dedicated to putting their own advice into action, internally. The team is currently drafting a diversity and inclusivity policy with a committee that addresses any issues that may arise at the firm.
Understanding that the firm doesn’t always have all of the answers, it leans on the B Corp community, adopting best practices from others that are implementing inclusive hiring practices.
For instance, the firm has recently initiated a new hiring procedure, whereby applications are vetted through at least two or three employees. The first employee is responsible for censoring all indications of an individuals’ gender, sex, ethnicity, race, etc., by removing all potential indicators from each application. Thomas mentions that practices such as these help facilitate an inclusive work environment.
Thomas adamantly notes that, “As a firm and as individuals, we value tolerance, equality, understanding and respect. We believe in the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination, as manifested in Canada's human rights laws. Kent Employment Law is proud to stand with our fellow B Corps as we champion diversity and inclusion.”
Lucky Iron Fish
Lucky Iron Fish is a Canadian social enterprise and B Corp that manufacturers little iron shaped fish that are to be used while cooking, combating iron deficiencies for people in Cambodia, North America and across the world.
Founder and CEO of Lucky Iron Fish, Gavin Armstrong, had this to say about inclusiveness and diversity:
As a social enterprise and a B-Corp Lucky Iron Fish Enterprise (LIFE) strives to embed positive social impact into everything that we do. When it comes to our team we promote transparency, diversity and equality.
Our hiring practices and employment policy follow diversity and inclusion standards reflecting out commitment to the elimination of employment-related barriers which may inhibit the recruitment and retention of women, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities […] An employee will have the right to be considered for employment based on their individual ability and achievement as the prime criterion.
As Armstrong puts it, “Fundamentally we believe that no one should be treated differently and that everyone deserves the ability to live healthier lives.”
Beau's All Natural Brewing
Well known for their large and uniquely-designed beer bottles, employee-owned craft brewery Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company makes a considerable effort to create an inclusive workplace and community.
Jennifer Beauchesne, Beau’s “not-so-corporate” communications point person, states that “Our hiring and purchasing policies are geared to ensure diversity and equality.”
In addition to procedures and policies, Beau’s has also launched and funded a scholarship at Niagara Brewing College, specifically geared to applicants who experience diversity challenges in relation to their career path.
The brewery awards three $1,000 and one $2,000 scholarships annually to students enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program at Niagara College. To apply, students must complete a one-page response, answering the question: “What cultural, gender or health obstacles and opportunities are you working with as you pursue academic and career success in this field?”
Benevity is a Canadian B Corp that provides online workplace giving, volunteering and grant management programs to companies across the world. With more than 2 million users globally, Benevity processes enough donations annually to benefit over 100,000 global charities.
I had the chance to chat with Bryan de Lottinville, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Benevity, Inc. about what the company is doing to promote and ensure inclusion and equality, both in the workplace and in society, as a whole.
Though Benevity hasn’t taken a public stance on the recent rallies that had been led by white supremacist and alt-right groups, the B Corp firmly stands against hate, inequality and racism.
Mr. de Lottinville notes that the rallies have sparked important discussion within the company, particularly around the silver lining these rallies manifest and how many of Benevity’s clients have found a catalyst to move from an agnostic state of being to an active state of change-making.
With regards to policies, de Lottinville is quick to mention the company’s philosophy of instilling principles and values over rules. Though Benevity doesn’t really have any policies about inclusion or diversity, they do have a manifesto and a set of core values that, de Lottinville believes, creates authenticity with real outcomes.
“If you want a company that’s pro-social, it needs to be infused, not forced,” states de Lottinville.
He furthers his point by stating that senior management needs to be aligned with a company’s values, otherwise, “…those 3-inch handbooks just create compliance, not empowerment.” Candidly, de Lottinville uses an analogy to drive home his message: “I bet Uber has a policy. But its not about that. It’s about culture.”
Finding the silver lining within the American political context, de Lottinville expresses that “we are raising the consciousness level of issues that have floated under the radar for a long time.”
De Lottinville notes that with this raised level of consciousness, Benevity’s staff members are genuinely excited about what the next couple of years will bring with a growing appetite from business to make an impact on society.
Whether it’s policy, culture, a mix of the two, or direct implementation and programming, it’s imperative that businesses step up to challenges governments can’t or won’t eradicate on their own. Time will tell how companies will navigate through the future world of business with a heightened level of consciousness, onus and opportunity.