Promoting BCorps in Canada
OpenConcept organized and hosted an event in our offices to promote Benefit Corps (BCorp) earlier in the year. It was great to see just how many people came out to this event on a very cold February evening. We did this because we want to see more businesses in Canada become interested in becoming certified. We reached out to MP's & MPP's because there are legislative changes that can be made which will provide more incentives for businesses to become BCorps. We also reached out to municipal counselors as municipalities in the USA are starting to take measures to incentivize BCorps as well.
MP Chrystia Freeland, was good enough to attend and speak to why she is a supporter of Benefit Corporations.
Chrystia Freeland is now Minister for International Trade for the Government of Canada
So, why do BCorps matter? Businesses make up about 80% of our economy. Right now, the only real metric that matters to business is how much profit they make. Profit is always going to be important in a capitalist economy, but it shouldn't be the only thing, and ultimately we measure what matters. If we want businesses to start thinking about the health & welfare of their workforce, the communities that they are based in and the environment we all depend on it is important to start measuring that. BLabs have developed a good framework which allows businesses of all sizes and all sectors to compare their triple bottom line.
Everyone wants to do good and do well. Drupal's Dries Buytaert has blogged about this and presented about it in his Keynote at DrupalCon Portland. This was also echoed at the BCorp Champions Retreat this fall in Burlignton, VT. Contributing to the greater commons by developing open-source software is one way that at OpenConcept we do good and do well every day.
Our teams are always collaborating with each other. We have structured our teams to try to maximize that internal collaboration, but we don't stop within our shop. We actively collaborate with other open-source developers locally, but also globally. We believe it is worth while to give our developers time to engage on sites like Drupal.org because it is both a great way to learn and also give back to others.
Like many BCorps we believe in having a good work-life balance for our employees. Sustainability of our people is really important and you can't do that if they are treated like machines. The high-tech sector is filled with stories of fresh start-ups creating conditions where their employees work themselves to burnout. This culture has played a part in why women are leaving the technology sector. We've tried to structure our core hours so that they are flexible and don't pressure our employees to work overtime. We have always given a lot of flexibility to our staff and will continue to do so.
Many people are attracted to BCorps because of concern for people and planet. This strong sense of justice is important for a lot of people, as money clearly isn't the only motivator. We believe that there are a lot of other companies out there which are making decisions based on a clear sense of values and positive ethics.The BCorps process helps to clarify this, both inside the company & to those on the outside too.
Dan Pink's written some great stuff on motivation. His TED Talk illustrates how autonomy, mastery and purpose can be used much more effectively to produce results for creative workers. People also just like having a company that they can feel good about, knowing at the end of the day that their efforts are helping to make the world better in some small way. The BCorp process hard codes a broader mission into the articles of incorporation of a company.
Although Dan Pink's work illustrates how traditional concepts of incentivizing employees actually reduces the quality of their work, BCorps totally supports organization spreading the financial rewards around. Not only are there points for having a low spread between the highest paid employee and the lowest, there are also points for things like profit sharing. OpenConcept is transparent about how financial rewards are distributed to our team.
OpenConcept has been a leader in open source communities for the last 15 years. In Ottawa we were the first web development shop to adopt Drupal and have played a strong role in shaping this community over the last 9 years. We've contributed a great deal to building up the local web accessibility community here in Ottawa and also in Drupal. Our involvement with BCorps is a great way for us to continue to demonstrate leadership here in Canada. By working with BCorps we can encourage other small companies to consider joining but also work with the BLabs team to start recognizing the benefits to organizations using and contributing back to open source software communities (This too can be measured).
We feel that there is so much to learn from other BCorps. Simply being engaged with others who are trying to make a difference, while still making a profit, helps us a great deal.
We are building a diverse team at OpenConcept. By engaging with Ladies Learning Code we are hoping to make it easier for women in Ottawa to find it easier to enter this important sector of our economy. Far too often tech companies are filled with a lot of white guys and we're always working to increase the diversity of our team. The web inevitably includes change, but we try to address this by ongoing mentoring and staff development. Training our team and engaging with the open-source communities is critical to having a team that has relevant skills.
We will continue to push for BCorps in Canada and hope to find other companies who are interested in taking checking it out. The Impact Assessment is free and even if you don't decide to certify, many businesses will get ideas about what they can do better.
About The Author
Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.