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How Chandos Construction Is Helping Leaders Rethink the Role of Business in Canada

Moderator David LePage leads panel discussion with James Boettcher, Jeff Loomis, Tim Coldwell, Wayne Chiu, and Michael Selci
Moderator David LePage, far left, leads a panel discussion with, from left, James Boettcher, Jeff Loomis, Tim Coldwell, Wayne Chiu and Michael Selci. The panel was part of a series of events convened in May across Canada by Chandos Construction. (Photo courtesy Carla Heim)

One of Canada’s largest contractors takes its role as a leader in purposeful business seriously. Chandos Construction does things differently, boldly setting an example of what rethinking the role of business in Canada can look like. A 100% employee-owned construction company with offices across Canada, Chandos was recently profiled in a podcast released by BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada), The B Corp Effect, which included a deep dive into the company’s philosophy that business exists to serve society and that social responsibility is strategically critical.

As a natural extension of the work Chandos already does to shift the status quo, the company convened a series of events in May focused on Industry with Purpose. This national event series—with dates in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver—set the stage for discussions about how organizations are already embedding better business practices in their work through more diverse and inclusive supply chains, more mindful approaches to the connection between business and society, and other methods. In hosting the series, Chandos hoped to inspire other companies to follow the example of these B Corps and other businesses.

“We’re proud about what we do as an organization, and yet we know that Chandos is just one company,” says Chandos President Tim Coldwell. “What if some of the largest general contractors in Canada got together and said, ‘We’re going to do something about ___ issue’? How powerful would that be? We don’t need to wait for anyone to tell us to recycle construction waste or hire at-risk youth. Business can move the needle if we work together.”

Keynote speech by Craig Kielburger. Certified B Corporation logo.
Keynote — Craig Kielburger; image courtesy of Carla Heim.

Each of the four events featured keynotes from Craig Kielburger, The New York Times best-selling author and founder of B Corp ME to WE; and Afdhel Aziz, author of Good Is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn and founder and chief purpose officer at Conspiracy of Love. Each event also included informative, inspiring and thought-provoking panel discussions led by Buy Social Canada’s David LePage, along with a complement of expert panelists who helped create interesting dialogue, through which a few themes emerged.

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Any Kind of Business Can Be Purposeful

Craig Ryan of BDC touted the strength of the B Corp movement and highlighted the tangible positive impact that companies like Chandos — companies in virtually every sector, of all sizes — can have in their communities.

Shifting to a more purposeful way of working and being more intentional about making a positive impact on communities and the environment can be a major strategic win for any business, whether standing out among competitors in a social procurement process (a major initiative of Buy Social) or sending a message to today’s more discerning customers that your values align with theirs. At Industry with Purpose, two industries that are typically seen as quite traditional — construction and banking — were well-represented in engaging panel discussions.

On the construction front, perspectives included Indigenous entrepreneurship (Tim Coldwell of Chandos); building better as a B Corp (Wayne Chiu of Trico Group, a Best For The World honoree for Workers in 2013 and Community in 2018); and socially inclusive design and integrated project delivery (Dathe Wong, HDR). Chandos was instrumental in bringing integrated project delivery, a collaborative building methodology, to Canada through IPDA, a nonprofit that brings together like-minded companies committed to changing the construction industry outcomes across Canada.

In the financial services industry, there were two huge players: BDC and Vancity. As the only bank in Canada dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs, BDC and its representatives—Ryan, the bank’s director of social entrepreneurship, and Michael Selci, its senior vice president, prairies—were able to provide insight into the good moves Canadian businesses are making, from focusing on local needs to providing tangible solutions to social problems, all of which have a positive impact on communities and the bottom line.

Vancity is a pioneer in Canada’s cooperative banking movement. Vice President of Community Business & Investment William Azaroff offered insight on banking as a community-builder alongside the institution’s innovative community initiatives, such as grants for growing community-based environmental projects.

Employers That Break Down Barriers Build Stronger Businesses

Different themes on barriers to work arose across the event locations, from the mismatch between jobs and talent to representation. From providing meaningful work to people who face barriers (Adam Zweig, Building Up) to staffing and entrepreneurship development support for people on low incomes (Marcia Nozick, EMBERS, and Jeff Loomis, Momentum), a recurring theme in these panel discussions was that when businesses think even a little differently about their supply chains, they can deliver excellent service to their customers while also making a lasting positive impact on the communities in which they operate.

Other panel discussions — particularly the panel that included powerhouse women in Edmonton (Jodi Abbot, NorQuest College; Kathy Kimpton, Women Building Futures; Alison Schneider, Alberta Investment Management Corporation)—highlighted the importance of attracting more women to male-dominated industries. The key lessons here were that in those spaces, which include construction and investing, a simple shift in perspective can make a huge difference. Kimpton, for example, leads a team of people to train women for careers in the trades, where women are often underrepresented and there is a consistent need for more labourers.

Community Is About Value Exchange

Today’s purposeful businesses recognize that they have a significant role to play in the communities in which they operate. Rather than simply considering how they give back, for-profit businesses that operate on purpose consider the true value they want to create where they are. Similarly, nonprofits that are dedicated to building stronger communities bring an enterprising mindset to their day-to-day operations.

For example, Peter Frampton of the Learning Enrichment Foundation, brought his experience as the leader of an organization that helps people become valued contributors to their community’s social and economic development. In Calgary, James Boettcher of Fiasco Gelato shared the business philosophy that has led to extensive recognition as a leader and Fiasco’s tremendous growth: to build a company his parents would want to work at and stay connected to community (the latest example: Fiasco’s Sounds of Summer festival, which the company presented to foster inclusiveness and celebrate its 10th anniversary). At the final event in Vancouver, Don McQuaid of World Housing shared how his extensive experience as an entrepreneur translates to finding innovative solutions to the global housing crisis.

While community impact was a strong theme throughout the events, Vancouver’s roster of of leaders in finance, housing and economic development stood out, and the B Local Vancouver community showed up in full force. Ryan of BDC said that the movement of people using business as a force for good is particularly strong in Vancouver: “Of course we certified too to join!”

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.


Convening Conversations to Build Industry with Purpose was originally published in B the Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Originally posted on B the Change - Medium by BCorpCanada.


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