ABC Recycling – Building an Internal Social Purpose Ambassador Network

March 29, 2023

ABC Recycling’s Social Purpose: We exist to preserve the world’s resources, building thriving communities by accelerating metal recycling.

ABC Recycling is a Burnaby-based fourth generation family owned and Western Canada’s largest scrap metal recycling company. With ten locations across British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington State, they specialize in the recovery, processing and recycling of scrap metal. With a far-reaching network of strategic partnerships, they connect clients from Western Canada to customers around the world.

In 2019 ABC Recycling completed the Social Purpose Institute’s Implementer’s program. This program guides businesses to authentically embed and operationalize their social purpose across their internal and external stakeholders and through collaborations and partnerships.

Recently the SPI had the opportunity to chat with Karen Alko, Manager, Community Relations at ABC Recycling, to discuss their social purpose journey.

Q. When ABC started embedding its purpose in 2019, what were some of the tools you used to mobilize employees?

A. We struck an employee ambassador network, our Social Purpose Working Group, comprised of representation from our 9 Canadian locations. We meet monthly to discuss our Social Purpose and brainstorm ways we can activate it throughout our company.

Q. What criteria or lens did you use to bring this group together?

A. There are 16 members of our SP Working Group. We recruited at least one ambassador from each of our 9 yards, plus our corporate team. We were intentional about recruiting individuals who are community-minded and natural leaders in their location.

Q. How did you bring this group up to speed on the work the senior management staff had done to uncover and define ABC’s purpose and the roadmap to embedding social purpose throughout the organization and with its external stakeholders?

A. We prepared a PowerPoint presentation that included an overview of what social purpose is, its value to organizations, the process we went through to define our social purpose, and our impact goals. We also shared resources from Innovators and Implementers.

Q. Can you share the organizational structure of this group? How often does it meet, and how do you focus on purpose?

A. Mobilization of employees is a part of bringing social purpose to life in an organization that leads to collaboration, partnerships and innovation. Our Social Purpose Working Group meets monthly. We focus on purpose by revisiting our purpose at the start of each meeting, and having a set agenda and minutes.

Q: Does your Social Purpose Ambassador group look at social purpose as a lens to ideate and operationalize purpose within their respective departments?

A. Yes, I believe they are starting to do this. For example, some of our SP Ambassadors who are part of our Commercial Purchasing Team have started to ideate and operationalize purpose in their department. They are actively seeking opportunities to build relationships with Indigenous communities and help clean up scrap metal from their land.

Q: To bring social purpose to life, businesses need to collaborate. Can you talk about the indigenous partnerships ABC Recycling has formed and what that looks like from the social purpose lens?

A. ABC Recycling is committed to building relationships with Indigenous communities where we operate and live. Some examples of the partnerships we have formed to date include a Memorandum of Understanding with the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN). WLFN and ABC Recycling will seek out business opportunities to provide metal recycling services to customers. Another example is the relationship between the Lummi Nation (Washington State) and ABC Recycling, where we are working with them to help clean up scrap metal from their land. We have also developed a relationship with the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre, specifically supporting their Babies Best Start Program. Together with Superstore, we recycle their scrap shopping carts and donate the proceeds to Babies Best Start. Another partnership we have developed is with the Penelakut Tribe, located adjacent to Chemainus and in the Southern Gulf Islands. Our Nanaimo location has donated proceeds from its scrap metal donation bin to the Penelakut Youth Recreation Mountain Bike & Canoe Club. 

A big shout out to Karen and the ABC Recycling team for the work they are doing implementing social purpose in their family enterprise and for sharing some of their journey with the Social Purpose community.

Connect with us to learn more about social purpose innovation and implementation.

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