A Vision of Social Purpose Business in the City of Burnaby

Business and Community Leaders Gather to discuss Social Purpose in Burnaby

The City of Burnaby committed to becoming a Living Wage Employer in June, declared a Climate Emergency in September and in October this month convened its first-ever discussion on how to accelerate social purpose among Burnaby businesses, in partnership with the Burnaby Board of Trade and the Social Purpose Institute (SPI) of the United Way. The City, along with the Board of Trade and the United Way, is stepping up its leadership on essential societal issues to foster a strong community and healthy economy now and in the future.

The United Way’s Social Purpose Institute program has consulted over two dozen business leaders around the region, most recently in Burnaby, and all are excited about the potential to grow a social purpose movement in BC. Among Greater Vancouver municipalities, the City of Vancouver has the most businesses advancing through the United Way’s social purpose programs, followed by the City of Burnaby. It is on the strength of this that the City hopes to build.

There has been rapidly growing interest in the Business Community to shift their companies towards Social Purpose, essentially defined as a business which, in addition to making a profit, has an aspirational reason for being, or purpose, that benefits society. The more business a Social Purpose Business does, the more societal benefit they can generate, essentially transforming them into an “engine for good”. 

A major goal of these CEO consultations with local businesses is to better understand how SPI, municipalities and local businesses can work together to better prepare for, and help pioneer, this shift towards an integrated Social Purpose.

The session was generously hosted by Hemlock Printers — an alumni of the very first cohort of the Social Purpose Innovators program. Richard Kouwenhoven, President and COO of Hemlock – a Burnaby-based business – said that it was important for this conversation to be happening locally. For Richard and Hemlock, it made a lot of sense to join the Social Purpose movement. “Social Purpose is not a leap – but just another step for us,” said Kouwenhoven. “We are internally focused, and our next step is to be externally focused.”

Many participants saw the potential that Burnaby could be a hub or centre of excellence in social purpose business, driving investment, talent and opportunity to the City to help it grow and thrive. This vision will guide next steps as the City, Board of Trade and the United Way’s Social Purpose Institute activate a social purpose roadmap.

Whether your business is based in Burnaby or not, if you would like to be part of building this Social Purpose in Business momentum, please contact us.

A special thank you to the business and community leaders in attendance, all of whom are championing social purpose in Burnaby and beyond:

Consider joining them as we scale purpose in Burnaby and across Greater Vancouver!

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