Impact Companies 101 - what the heck are they?

Excellent question my friend! I have been so entrenched in the world of impact companies the past while that it has become a natural term for me to throw about with abandon. Impact this! Impact that! As I chat to people who are not necessarily in this world it appears there is a lack of clarity so I am going to break it down real quick for you! 

 Photo credit: Mpumelelo Macu

Photo credit: Mpumelelo Macu

What an ‘Impact’ company is *not*

Anything to do with boxing / Muay Thai or sword fighting etc

Something that speeds and hits something with high impact aka a car, a rocket, a racehorse

Although there can definitely be exceptions to this…and I will explain further down

What an ‘Impact’ company *is*

A business that is making a positive difference in the world

A business that acknowledges there is more to doing business than just making money. That as a business you can fulfill on:

  1. Making a profit
  2. Contributing to your community through time, resources, expertise, exposure and joint initiatives
  3. Nurturing your team
  4. Taking care of our environment
  5. And finally - educating other businesses on how they can successfully do the 4 above points

Misconceptions about Impact companies

That they are only non-profit or charities. Nope! For-profit companies are big players in the impact space too! 

It will take too much time to ‘impactify’ my business. Nope again! Anyone and EVERYONE can weave in social impact to their business. Three quick and easy things your business can do today: 

  1. Bring in a recycling initiative
  2. Ask your team what matters to them and how they want to make a difference in the work that they do
  3. Choose a charity / non-profit / cause that you can support for one hour a month. What would that look like? 
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Got it? High five!

Let’s take a quick peek at a handful of companies that are defined as impact and what that looks like in real life (and p.s notice the different industries they span):

Quupe (Vancouver)

Quupe's mission is to enable the world to share resources. The online platform was created to fulfil on changing the way we think about resources and our communities. Have a tent, snowboard, blender, electric guitar or pair of space binoculars? You can attach a daily fee to your item and lend it out to a borrower. Waste not want not. www.quupe.com

SeaSmart (Vancouver)

A non-profit that delivers innovative, engaging education programs based on science and current ocean issues to empower youth to be environmental champions in Metro Vancouver. SeaSmart is led by a team of marine biologists and oceanographers who are passionate about youth education and environmental sustainability. Kids don’t just learn more about the ocean and how they can play a key part in its conservation, they also build essential life skills such as creative thinking, personal awareness, and social responsibility. www.seasmartschool.com

Keela (Vancouver)

Keela aims to democratize nonprofit technology, and believe that accessibility is the key to creating truly usable nonprofit technology that ultimately builds capacity for the sector at large. While larger, more established nonprofits are able to take full advantage of quality, integrated technology that allows them to do more and increase their impact, smaller organizations are left with few options. Tools are far too expensive, too difficult to learn, and too difficult to use, resulting in inefficient and cluttered work environments. Keela works to break down the barriers that are faced by small nonprofits as they bring change to communities across the world, ultimately allowing teams to operate effectively and efficiently, leaving more time, effort, and money to be directed to the projects that matter most. www.keela.co

EP Fitness (Vancouver)

EP Fitness is specially designed for the busy urban professional, with 45 and 30 minute partner or private (H.I.T.T)  fitness sessions that are tailored for maximal and efficient results in weight loss, endurance and strength gains. As well as the physical training, EP Fitness also educates their clients with nutritional themes and food diaries. Healthy body = healthy mind = healthy employee. www.epfitnesstrainer.com

Gladstone Hotel (Toronto)

The Gladstone offers 37 hotel rooms designed by local artists and multiple venues to provide creative spaces for celebrations or corporate events. Their restaurant and in house catering menus focus on highlighting uniquely Toronto flavours and locally, sustainably sourced products and ingredients. The hotel is committed to revolutionize a hospitality model that operates at the intersection of arts, sustainability and social change, and their mission is to be an accessible, dynamic, warm and welcoming place, where ideas are incubated, community is cultivated and magic happens. “Art is not just decoration at the Gladstone Hotel, it is the methodology of operating our business." www.gladstonehotel.com

Rawoffice (Toronto)

An online reseller of 5,000+ eco forward office supplies for home offices, small businesses and large enterprise clients across North America. “Through allowing consumers to make sustainable purchasing decisions we are slowly changing the paradigm towards more sustainably conscious-consumption. It’s time that offices across North American make environmentally sustainable, informed, reliable and affordable choices” (Jeff Golfman, Founder and President) www.rawoffice.com

tentree (Vancouver)

tentree is a environmentally progressive, lifestyle apparel brand that plants ten trees for every item purchased. It was founded on the premise that every consumer wants to know that they are contributing to the wellbeing of our planet. They believe that they can inspire a new group of consumers to tackle the environmental issues we are now faced with head on, positively impacting our future. To date, they have planted 21,107, 060 trees (!!)

These trees have provided hundreds of thousands of days of employment in underprivileged communities across the globe which equates to several hundred full-time jobs. Not to mention the countless hours of education that have gone into making these projects a success. The environmental impact is giant, as these trees help rejuvenate damaged eco-systems and remove pollution from the atmosphere. Every purchase makes THE difference. www.tentree.ca

Ellio (Montreal)

A team of consultants passionate about working with organizations to support them in seeing and realizing their full potential, their true sustainability on social, environmental and economic spheres. The company have worked with small and large companies, municipalities, governmental and non-governmental organizations, professional associations, financial institutions, and individuals. Skills across the team include project management, stakeholder engagement, training, human resources management, environmental engineering, life cycle management, research reports, reporting, and more. www.ellio.ca

Renewal Funds (Vancouver)

One of the largest investors in the organic and natural food and green products sectors in North America in the early-growth stage. Their model is to deliver above market returns for their partners while creating positive change. Renewal focuses on underfunded sectors that are critical to a sustainable economy and looks for companies in the organic and natural food, green products and social and environmental innovation sectors. With $98 million under management, Renewal believes that impact investing is how the company will create substantive, meaningful shifts in consumer behaviour while impacting the environment and communities it serves. www.renewalfunds.com

 

So in summary…

Take a moment to look at how your immediate work environment could take a little shift (recycling initiative? Lunch & learns to educate your team on local sustainability initiatives? Coffee date swaps with another company to learn about their offerings?)

 

Check out these helpful resources to learn more about impact in businessess:

B Corporation Certification - a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. 

2 min video - how companies can be not just the best IN the world but the best FOR the world

BDC - Canada’s business development bank and the only financial institution devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs. Build on a foundation of the B Corporation movement  

Impact Support - Free tools and guidance to help you deliver the biggest impact with the resources available using data to learn about, change and improve your programmes and services. 

 Photo credit: www.helloimnik.co.uk

Photo credit: www.helloimnik.co.uk

Oh, and a boxing / Muay Thai / sword fighting / rocket / racehorse company can totally be impact driven. Perhaps there is a boxing company with a mission to provide training to women, or a rocket company who use environmentally friendly fuel. :)