Pods of killer whales regularly surface in the inner harbour. The city’s largest park is an actual rainforest. Ski hills rise just 15 minutes from downtown. Everywhere, there are poignant reminders of the profound relationship this land’s original inhabitants had (and continue to have) with the environment.
When you couple that closeness to nature with the region’s long and rich political history of social democracy, it’s little wonder why Vancouver is home to some of the world’s most forward-thinking, purpose-driven brands. And why sustainability is often at the forefront of their social purpose business plans.
VanCity: Good Corporate Citizens
VanCity, one of Canada’s most successful financial institutions, has over a half million members and twenty-one billion dollars in assets. The epitomize the type of good corporate citizenship Vancouver inspires, and are committed to redefining the meaning of wealth with their purpose-driven brand positioning, ‘Make Good Money.’
The intentional double entendre promises VanCity members that they can profit handsomely from their financial investments, while being rest assured their money is being put to good use in support of their community. VanCity’s values-based banking model leverages its membership’s capital to lend financial support to local businesses and initiatives, helping build vibrant and healthy local communities.
Nature’s Path: Leaders in Organic Foods
Nature’s Path is a purpose-driven family-run company in Vancouver. Since being founded in 1985, it’s grown to become North America’s largest certified organic breakfast and snack food company, and has a product line of over 150 cold cereals, granolas, hot oatmeal, waffles, bars and cookies.
Nature’s Path is committed to organic food and farming, and works to “always leave the earth better than [we] found it.” They’re passionate about advancing the causes of people and the planet, along the path to sustainability. The company has taken a strong stand on organic and non-GMO-based food products, and is helping transform farm and production practices.
Mountain Equipment Co-op: Canada’s Largest Co-operative
Another purpose-driven mega-brand headquartered in Vancouver is Mountain Equipment Co-op, more commonly known as MEC. Established by four young climbers in 1971, its mission is to inspire and enable everyone to lead active outdoor lifestyles. Today it is Canada’s largest co-operative retailer, with over 5 million members worldwide.
One of the toughest measures of a purpose-driven business model is transparency, i.e., owning up to your claims. And if there was ever a poster child for transparency, it’s MEC. Every year, the co-operative sets ambitious goals to achieve their commitment to making sustainable products, ensuring fair treatment of workers, reducing their environmental impact, and encouraging members to get outside. Every year, they openly and honestly reveal the results of their efforts, whether or not they succeed in meeting their goals.
And they’re not alone.
For every MEC, VanCity and Nature’s Path, there are scores of smaller, purpose-driven brands being cultivated in the conscience-minded community of Vancouver. Micro-breweries, fashion merchants, architecture firms and entrepreneurs — both large and small — are first considering why they are in business to help guide how they are going to conduct their business.
It’s no wonder why Sustainable Brands, a global community of forward-thinking brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals, had their 2018 flagship international conference in Vancouver, and why other social-purpose brands continue to keep an eye on what this Canadian city is up to.