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B Corps, EDI training programs are booming in B.C.

Demand rises for training and education related to ESG, EDI and Indigenous relations programs businesses and professionals seek to learn and improve
The majority of the 137 B-Corp companies based in B.C. sought certification after 2020

Greg Tooke says he first came to know about values-driven businesses in 2013 when he was doing consulting work for a non-profit organization that also had some for-profit business streams.

“I started understanding the mix between purpose and profit, and how that could mix well together,” he recalls. “I started looking into articles about blending profit and purpose and understanding how it’s not a decision you have to make between one or the other.”

Tooke then found out about B Corp, a not-for-profit founded in 2006 that certifying businesses that meet high standards for social and environmental performance. He then took his Squamish-based consulting firm Light Trail through that certification process in 2015.

Many B.C. businesses have taken a similar journey. Currently, 137 B.C. companies are B-Corp certified, 91 of them were certified after 2020.

Overall, training and benchmarking programs related to ESG (environmental, social and governance), EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) and Indigenous relations have seen increased demand in B.C.

Certification programs such as the Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional (CCIP) designation, which is provided by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI), and the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program offered by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) have seen their respective application numbers rise.

“Now we’re seeing more applicants in recent years and there is definitely a trend of having more and more applicants,” says Miriam Chiasson, a spokesperson for the CCIP program.

The relatively young certification now has produced 150 certified inclusion professionals in Canada, including 20 in B.C.

And training programs such as the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s (GVBOT) EDI courses for professionals, in partnership with CCDI, have also seen high demand. Since their launch in 2021, more than 1,000 people have gone through the courses.

“We’ve been offering the introduction courses. However, now that we’ve had a lot of members go through the training, they’re asking us for more advanced topics, which shows people are interested in it and take it more seriously,” says Rosine Hage-Moussa, the GVBOT’s director of events, programs and EDI initiatives.

“So this year, we introduced a level two and now we are also doing an in-depth course on inclusive hiring in the workplace, which is a more robust five-day program.”

Certifications provide standards, benchmarks

Tooke says benchmarking programs such as the one offered by B Corp helps companies like his understand and be guided through best practices in the areas of social and environmental responsibility and leadership. They also indicate a company’s commitment to such causes.

Applicants need to answer about 200 questions about their business on topics that range from governance, to local supply chains, to how they treat their workers. B Corp will then run an assessment, and companies that receive 80 or more points get certified.

Tooke says his company made a number of changes during the process, including putting a supply chain policy in place that prioritizes purchasing as many things locally from independent suppliers as they can.

And many clients choose to work with his firm because it is a B Corp, he adds.

“We feel it’s good for business and it’s also doing good business. I honestly would encourage any business or any organization to sign up for the B impact assessment because there’s so much to learn by doing it,” says Tooke.

Similarly, certification programs such as CCIP give EDI professionals credentials and added credibility that highlights their expertise in the area, according to Chiasson.

“Different people get to the DEI field from all sorts of different paths. As a profession, there have been efforts to standardize certain things where if someone is to call themselves a DEI professional, we would hope that they would be able to do or know certain things,” says Chiasson.

She says the program provides a competency framework to help applicants get the big-picture view of what the expectations should be and study material that helps them find out what they have not encountered in their practice or need to improve on.

The CCAB’s PAR program, which has produced around 240 certified companies in Canada, confirms a company’s performance in Indigenous relations at bronze, silver and gold levels.

“Certified companies or organizations promote their certification with a PAR logo that signals to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities that they are good business partners; great places to work and are committed to prosperity in Indigenous communities,” says Luanne Whitecrow, CCAB’s director of PAR.

An evolving educational journey

Education on and best practices in many of these topics continues to evolve, so training content and certification requirements for these programs keep getting updated, according to experts who spoke with BIV.

That’s why companies need to get re-certified as a B Corp or PAR company every three years.

“The PAR program is a long-term commitment program. Once a company signs onto the PAR program they are raising a lifetime flag of commitment that will take them into a reconciliation process for the lifetime of their participation,” says Whitecrow.

And the knowledge of EDI has evolved in recent years and continues to advance, according to Hage-Moussa.

“We used to talk about allyship, but now we’ve defined the performative versus effective allyship. There’s more attention on other representatives versus Indigenous and black.… Disability and accessibility are also getting a lot more attention,” she notes.

Chiasson says there is also a shift from focusing on diversity, including bringing in people with different backgrounds, to actually creating an inclusive work environment where people from diverse backgrounds feel comfortable and have fair opportunities.

“Different institutions might add extra focus in that department. For example, you might have heard of DEIA – the letter A is added which stands for accessibility. The A can also stand for anti-racism… You might have heard the letter B that stands for belonging,” adds Chiasson.