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How Benefit Corporations Are Changing the System

This is a guest blog written by Mike Gifford. The opinions expressed in this article are of the author’s, and are not necessarily reflective of the views of GreenPAC.

I started my web business, OpenConcept, with the conviction that collaboration is key if our society is going to be able to make the changes that we need to. The sustainability challenges we are facing are simply escalating too quickly and require such sweeping behavioral shifts that I am confident we can’t truly address them without systemic change.

I felt that I could contribute to that change by having my business develop open-source web tools that would allow progressive organizations to innovate to engage with citizens. Online collaboration between organizations seeking change would give campaigns an edge and help disrupt our unsustainable status quo.

Corporate laws and conventions make it difficult for regular companies to consider factors outside of their bottom line. OpenConcept’s mission goes well beyond our bottom line and we made the decision to become a Benefit Corporation (B Corp) to reflect that. B Corps are companies certified as “not-only-for-profit,” and as a group we are challenging organizations to measure what matters. Becoming certified was of course also an advantage for us as a progressive business to network with other like-minded businesses.

The B Corp movement is seeking legislative change in jurisdictions around the world in an effort to make it easier for businesses to choose to support the “triple bottom line,” an accounting framework that measures social and environmental impacts as well as financial ones. As one organization, we are playing only a small role in this, but value it as being part of the systemic changes necessary to make business more sustainable. This likely won’t be the final manifestation of a sustainable economy, but it is an important step for our society to embrace.

I’m supporting GreenPAC for the same reason that OpenConcept became a B Corp. The problems we face are systemic and environmental issues need to be understood as underpinning everything else. We need to move to an evidence-based democracy where parties are debating viable solutions to ecological problems. We simply don’t have time to merely pay lip service to climate change, yet addressing this issue properly will require us to fundamentally rethink how our economy is run.

Working to ensure that people who really get environmental issues are elected to major political parties is key to seeing that these issues are understood within our federal and provincial governments. We need strong advocates working within the existing political system. We need to raise the level of debate that Canadians are having, and political leadership on environmental issues is key to our sustainability as a nation.

Finding the right advocates is vital. Making sure that we have people who understand environmental issues who are positioned to win in their riding is critical. GreenPAC is a terrific initiative to help see that there is a slate of people in all parties who have the funding and volunteer support that they need to win their riding.

Although the change might not be visible immediately this fall, having a growing list of MPs who prioritize the environment will make a difference. In a few years, Canada may once again be able to stand as a country that shows leadership on the global environmental crisis.

Please take some time to learn more about GreenPAC. Then, consider sharing it with your friends.

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth Canada.


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