What’s past is NOT prologue, according to Jean Paul Gladu, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. In his presentation during Sodexo’s inaugural Quality of Life Conference, he said that to make progress, “…government and industry should stop worrying about the past and look more deeply at their future. I think we spend too much time looking behind us and we’re not focusing, or at least looking ahead at what opportunities lay in front of us.”
This is a very progressive and thought-provoking statement for Gladu to make. The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) originated as a way to bridge the divide that had formed between Canada’s indigenous community and the rest of the country. Although Canada’s indigenous people were actually the first to create a major industry in the nation—the fur trade—they were pushed out of business due to movements like colonialism, which negatively affected the community.
Happily, things are improving. Canada’s indigenous people are reemerging into the world of business, contributing $32 billion to the nation’s GDP—with $13 billion coming directly from businesses that they own. This is a move in the right direction, but there is still room to do more.
Gladu’s take on this is that improvement is tied to the way relationships are formed. He pointed out the historic game of “ping pong” wherein Canada’s indigenous population is often pushed back and forth between the federal and provincial governments. Business-savvy indigenous leaders, astute politicians and successful court cases are encouraging corporate Canada to change the way it does business and engage with indigenous communities.
Panelists at the conference explored what can happen when these kind of local efforts go global. Mariano Lozano, Dev Patniak and Bea Perez discussed what happens when big business uses its resources to help the people in the communities that supply it with natural resources and labor—and it is good news.
Firms like Coca-Cola and Dannon’s sustainability initiatives are focused on areas of opportunity where the firms feel a particularly strong responsibility including water, women’s economic empowerment and well-being, promoting good nutrition for children, recycling, supporting small local farms in Africa and organic farming in the U.S. Dannon, for example, reduced its multiple product lines down to four: yogurt, waters, early-life nutrition, and medical nutrition, all supporting their mission to promote health and wellness through food. Water is Coca Cola’s major ingredient and the company has committed to becoming water neutral by 2020, replacing as much as it consumes.
These initiatives are not just altruistic—they’re good business. As Dev Patniak, CEO of Jump Associates said, “We really need to work to unleash empathy. We need to work to understand what’s actually happening on the ground for a lot of the problems that we notice.” Indeed—and in doing so, companies improve the Quality of Life for all those they serve.
Barry Telford is the President of Sodexo Canada and a strong advocate for the new performance frontier: Quality of Life. Mr. Telford believes that great performance is driven by strong, inclusive leadership based on family and community-centered values and a commitment to serve others. Mr. Telford serves on the Board of the Sodexo Foundation, Toronto’s Second Harvest and the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB).