BLD Western Canada 2019: Building On Lessons to Build the B Corp Movement

A day built on impact starts with understanding responsibility and the importance of Reconciliation in our community. It was important to the BLD organizing committee that we acknowledge the territory on which the event took place. Syexwalia, an Elder & Knowledge Carrier from Squamish Nation, did this effortlessly. She took the group through an educational journey about the land and her people in a way most of us have never heard before. She bestowed on us teachings from her youth and culture, and showed us how to be more open with our bodies – especially our hands. Those moments set the tone for our day and left me personally grateful and ideating about the next steps towards my own personal responsibility to reconciliation.

From there, the day was filled with possibility and questions. How could we push this movement further?What commitments would be made? What new connections would be fostered?

These are questions that informed how we developed programming for the BLD and led to the three main objectives we had for structuring the content:

  1. Ensuring the community has the tools to activate (and identifying the gaps).
  2. Creating the space for collaboration.
  3. Bringing new perspectives to issues in the movement and in the world.

To meet these objectives, the organizing committee embraced the theme of “Vote Every Day” as a way to take attendees through a personal, company and global journey. In previous years, we tried to tackle the topic of supply chain, failing each time to create actionable items for our B Corps to take back to their companies and personal lives. We have also seen days of panels and keynotes that can be inspiring in the moment, but can leave us when we walk out of the room.

This year, we wanted to leave our guests better off than when they entered the room, and equipped with actions so they could hit the ground running. We decided to address why people were not voting every day — in their lives and in their work — and how we as a group can provide solutions to this problem. Through this theme, we addressed some very difficult topics: finances, the environment and privilege. We structured a conference that would create space to acknowledge, confront, and move through discomfort as we began to explore the barriers we face in all aspects of our lives.

The obstacles — when presented — seemed so small, such as lack of awareness, and with major consumer brands in the room this was their time to stand up and move that bigger conversation. It was exciting to see some of our larger B Corps commit to employee training, which could have a huge impact if it translated to their presence in the community. Imagine the day when trusted brands shift their conversations away from their new products and focus on educating the public about the importance of voting with your values. Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s have successfully done this for years — the possibilities are endless!

Once closed to businesses outside the B Corp family, this year’s BLD was now ready to embrace those in our greater B Economy (which made up about 25% of attendees). This — in addition to a deeper commitment to community activation — led to the highest turnout we have ever had at this BLD, with over 80% of our BC B Corp community (representing 55 B Corps) and our farthest-travelled B Corp to date Danone (Quebec) willing to dedicate their day to learning and connecting as a community.

Some of the most interesting takeaways from the day came from those outside of our community, which gave us insight into why it is important to allow people from the broader B Economy join this conversation. These three stand out:

  1. We learned about the neuroscience behind how we make decisions and how emotional intelligence & empathy play a big part in making change.
  2. We saw many people join the liberation session, where we unpacked the uncomfortable subject of privilege and how we may benefit from it, while also creating ways that we personally can effect the changes that need to happen through our businesses.
  3. We dissected the problem of waste, identifying waste streams that some never thought of personally and in our businesses.

Breaking down complex issues like this not only opened our eyes to what we were doing, but why we were doing it. I have to confess, my waste is a result of convenience. Having a toddler at home it was incredible to see how many waste streams were a part of that. There wasn’t guilt or blame associated with these topics, but rather a greater sense of empowerment and responsibility. What can be done now? What does the future look like?

As the day came to a close, we enjoyed a cold tasty beverage from Persephone and the closing keynote from Carol Newell, who took us through her own personal impact journey showing us what is possible. A key takeaway for me was evaluating what it is that you need in this life. As my younger self, that vision would have been much different than my thoughts today. Now, I my question is simple: How do I expand Vote Every Day into all aspects of my life?

A great conference stays with you, its ideas worm themselves into your consciousness and even as the details fade the feelings remain with you. As our community gears up to embrace their collective actions whether that is environmental change (Adult Strike), awareness building or fostering working groups (sales teams), we accomplished our goal of connecting a group of incredible changemakers who realized on this day that they are and can be movement builders.