Three Companies Leading Corporate Community Engagement in Canada

Placing authenticity at the centre of corporate giving

Why It Matters

Today’s employees expect the businesses they work for to move beyond the traditional model of donation-based corporate giving. Three Canadian businesses – Deloitte Canada, TD Bank, and IG Wealth Management – are listening, and changing the way they give back.

The recently released 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer report points to some very surprising statistics. Namely, that business is now the most trusted institution – a major shift in how we collectively think about global governance. This shift is taking place on both the corporate culture and consumer levels:  73 percent of employees say they want the opportunity to change society through their work, and nearly two-thirds of consumers identify as belief-driven customers. 

“We see that companies have an opportunity, one could even say a responsibility, to be catalysts for their many stakeholders, and to be involved in the community or involved as change-makers,” says Elizabeth Dove, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Volunteer Canada. Today, being that changemaker means more than the traditional corporate fundraising or occasional volunteering opportunity. Employees and consumers are looking for signs and actions that the corporations they engage with every day are using their power to better the communities they operate in. 

In Canada, we look at three companies – Deloitte, TD Bank, and IG Wealth Management – that are building off of histories of corporate social responsibility while re-examining what impact means in 2020. 

Deloitte Canada 

Since launching the firm’s Deloitte Indigenous Practice in Canada in 1990, Deloitte has committed to supporting Indigenous communities with professional services. Now, Deloitte Canada is soon to launch its newest initiative, the Reconciliation Action Plan. 

In 2019, Deloitte released its first Deloitte Canada Indigenous Impact Report, brought on by a report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that called for government, citizens, and corporate action on reconciliation in Canada. Deloitte’s report acted as a confirmation of continued support for Indigenous communities and signalled to a deeper and more introspective approach to tackling such issues. 

Now, in 2020, Deloitte continues to commit to reconciliation by putting education on the issue at the centre of the Reconciliation Action Plan. “In order to reconcile with First Nations people, you need to understand the truth before you can move forward and to have positive, meaningful and long-lasting relationships that can be prosperous for our country, our firm, and our communities,” explains Alexandra Biron, Assistant Manager of Corporate Responsibility at Deloitte. Initiatives such as Deloitte’s Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund Legacy Space in Halifax and Toronto (and soon to open in other Deloitte offices in Canada) point to an ongoing commitment to education and healing work around the intergenerational trauma of residential schools in Canada. 

Deloitte’s commitment is based on a growing amount of data that shows reconciliation efforts are not just imperative to social justice but offer long-term business benefits as well. “Currently, Indigenous peoples contribute $30 billion to Canada’s GDP. Because they’re creating new businesses at nine times the Canadian average, they’re expected to increase to $100 billion by 2024,” says Biron, citing research from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. “So, if business leaders are not playing an active role in supporting Indigenous people and Indigenous businesses, they will be at a loss. There is a responsibility of Canadians to engage the original owners of this land, but there is also a business, social, and political benefit to it all.” 

TD Bank 

In its ambitious TD Ready Commitment, the Toronto-based bank outlines a four-pronged action plan for corporate giving that puts employee engagement at the forefront. Financial security, environmental action, community engagement, and better health make up the categories for TD’s targeted C$1 billion by 2030. “We wanted to see how we can be seen as a leader of driving social impact, not just by giving back, but really drive impact and deliver authentically on our purpose, which is to enrich the lives of our customers, colleagues, and communities,” says Shannon Kilburn, Associate Manager, Employee Engagement, Corporate Citizenship at TD Bank. 

This engagement is measured, not just by allocating funds, but by how the employees are experiencing the initiative – and chiefly, what their feedback is. “We want employees to be engaged beyond this traditional corporate citizenship transactional way,” Kilburn says. For Kilburn and TD, that means making opportunities for employees to pursue the route of community service that works for them and their individual values, rather than the more traditional route of offering only one cause an employee can support. “It’s designed to make it easy and convenient for all employees to engage with their communities in their own way. So, whether that’s by themselves, with colleagues or with friends and family, we have opportunities that span that.” TD’s goal is to help each employee connect genuinely with the cause they choose to give their time to. 

IG Wealth Management 

Similarly, IG Wealth Management developed its IG Empower Your Tomorrow program in close conversation with its employees across Canada. Focused on the overarching goal of building financial confidence, IG Wealth Management has identified four key groups where the potential need was greatest: seniors, newcomers to Canada, Indigenous peoples, and youth. “Through our research, we found that there is a huge opportunity out there to help [educate] Canadians on how to be financially confident,” says Court Elliot, VP Corporate Communications, Sponsorship & Community at IG Wealth Management. The need for this kind of education is there: 71 percent of Canadians reporting they don’t have the ability to manage their money, or 48 percent of Canadians losing sleep over money worries.

But research also shows the more nuanced ways that a lack of financial confidence can impact lives, such as a loved one being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “The cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is five times more expensive then it is for someone without Alzheimer’s,” explains Elliot. So, partnering with the Alzheimer Society of Canada, IG Wealth Management has organized nation-wide charity walks (that have raised more than $10 million) and also seminars and workshops that show caretakers how to manage and prepare their financial lives for caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. 

In addition to their targeted work with the Alzheimer Society of Canada, in 2020 IG Wealth Management announced their new policy of giving employees two paid days off annually to volunteer with the registered charity of their choice. “It used to be that a lot of corporations gave financially, and we love that — it’s so important,” says Elliot. “But, we’re finding, in dialogue with our employees, especially millennials, they want to give time as much as they give money, or time instead of money, or a combination.” 

It’s a signal to a promising new wave of corporate giving that puts people, including employees, first, and lets prosperity follow.