Thought Leadership

This is what happens when we talk about privilege

What is privilege? Something that’s not easy to comprehend or discuss. The topic can be complicated, comparative, guilty and uncomfortable. It’s one of the biggest barriers to an inclusive society. Which is why we NEED to talk about it.

Jennifer Paukman

Categories: Thought Leadership

May 24, 2018

What is privilege? Something that’s not easy to comprehend or discuss. The topic can be complicated, comparative, guilty and uncomfortable. It’s one of the biggest barriers to an inclusive society. Which is why we NEED to talk about it. Understanding privilege can be the catalyst for a culture of empathy and inclusion in our communities and our workplaces.

The privilege walk

Discussing privilege is challenging because those who have it are not always aware that they do. It’s amazing what taking a few steps (actual steps with your feet on the ground) can do to demonstrate privilege in a way that’s comprehensible. If you haven’t seen this video, I highly recommend that you watch it. It’s one of the best ways to visually demonstrate the effects of societal privilege.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a privilege walk activity at the B Corp breakfast held in the WE Global Learning Centre up the street from our office. It’s a monthly meet-up where senior leaders from B Corporations share best practices and ways to use business as a force for good. If you believe in socially responsible business you should look into the B Corporation movement.

B corp breakfast - Eddie's spoken word poem

We kicked off with a powerful spoken word poem by Eddie Lartey, then started the activity. I’ve seen the privilege video before and believed I understood my own experiences with privilege. However, actually doing the exercise created a new experiential understanding that helped me further see privilege differently.

The intersection of privilege and inclusion

It reiterated to me that businesses can and should do more. When people of diverse backgrounds and life experiences get together, it strengthens businesses and entire economies. Through the diversity of thought, we create innovative ideas and find new ways to solve challenges. After the activity, we had a thought-provoking discussion about the importance of allyship and inclusion. Topics that should be discussed within every business if we are going to make a real, lasting change to support an inclusive economy.

Creating an inclusive economy

Last year, we signed up for the B Corporation Inclusive Economy Challenge. It’s a call to action to improve our collective impact and make measurable changes in pursuit of a more inclusive economy – one that is equitable and creates long-term opportunities for all. As part of the challenge, we chose three goals from the Inclusive Economy Metric Set in the B Corporation Impact Assessment, an audited assessment that every B Corp has to pass before becoming certified. The metric set contains themes like supporting vulnerable workers, climate change mitigation, supplier screening, and corporate governance.

Supplier diversity

As part of the supplier screening metric, we decided to focus on supplier diversity. We’re proud to announce that we’ve recently met one of our goals and we are now certified by non-profit WBE Canada as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). Through this certification, we’re joining the ranks of other female-owned businesses, creating new channels to diversify our supply chain and make our procurement policies more inclusive.

Why is supplier diversity important? Because there is a gap that needs to be addressed. Did you know that women start businesses at twice the rate as men but don’t achieve the same growth as their male counterparts? While they do retain ownership of 47% of Canada’s 1.6 million small and medium-sized businesses, female-owned businesses have an annual revenue of $563,000 compared to an average $1.1 million for male-owned business.

One of the causes is that female-owned businesses are under-represented as suppliers to corporate Canada. Under 5% of corporate and government contracts are awarded to Women Business Enterprises and we hope that this certification will provide new opportunities to connect with more female-owned businesses and reach a diverse network of suppliers.

As a B Corporation, we uphold the vision of creating an inclusive economy and a shared and durable prosperity for everyone. We hope you’ll join us.

Contact us to discuss becoming a B Corporation or a certified WBE and we’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

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Our work takes place on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Learn more