Doing good business, the Canadian way

More and more, the concept of “good business” in Canada refers to the ideals and principles that define the best of what it means to be a Canadian; ethical, equitable, transparent, accountable and sustainable.

Doing good business is about a lot more than just making money, especially if you’re Canadian. It’s about harnessing your expertise for social and economic good.

Financial literacy to the rescue

In the wake of the economic downturn, Leslie Adams, Community Learning Advocate at Calgary Public Library, noticed that more and more people were seeking information on job searching and critical debt management. These people were from both low- and high-income backgrounds and were desperate for information and guidance. “We held an event at the library on potential jobs—it’s a 400-seat theatre—and it was packed to overflowing, there were so many people eager for information,” she explains.

Adams reached out to CPA Canada. Focus groups were conducted and showed that people lacked basic financial knowledge. “It was startling,” says Adams. “It was scary to see.”

The result was The Survive and Thrive Guide, a CPA Canada publication written by David Trahair, CPA, CA, and commissioned as a direct response to this need. Hundreds of copies have now been distributed through the library system and the publication is also available to download at no cost on the CPA Canada website. In addition, volunteers from CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy program conducted multiple sessions for the public to help put those ideas into practice.

Ethical leadership

In countries as disparate and distant as Cuba and Germany, José Hernandez, CPA, CA, has helped organizations eliminate and prevent corruption. Formerly a partner at PwC and CEO of FGI Europe, a global crisis and risk management consultancy, Hernandez now runs his own firm, Ortus, which aims to empower corporate ethical leadership.

Hernandez, who worked on some of the biggest corruption cases in Germany, says “It’s about concentrating on leadership behaviour and making it operational. In Canada, we do have a sense of having a strong business structure, but it can lead to blind spots, naiveté, and not being aware of all the risks.

“So, on one hand, we are exporting the view of good business ingrained within Canada and the accounting profession,” he continues. “But, we’ve also imported a lot of soul searching; we need to think about what we are not doing as a nation to enhance our representation as lighthouses of pillars of good business. Partnering with CPA Canada, we aim to bring in greater awareness in a global context of the risks that may face Canadian companies that we haven’t experienced before—and also how to be prepared for them.”

According to Hernandez, this is about more than checking a set of boxes. “We fix companies, but we also teach—it’s about offering a whole toolkit for transformation.”

In other words, it’s about enabling businesses to succeed holistically and sustainably, as well as ensuring that the learning is harnessed and transferred for the good of an industry as a whole.

Empowering the next generation

Canada’s Indigenous youth are falling behind their peers. High school graduation rates for this group are much lower than the national average and, therefore, so are the corresponding university enrollment rates. It’s been long understood that a strong education is a key foundational component to a successful career. To that end, CPA Canada partnered with the Martin Family Initiative to create the CPA Martin Mentorship Program.

Currently available in 26 schools across seven provinces and still expanding, the program supports Indigenous students through their high school years, helps them understand the benefits of pursuing post-secondary education, exposes them to the business environment, and helps them consider potential job opportunities, including careers in business, finance and the accounting profession.

“We hope to help bridge the barrier and change the numbers,” says Moira Burke, a retired partner of E&Y and volunteer with the program. Rooted in the values of fairness and inclusion, and the ideal of social and economic benefits for all, the program asks volunteers to make a multi-year commitment in order to build strong and sustainable relationships between the mentors and the students.

“Good business is not solely for the profit motive—there has to be a values system,” says Terry Goodtrack, CEO of AFOA (formerly Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada) and a program partner. “There must be a broader perspective. Good business for whom? It must be better for all of us.”

Stay tuned for more stories about the Canadian Ideal of Good Business and how you can make a difference.

Editor’s note

The next issue of Member News will land in your inbox on February 12, 2018. Enjoy the issue and, as always, let us know what you think!