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Meet Guy Cormier

GoodSpark ignites businesses with a social purpose

Desjardins President and CEO Guy Cormier shares why Canada's leading financial cooperative is investing in social enterprises and why more Canadian businesses should do the same.

Canada is ranked one of the best places in the world to be a social entrepreneur thanks to organizations such as Desjardins Group, which is investing in social enterprises through its newly launched GoodSpark program. These businesses are broadly defined as revenue-making organizations--for profit or not for profit--with a twist. That twist being an extra bottom line to deliver social or environmental benefit. Here, Desjardins President Guy Cormier shares more on GoodSpark and why it is supporting startups with a social purpose.

Q. Why is Desjardins investing in social entrepreneurs/enterprises?

A. The simple answer is because these investments are aligned with our values as a cooperative and with Desjardins's purpose, which is to enrich the lives of people and communities.

We think that a good way to do that is by supporting entrepreneurs with a social purpose. Many are young people with great ideas, lots of energy and the desire to make a difference for their communities, the environment or society as a whole. Sometimes all they need is a little bit of funding or other help to turn their ideas into a successful business or non-profit organization.

Q. What is GoodSpark?

A. With the GoodSpark program, Desjardins is supporting social entrepreneurs who are committed to positively impacting Canadian communities.

While any Canadian entrepreneur may audition for Dragons' Den, the Desjardins GoodSpark program has a special interest in supporting and funding social ventures that may benefit from additional financial and/or in-kind investment.

Q. What are you looking for in Dragons' Den companies in order to be considered for the program?

A. We are looking for social ventures that aim to address at least one of four key areas to which we are strongly committed:

  • Education

  • Employment and entrepreneurship

  • Health and healthy living

  • Social engagement

Q. Why should other Canadian businesses support social enterprises?

With all the challenges we now face as a society, I think that more and more businesses are questioning their role. Is it just to generate short-term profits? To make shareholders rich? Or should they be more inclusive, more open and more supportive of the communities that make their success possible over the long term?

Supporting entrepreneurs with a purpose is a small step, but it can be a very positive one that can pay dividends for the company and for our society.

Q. What is your vision/objective for GoodSpark and how do you see the program evolving going forward?

Desjardins's mission is to contribute to improving the economic and social well-being of people and communities. So I'm sure that we will continue to support entrepreneurs and show how socially responsible ventures can also be financially viable. It's important that, as a society, we support this notion of shared prosperity where businesses can support their communities while making a profit.

Fast Facts:

  • Canada is one of the best places in the world to be a social entrepreneur, according to an index by Thomson Reuters and Deutsche Bank.

  • In British Columbia, growth in the social enterprise sector is outpacing that of the larger provincial economy, up 35% as compared to just 2% over five years ending in 2015.

  • In Ontario, there are almost 10,000 social enterprises employing an estimated 160,000 people and serving 3.4 million customers a year with the majority focused on poverty reduction. The impact is real.