Looking for inspiring organizations and leaders

Article published on
February 24, 2019

Lucie Bourgeois, Founding President of Umalia.

It has been seven years since Umalia, our firm specializing in corporate societal engagement, was founded. Seven years working with men and women, leaders of their organization, wishing to combine profit with societal impact, who understand deeply why we choose, as a leader, to focus not only on the economic health of our organization, but also try to understand how our organization, however small or specialized it is, brings a plus, a contribution to society. How our business, with its unique assets, its dedicated human resources, its technologies, its customers, its network, and yes, also its money, can contribute to solving social and environmental challenges ... the same challenges that affect our businesses and which, by addressing them, we can better position ourselves and better prepare for the future.

How can my business or oganization create more societal impact? How can I innovate whilst contributing to resolve social and environmental challenges surrounding my brand or my business model?

Umalia has seen inspiring organizations over the last 7 years. Organizations like NTD Apparel, a major clothing supplier, who got involved with a multitude of organizations in Canada and has been supporting a developing community in Africa through donations and the involvement of its employees. We have seen Better Narrative, a young company, passionate about the environment, create the world's first recycled plastic winter coat under the brand name Norden and going beyond its commercial goals to expand its mission to bring awareness to and educate us, citizens, about the impact of non-recycled plastics. Sincerely wishing our planet healthier and taking the means to make its own, little way.

We worked with all kinds of structures, like Decathlon Canada, which while being part of a global sports equipment design and distribution organization, present in 51countries, wanted to set up with a strong local project, at a human scale. In order to grow in the best conditions, the notion of societal impact was placed at the heart of its five singularities, as was a highly participative management model. The first data to date show very good results in terms of employee engagement as well as economic results. We have also worked with other big players like iA Financial Group, like Rawbank and Airtel in Africa, who wanted to better align their efforts to create sustainable impact in society and on the planet.

Also small and medium-sized companies of all sectors and sizes, such as Green Beaver who, beyond the heart of its business model dedicated to sustainable development, in partnership with Crossroads International, supports a community of more than 15,000 women producers of soap in Senegal in the development of their commercial activities. Like Papillon MDC, who develops the leadership of young people, women, men from here and elsewhere through its social engagement program that uses the skills of its employees to propel the leadership of others and impact society positively. Like Quadra, for whom sustainable development is a value at the very heart of the company and for which the engagement of employees within its communities is also a lever of commitment towards the company. Like Technologies Ecofixe who has been committed for several years to treat the waters of a river heavily used by a community in Benin to make them less polluted and contribute to the resilience of populations to climate change.

It is these men and women who inspire Umalia and each member of our team to continue our journey and to try to contribute to the progress of our society, our communities, to protect our planet, with all we have available. Regardless of the size of the organization, be it small, medium or large multinationals, they are taking a step forward.

In recent months, despite the retreat we see in some countries and in some organizations, despite the sometimes undue influence of profit and Wall Street results on organizations, we choose to remain optimistic and continue to engage. To keep hope that this momentum of awareness that we have been perceiving in recent years, this questioning about the role of business in society, which is becoming more and more a leitmotive among young – and less young - leaders, that this quest for meaning, gives rise to initiatives of all shapes and sizes, and leads entrepreneurs, leaders of organizations, to seek answers, solution approaches to advance this notion that we have been advocating since our very beginnings:

  • That profit and societal mission can and must go hand in hand
  • That businesses have a role to play and a place in societal and environmental challenges
  • That their perspective, their resources, their contributions contribute to the resolution of important issues, not only those economic.
  • That leaders grow, companies innovate and differentiate themselves by exploring these societal and environmental challenges; that their brand becomes better anchored and better reinforced
  • That employees grow by bringing their own ideas, that they find meaning that allows them to better engage when their organizations also engage in authentic ways.

Today, despite all that seems difficult in our societies, we see the giant steps that are taking place within our collective consciousness and we choose optimism. We choose to see what is happening, which creates new paths, new models, linked to our values. Not blind optimism but realistic optimism - realism because we know that it will not be easy but also because we see, and we experience ourselves, that it is possible to advance, simultaneously, economic interests as well as social and environmental interests. That only one person, one company, one sector, yes, can make an impact.

We have been seeing it for 7 years. We have been living it for 7 years thanks to those clients and partners we have accompanied and thanks to our own projects. Our customers tell us and believe in it and therefore, they commit, they take a step, a little or a big step, but they move forward ...

Let's take a look at leaders and organizations that, in their own way, advance, like Larry Fink from Blackrock, like Paul Pollman from Unilever, organizations like Patagonia, like Ben & Jerry's, like, in Canada, Vancity, Danone, Cascades, Potash Corp. , IBM, Telus, and so on ... And also like these companies mentioned above who also advance in their own way.