Triple Bottom Line
The world is changing faster than ever before. Leaders can and should use existing business models to make a difference and solve the world’s greatest challenges. Welcome to the Building Good Podcast where hosts Tim Coldwell and Jen Hancock meet with leaders changing the industry and discuss how we can build a better world together.
We’re going to explore how the construction and building industry can build a better world by doing good. I’m also joined by my co-host,Tim Coldwell, How’s it going, Tim?
It’s going great. I’m excited to be here. Look at us, we’re doing a show. You and I have been partners in crime over the years. I’m excited about where this is going to go.
I’m a little frightened but mostly excited. We get to spend each week talking to some incredibly inspiring leaders about using business as a force for good. Tim, you talk a lot about business as a force for good in particular and how can it drive profitability and differentiation. Can you dig into that a little bit more?
It comes down to the triple bottom line: people, profit and planet. A lot of business leaders think that the purpose of a corporation is to create a profit. If there are some profits leftover at the end of the year, cut a check and give it to charity.
I’m also joined by my co-host, Tim Coldwell. How’s it going, Tim?
Jen, I’m excited to be here. I’m all fired up. As more busines leaders understand that, you’ll see more and more purpose-driven organizations that are solving some of the greatest social challenges in the world.
This idea that we can make more profit, your company can be differentiated, you can engage employees, and we can solve problems in the world. What we’re hoping to do is connect with business leaders. We want to have people inspired to think about how they might apply some of these concepts to their business. We’re going to be interviewing people from cross-sectors. It isn’t going to be construction. We’ve got cross-sector people that are fascinating and will hopefully inspire our business and other businesses to be a force for good. I can’t wait to dig into some of those episodes a bit more.
I’m passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, sustainability and community building. Those are all three of those themes. Tim, I know you’re passionate about those as well. Each of our episodes are going to have this theme around one of those things or a mix of because many people who start to work in those spaces, you start to see a real crossover. You may have a real passion for sustainability but you might see how that connects to community building or passion for diversity, equity and inclusion and how that also promotes sustainability. This is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it.
I’m excited about it, Jen. I got to say that your background as a teacher has been great for our organization. It’s one thing for people to have grandiose ideas about how things can and should change in the construction industry but fundamentally, it changes about people learning, growing, developing, and you’ve been the main catalyst for people in the organization, Chandos, to grow and develop over the years. From construction waste which is something that you took the lead on to a lean culture inside the organization, integrated project delivery, and our approach to sustainability, zero-carbon, inclusion and diversity in the workforce. You’ve been doing great stuff for the organization, Jen, so I’m excited about the conversation.
Thanks. I’m excited to be able to highlight that. To open up a little bit about myself. I went to university. I got an English degree and a teaching degree and then I taught for four years. At some point, I realized I didn’t want to do homework for the rest of my life every night when the English marking kicked in. I started to look around and after I left teaching, I found Chandos. What’s interesting is I always tell people if you would have asked me years ago if I could have imagined myself working for a construction company, I would have never guessed. It was never entered my mind as a career choice.
It has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. One of the things that are interesting is as I came into Chandos, I almost immediately gravitated to sustainability. It made so much sense to me, in particular, the waste diversion. It was something I spent a lot of time trying to figure out on my very first lead project I was working on. Chandos already had a good feel for sustainability but taking the basics of waste diversion and being able to bring that across our company so that most of our jobs are diverting waste. In 2019, we hit 80% diversion. It’s amazing and that does show that you can do work like that. We can take a stand as a company and say we’re going to divert waste and do that.
We still have a business. We haven’t lost money because of it. It’s been a differentiator for us, something powerful and engages our employees. I’m always amazed at how they do great work that way. I think that my teaching perspective brings a different view to the company. That’s why I I’m status Mohawk and I managed to get a full-ride scholarship to go to the University of Alberta and study Engineering. I got that scholarship from the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. Right around that same point in time, Chandos gave me a job. I didn’t have the best experience and grades but Chandos gave me a chance. I ended up finding a second family and a deep sense of purpose in the organization and it’s driven me over the years. One of the things that we do these days that I have close parallel with my story is this idea of social procurement or hiring at-risk youth. We can hire anyone to push a broom for $18 an hour. Let’s hire the kid that is riding the bus 3.5 to 4 hours a day back and forth from high school working two part-time minimum wage jobs trying to put food on the table for a brother or a sister because mom and dad aren’t around.
If that kid shows up, it’s got a big smile on their face. I would put them in our Apprenticeship Program. Apprentice carpenters make $24 an hour. Journeymen carpenters make $35 an hour, depends on where you are in Canada. Foremen makes over $40 depending on where you are, and it costs us nothing to do that. We were going to hire those people anyways and we already paid for our folks to attend a trade school. What we get on the flip side of that is we get a highly engaged workforce that frankly will blow the doors off of anyone in terms of productivity. What Canadian society gets is a contractor that’s reducing the strain on the Canadian social system by creating jobs and doing good in society. What could it look like if we scaled that across their organization over the next decade?
Right now, we have 500 employees and we’ve got a growth strategy to double the size of the company within a decade. With Baby Boomer retirements and natural churn, we’re going to hire 100 people a year over the next decade so 1,000 people. What if 20% of those people self-identified as at-risk youth? What if we had a concerted effort through that hiring approach to have our organization look more like Canadian society on the other side? What would that look like and what would that mean for the industry? I’m excited and interested in that way of being.
It’s amazing how your upbringing has driven you through the years to where you are now leading a company. One of our key leaders with this fire in your belly all the time to help marginalized less fortunate. Some companies might look at this and think they can’t do it. Some might not be even looking at it at all and may not be on the radar. Our hope for this show going forward would be that we can introduce the concepts like what you spoke about in terms of how we look at hiring. At this point, you have to be under a rock if you’re not thinking diversity, equity and inclusion in your business. How are you managing that?
Some of the approaches we’re taking and many companies are looking at, I hope that we can open that door up and have more businesses thinking that way, more businesses looking at other companies and their sustainability policies, and thinking how they might integrate or do something similar. It may inspire something very different in how they can operate. If we can change any other business out there through the course of this show by not only introducing some of our own concepts but other businesses, that would be a huge win for me.
tackle different things because I don’t know any better. Some of the engineers shake their heads and think, “She must be crazy.” Being a woman in construction, there have been many times when I’ve walked onto a job site and had been the only woman in a meeting. It broadened the look at diversity equity and inclusion. Construction has tended to be white male-dominated and there are lots of room for improvement.
I’m excited about, across the board, us making that place where our company is representative of the society around us and the community building that we do with IPD. Again, even the way that that integrates, I’m so excited to be able to work with lots of different companies and owners in that collaborative sense. My background definitely connects to a lot of the themes that we’re working with. I’m passionate about all of them. I’m so excited to interview guests that will highlight some of those themes. Tim, you also have an interesting background that gives you some passion around all three of this, the community building, diversity, equity and inclusion, sustainability. With that, why are you motivated to make the world a better place? What gets you out of bed every morning?
The place to start there is I got a unique story. I grew up in this fundamental, conservative, religious upbringing where everything was to be feared. I didn’t see a television until I was about fifteen years old. I was not encouraged to visit with the neighbor kids because the neighbor kids would corrupt me, don’t go get an education, don’t go to university. Everything was to be feared and my saving grace was, my mom taught me to read at a very high level early. You got to think about it. You’re in the middle of the woods, there’s no TV and no video games. You’re not going to the movies, so what are you going to do? We go into town to the library, take books over the library and I couldn’t go to the fiction section of the library because that was to be feared.
I went to the non-fiction section of the library. I was the age of 10 or 12. I was reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover-to-cover. It so happened that in that particular library up in Bonnyville, Alberta, which is where you’re from Jen, the great classics were in the non-fiction section: Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I was smuggling that stuff home and reading it under cover of darkness with a flashlight when I was 12 or 13. I woke up one day and I said, “This is not right.” The fear and the hate that I had been exposed to didn’t auger well and I said, “I’ve got to leave.” I was out at a very young age and frankly, I was going to be in a cardboard box on the street if I didn’t figure it out.
I’m excited to explore the ideas with many of the speakers over the course of the show.
This is going to be a lot of fun over the next number of weeks. I’m glad that we’re kicking off this episode one together. Tim and I are going to alternate as hosts. We won’t do it together because we’ll be talking to each other, fighting in the background and that won’t be good. We’re going to bring our own unique styles and points of view to each interview. Again, you’ll see a consistent theme for community building, diversity equity and inclusion, and sustainability. Anyone who’s a business leader can join in and read the blog. Although we have many leaders that are in some way connected to the built environment, everyone has a connection to the built environment.
We all work and live in buildings. Many of the leaders you’ll find, you’re going to be able to learn something from them and they all have a passion around one of those three core topics or interconnected to multiple of them. Our hope for this is that when you sit through interviews that you get to learn and explore different companies or topics that you might not have looked at before that it inspires you as a leader in your own business to make changes, to think about how you might further explore sustainability, your community connection, diversity equity and inclusion, make your business better, and ultimately make our society better by using your business as a force for good. We look forward to starting our next episode. Please join us. Thank you very much for spending time with us.