Corporate social responsibility is often thought of as companies writing small cheques to support youth sports teams, flipping burgers at a charity barbeque, or buying tickets to an expensive fundraiser dinner. Dymon Storage, based in Ottawa ON, is a leading example of a more committed approach to building social value through social enterprise.
Dymon Storage, launched in 2006, now controls over 80% of the self-storage market in the Ottawa region. In the next 12 months they will open 8 locations in Toronto and Ottawa and and additional 80 over the next 10 years. They are redefining the storage market, known for low rise out-of-the-way locations, and turning it into an upscale, convenient, neighbourhood driven service. Take a look at the MacLeans Magazine in-depth look at Dymon and the growing industry.
Dymon is also redefining its corporate social responsibility commitments. While the company grows, their commitment and integration into the communities where they operate has grown exponentially. In a relationship that is now over three years old, Dymon plays a central role in helping Shoe Bank Canada to distribute tens of thousands of pairs of shoes to over 10,000 families in about 40 communities in Canada. Shoe Bank Canada (SBC), based in Kelowna BC, is a small social enterprise started in 2010 with a mission to collect used shoes and distribute them for free to at-risk populations including people experiencing homelessness, people receiving income assistance, the working poor, and single parent families. While Dymon’s interests are primarily focused on supporting the Ottawa region, their involvement with SBC is creating value across the country.
Working Together vs. Giving Back
The partnership that started in 2014 between SBC and Dymon demonstrates how creating shared value can allow corporations to embrace a more fully integrative approach to working with social enterprise. While no cash has exchanged hands, Dymon helps SBC by making it part of its central operations. The wish to make a real impact within the Ottawa community has been a driving force for the commitment made by the company founders and employees.
“Dymon is deeply committed to the communities that have made it successful. Our employees share in that commitment, and it is through our collaborative relationship with SBC that we have been able to be more impactful in distributing new or gently used shoes to those in need,” says Steve Creighton, Dymon’s Senior Vice President.
For several years Dymon has been providing resources such as trucks, storage space, volunteer time and community relationships to facilitate growing SBC into Eastern Canada. Since the beginning of the partnership Dymon has expanded its involvement to now include 8 employees with official SBC responsibilities as part of their job descriptions; the focus is on helping to support day-to-day and long-term operations of the organization. These roles range from social media promotion and marketing to warehouse logistics and management. Building long-term commitments and relationships with other organizations in Ottawa has been another key piece to growing and scaling the SBC operations. More recently, they have assisted with providing space and resources to SBC summer student interns in Ottawa.
Those interns spent time building deeper relationships with shoe distribution partners like the Ottawa Mission, a foundational support organization for those who experience homelessness in Ottawa. At a breakfast event on August 11, Dymon and the Shoe Bank showed up and distributed hundreds of pairs of shoes. The relationship with Ottawa Mission is just one example of the sort of sustained impact that would not be possible without collaboration from Dymon. At the conclusion of the summer, Dymon directly hired one of the students to continue to work part-time on SBC projects.
In addition to the 40,000+ pairs of shoes that have been distributed to individuals across Canada, SBC and Dymon are now piloting a mobile shoe truck designed to give away free shoes to those in need. The mobile shoe truck, which is essentially a pop-up store, has the ability to reach those in Ottawa who may not have regular access to shoes provided by SBC.
A Growing Movement
This approach of creating social purpose and value by integrating directly into business practices is an approach that is growing in popularity. The United Way of the Lower Mainland in BC is working with companies interested in increasing their positive social impact and growing their business by adopting and pursuing social purpose. Some of the companies participating with United Way include Mountain Equipment Coop, Telus, and Vancity. Mary Ellen Schaafsma, Director of Social Innovation & Research says:
“We define a social purpose business as a company that is an engine for good, creating social benefits by the very act of conducting business; it means putting social good at the core of the business rather than ‘giving back.’ It’s about using their products, services, and people to build long-term solutions to address the root causes of social issues. More and more businesses are seeing this trend and recognizing the business case for adopting social purpose.”
Dymon and SBC are a leading example of the type of intervention that needs to happen to implement long term solutions to community, social, and environmental challenges. The results demonstrate the opportunity for strong partnerships to create shared value and sustainable community impact.
About Purppl: Purppl (Purposeful People) is a social enterprise accelerator. Purppl is for social entrepreneurs who need sustainable business models to solve tough community, social, and environmental challenges. We provide structured mentorship, training, and tools to help implement and scale entrepreneurial revenue models. www.purppl.com
About Dymon Storage: Dymon offers state-of-the-art storage facilities for personal, business, and government in the Ottawa/Gatineau region. We also sell moving boxes! www.dymonselfstorage.com
About Shoe Bank Canada: SBC collects shoes from warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you. We distribute these shoes, free of charge, to people in need across Canada through food banks and other social agencies in conjunction with the Rotary Clubs. Our mission is to ensure that no Canadian should want for a decent pair of shoes. www.shoebankcanada.com