Sustainable Change: Community
May 4, 2022
We are back again to share some of our biggest takeaways from Plank’s application for B Corp Certification! Our last post was all about workers, and this one is all about community and the various initiatives we have taken to help contribute to, support, and empower our local communities.
As mentioned in all of our previous posts, we recognize that we still have a lot to learn and improve. There are so many companies out there that have inspired us to better balance people, profit, and the planet, and who have pushed us in a very positive direction. We don’t claim to have all the answers but we hope that, by sharing some of the things we have been working on, we can also inspire others to reflect upon their own practices and take action in new ways.
This was another very important section for us to reflect on, as community means everything to Plank. This portion of the BIA evaluates our supplier relations, diversity, and involvement in the local community.
For a long time, Plank has made a substantial effort in giving back to the local community, in various ways. This means more than financial donations and volunteering (which are still very important ways to contribute!), it also means providing employment opportunities to diverse populations, prioritizing local suppliers, offering expertise to underserved communities, and so much more.
Here are some of the actions we have been taking, have recently implemented, or are in the process of improving to further contribute to our community.
Committing to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI)
Plank is deeply committed to fostering, cultivating, and preserving a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Our team is made up of 25 people working across 5 countries — including 11 women and 5 parents. We truly believe that our best work comes from diverse individuals with unique experiences & perspectives, which is why we hire equitably, offer equal pay, and commit to the ongoing development of a work environment built on the premise of EDI.
Beyond that, the world’s injustices are openly talked about within our team. We are transparent about what is going on across the globe, acknowledge what we know, what we don’t know, and we educate one another. This is why we decided to take this one step further with our new internal Equity, Diversity & Inclusion statement — complete with actionable plans to keep ourselves transparent and accountable. Our EDI team meets regularly to evaluate and advance equity practices throughout Plank with a focus on amplifying our commitment to fostering inclusivity, equity, and diversity within the company and beyond.
Summarizing some of what we had already been doing, our new Equity, Diversity & Inclusion statement will be the beginning of numerous communication improvements, partnerships, discussions, and learning.Steve Bissonnette | Managing Partner
Setting specific, measurable diversity improvement goals
As part of our commitment to EDI, one main objective is for Plank to represent a diverse cross-section of Canada and the world. Goals and desires are a good first step, but concrete action and targeted strategy are better. By measuring and quantifying, we can clearly see and properly address the issue.
In the summer of 2021, we sat down to reflect on our hiring strategies over the past 3 years, where we felt we did well, and where we fell short in creating and managing an inclusive work environment. Our first major step was making sure we hired equitably between men and women, and offering competitive compensation regardless of gender. We realized especially in the world of tech, how important it is to support women and their career development. After a good start discussing and supporting diversity in tech over the years, we knew it was time for Plank to take the next steps into meaningful change to ensure our team better represents the diverse Canadian workforce. For this reason, we set specific, measurable goals to work towards, continuously evaluate our progress, and pivot our strategies to have the biggest impact.
In order to help us work toward our diversity improvement goals, we made sure to implement a few steps into our hiring process, including — but not limited to:
- Incorporating a statement in all of our job postings with a commitment to EDI
- Regularly conducting analyses of our job description language and requirements to ensure they are inclusive and equitable
- Conducting a pay equity analysis by gender, race/ethnicity, and other demographic factors
- Meeting with new employees in the first week to talk through our EDI initiatives and opening the meeting up for discussion about any changes they want to see right away
- Using BambooHR’s built-in analysis and reporting tools
- Continuously researching diverse job boards to share our openings and expand our candidate pool
- Seeking out professional advice through professional consultants
- Reaching out and developing partnerships with organizations that promote and support diverse, inclusive hiring in Canada
Becoming a remote-first company
Plank supports a culture that ensures all employees will have fair and equal working environments regardless of if they work remotely, in-office, or hybrid. Though Plank has an office space in Montreal, QC no employee is required to maintain in-office hours. Remote-first doesn’t end at being set up to do work from home, though. It means feeling empowered to do your best work, grow professionally, and maintain a healthy state of mental and overall wellness while working wherever you are.
Although beneficial to employees, remote work flexibility is pivotal to creating a more inclusive organization. For example, we have employees with primary family care responsibilities, who would not be able to travel into the office every day or even take their children to daycare at 10 AM. We also need to consider those with disabilities or those facing housing limitations, who would be at a major disadvantage if they were required to commute daily. As a remote-first company, we are tapping into a much wider, diverse talent pool, and providing employment opportunities to those beyond a limited geographic range.
Recognizing The National Day for Truth & Reconciliation as a statutory holiday
Last year, although not a provincial public holiday, Steve and Warren decided to recognize The National Day for Truth & Reconciliation as a Plank statutory holiday moving forward. This day is meant to give the public a chance to recognize the intergenerational harm that residential schools have caused to Indigenous families and communities, and to honour those who have been affected by this injustice.
Every September 30th, we will close the agency to reflect and honour survivors, their families and communities, and commemorate the history of residential schools. While our team uses this day as an opportunity to learn, reflect, and take action, we also encourage others to take the opportunity to consider what each of us can do as individuals to advance reconciliation and help to create a better, more inclusive company, province, and country. Every year, we will continue to share a list of resources to help expand our knowledge and take the right actions.
Making charitable donations
On top of sporadic donations to charities that our team loves to support, we offer a unique way for the team to get involved through our Hardware Buyback Program. Whenever an employee’s laptop is due for an upgrade, they will have the first option to purchase their old one based on current market prices minus a healthy “we love you” discount. If they choose not to buy it, Plank will take it back, erase it, and offer it during our annual “Old Hardware sale” for employees.
Here’s the fun part — All funds from these sales go to a pool of charities selected by the employees on a yearly basis. The usable products that are left unsold are then typically donated to community organizations. For instance, we donated some old monitors to The Montreal Fluency Centre last year! This way, we are not contributing to any electronic waste and we are investing in the community (spoiler: this added to our points in the Environment section)!
Supporting community organizations through pro-bono projects
Plank Gives Back is a formal digital pro-bono initiative. In our efforts to uplift communities & the planet, we offer our digital design services to 2-3 organizations every year, who can benefit from our expertise.
Moving forward, in order to expand Plank’s philanthropic impact, we are launching our own nonprofit — The Plank Foundation — to formalize our existing pro-bono efforts. The aim of the Foundation is to develop innovative, accessible digital solutions that support organizations in becoming more effective in the digital space and enhance the work towards increased socially, culturally and environmentally responsible practices and outcomes.
Offering our expertise to underrepresented communities
As part of an ongoing commitment to giving back to our community, we launched Plank’s Diversity & Inclusion Mentorship Program in 2020 with the goal of empowering underrepresented communities and forging ties with organizations that strive for equality and compassionate change. We work with these organizations to pair up with young individuals through one-on-one mentorship sessions, where we share our expertise across disciplines and provide valuable insights for our mentees. We learn through every session and continuously look to improve our ability to help & impact someone’s life in some small way.
Opening up our office space to host community events
As a remote-first company, we have some extra space around the office now, and we figured we would put it to good use! We have recently created a formal policy to open up our office space to host community events or to support community outreach programs.
This was actually inspired by a recent initiative that took place in December, where Warren & Steve lent me part of the office space to turn it into Santa’s Workshop! We had over a hundred gifts to pack, organize, and store for a local organization, Carolyn’s Toy Drive, which provides thousands of gifts for underprivileged children and mothers.
Taking part in community service
Something else that inspired us in the BIA, and that we have recently implemented, is offering each employee eight hours of paid time off to participate in community service per year! We recognize that everyone has different interests, which is why employees have the freedom to choose when and where they wish to volunteer.
This process revealed to us that we could definitely improve our supplier policies and practices. Although we have been making an effort to purchase from sustainable and local businesses, our goal in the near future is to create a formal program to purchase & provide support to suppliers with diverse ownership. We want to be held accountable for these policies, which is why we will set formal targets, keep track of our progress, and continuously work to improve our efforts.
Every step counts
We feel it is very important to mention that a lot of these practices have been in the works for a long time. Although some are new to Plank, others have naturally been a part of our DNA since the beginning, and others will take some time to properly integrate into our processes. And that’s okay! We know that we will have the biggest impact if we take things one step at a time.
The reason we mention this is because it can be easy to try to implement all of the ideas you have, but taking on too much can certainly lead to trouble. Working towards being a more responsible company means making gradual improvements, rather than all at once. Your initiatives, programs, and day-to-day decisions will be much more meaningful if you take the time to define your goals, plan, execute, analyze the outcome, and continuously iterate on them.
For change to be sustainable, it must be properly acted upon. It must be a natural part of your company’s growth and direction and align with your objectives. Every step you take towards balancing people, profit, and the planet, is a win. B Corps are not meant to achieve perfection, they exist to use business as a force for good.
Stay tuned for our next blog post in the Sustainable Change series, which will provide you with some tangible ways to improve your company’s environmental performance!