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This is the third in our series highlighting innovation and creativity within our region’s business sector.

Transitioning FullSizeRender (2)With offices in Vancouver, San Francisco, London, Paris, Hamburg, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Boston, Bucharest, and more than 11 million users, including 744 of the Fortune 1000 companies, Hootsuite is the world’s most widely used social media management platform. And it started right here in British Columbia.

When discussing alternatives to an economy fixated on oil and gas I turn to a vision of a province that fosters growth in a diverse range of industries, including nascent sectors like clean tech, bio tech, and high tech. British Columbia has a highly educated workforce that is prepared to take up the challenge and capitalize on the opportunity that transitioning to a 21st century economy presents. We have beautiful cities that talented individuals from around the world want to live in and the potential to increase our renewable energy production to support companies striving to lower their carbon footprint.

8616078531_d0a8937dc4_oWhile it is easy to talk about these concepts theoretically, it was a great pleasure to see them in action when I visited Hootsuite headquarters in Vancouver last month. Hootsuite is a program that allows people and businesses to manage their social media programs across multiple social networks from one integrated dashboard. In essence, it organizes your social media presence, say on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, onto one screen that allows you to monitor and post content efficiently.

13230848255_2dcb9ccb39_hHootsuite has grown incredibly fast since it was founded in 2008. When it first began the average employee age was 26. That has increased slightly over the years, of course, and with a global staff of 800 and counting the average age is now around 36. It is a young, energetic company that supports the community they have created and the values they share. The health and well-being of Hootsuite employees is clearly a priority and their Vancouver offices have a gym, fitness studio, music room, and nap room, which staff are free to use any time of day or night. There are yoga classes held in the studio five times a week and employees are encouraged to ride their bike to work. A healthy work-life balance, they say, is key. Not surprisingly, they also have a 96% employee retention rate.

8616078331_88fb25a434_oAlong with caring for their staff, Hootsuite also tries to contribute to the larger community. They hold 200 events, workshops, and lectures annually. Millions of non-profits and small businesses are provided with discounted services and training to help them maximize their social media impact. Hootsuite has provided free social media education to thousands of students through their Higher Education Program and Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes co-founded The Next Big Thing, a nonprofit foundation that “empowers young entrepreneurs with the peer and mentor network, alternative education, work space and technology they need to succeed.”

8616269067_f4157e064e_oHaving a minimal environmental impact has been foundational to Hootsuite since the beginning. Their office is largely paper-free, they use energy efficient appliances and lights, have teleconferences to reduce travel emission, source the food (and beer) in the kitchen locally when possible, and have a workforce that largely commutes by bike or transit.

Hootsuite tries to look at business more holistically than just revolving around shareholders, they say, which in turn, actually creates more value for shareholders. A recent milestone in their quest to use business as force for good, Hootsuite is now a certified B-Corporation. There are currently over 1,300 certified B-Corps across 41 countries and 121 industries that are leading a global movement to redefine success in business by voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance. B-Corps aim to use business as a solution for social and environmental problems.

8616078085_9322505d08_oI asked representatives at Hootsuite if complying with the rigorous B-Corp standards for environmental and social excellence was difficult for the company, but they said “actually, we were already meeting a lot of their requirements.”

They began measuring their environmental footprint across all offices, implemented emission reduction plan, and evaluated the diversity of their workforce. After all, they said, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure and the B-Impact assessment compels companies to identify areas for improvement. It provides guidance for what companies  should pay attention to.”

Hootsuite is setting a wonderful example for businesses in B.C., demonstrating that companies do not need to compromise their environmental and social values for the sake of their bottom line. “We became a B-Corp because we were looking for a way to measure our impact and see how we stacked up against other socially conscious companies,” said the company’s CEO.

As we transition to a diversified 21st century economy, I hope more B.C. companies will follow suit and be supported as they align with this admirable business model.

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