How Hamilton is rethinking people, planet and profit

Margaret Lintott - Headshot
By Margaret Lintott
Community Manager: Hamilton Media Guild
Twitter: @margaretlintott

“Hamilton is truly a leader in impact investment as well as economies for social change,” says Adam Spence, Founder of SVX and Associate Director of Venture & Capital Programs at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing in Toronto.

Spence was one of six speakers in the Unusual Economies workshop at #HIVEX, a young entrepreneurs and professionals conference at the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, Oct. 26.

He was asked to speak about impact investing by the newly founded Sustainability Professional Network – a group focused on bringing individuals and groups together to further sustainability in Hamilton.

The group brought together several speakers to talk about projects that are “rethinking people, planet and profit.”

Spence chatted passionately and engaged the audience about this new paradigm of gaining capital.

Impact investing is a form of socially responsible investment made in companies and organizations in hopes of gaining a social and environmental impact as well as a return on investment.

Spence says that this new way of gaining capital is a result of the many problems in the economy and government, and because of climate change. “Entrepreneurs are building business models to tackle business problems,” he says.

Five Hamilton-based social enterprises were then given five minutes to take the stage, tell their story and celebrate their achievements and impacts. They are:

1. Mustard Seed Co-op:

Hamilton’s only community owned grocer will soon open their York Blvd. location and become an alternative place to shop for locally grown food. The Mustard Seed will help overcome barriers in food security, availability and access. The co-op is committed to paying living wage and educating on the food system and healthy living. Its new home will hold farmer workshops and cooking talks.

By the numbers:

Over 100: number of people who have volunteered to assist in the launch of the co-op.
Over 5000: number of hours they have volunteered.
200: number of local food vendors they hope to support once open.
300: people who helped celebrate at their membership launch.
810: number of members as of Oct. 26.
$325,000: money raised of the projected $600,000 in start-up costs.

2. City Housing Hamilton:

Sean Botham, who leads the organization’s efficiency and sustainability initiatives for their $700 million portfolio, spoke of how City Housing Hamilton is reinvesting and becoming a more sustainable organization. Their goal is to provide affordable housing but also housing that people want to live in.

Some Achievements:

They chose to invest more in replacing their boilers. In return, they received $1.7 million in in-kind incentives plus the energy savings over seven years will give them $1.6 million.

City Housing saw an opportunity to replace their exit sign lighting; they were falling apart and were a maintenance nightmare. They bypassed LED lighting and put in photoluminescence lighting – meaning the exit signs will glow in the dark. The lights have a 30 year life span.

3. Green Smoothie Bar:

The smoothie and healthy food shop now has three locations in Hamilton – originating on James Street North. Joe Accardi, co-founder and owner of the Green Smoothie Bar, spoke about the company becoming one of the first B Corp Certified organizations. B Corp Certification is given to companies that pass an online assessment for social and environmental impact; it is given by B Lab in the United States.

“The next big thing, in my opinion, is social investment,” says Accardi.

Things they’re doing:

They are committed to paying living wage and serving 100 percent organic.

The Green Smoothie Bar is giving its tips to Food4Kids, a local organization providing backpacks of healthy food for kids with limited or no food access during weekends.

4. The Hammer Active Alternative Transportation (THAAT):

Abram Bergen of THAAT Co-op (Photo by: Alyssa Lai)

Abram Bergen of THAAT Co-op (Photo by: Alyssa Lai)

After working in the trucking industry for six and a half years, Abram Bergen founded THAAT. Now a worker co-op of eight members, they are committed to finding better ways to move goods and using the right vehicle for the job. THAAT uses bicycles to move people and goods and connect local networks to the local economy. They serve small and medium sized businesses that ship goods around the city, especially downtown. They operate year round and are working with the City of Hamilton to build the infrastructure for winter travel. They have travelled over 3,000 kilometres by bike.

5.Centre3:

Located on James Street North, Centre3 is a non-profit focused on art and connecting art making to education. Centre3 incorporated in 2004 and opened its doors in 2005. The first floor of the centre is a gallery and print making studio, the second floor is a digital studio and editing suite for media arts.

Colina Maxwell, Executive Director of Centre3, was a founding member of the James Street North Art Crawl.

Today, the centre runs an artists-in-schools and schools-in-the-studio program focusing on the development of children at North End Hamilton schools. It has partnered with the Ontario Trillium Fund and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to create the 17-week program, NuDeal.

NuDeal brings in students from North End schools to learn on Apple computers and turn imagery into screen-prints. They then take their imagery and put it on tote bags, greeting cards and t-shirts. From here, they are involved in the monthly Art Crawl and create a pop-up shop. The students learn how to market and organize their shop and generate their own income.

How will they sustain this program? Centre3 has created a four profit business called C3 Limited.  Centre3 will hire the graduates from NuDeal to work for the centre.

Margaret Lintott

Margaret is a communications professional with a Honours Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Cultural Studies and a post-graduate in Public Relations. She is passionate about Hamilton, her hometown.

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