Buying Canadian Achieves Big Goals with Everyday Practices
Every year around Canada Day, Home Improvement Retailing magazine publishes its special “Made in Canada” section. With the permission of the editor, we are reprinting and have freely translated one of this year’s main articles for our francophone readership due to its relevance.
The 2023 federal budget is called a “Made in Canada Plan.” It focuses on the shared responsibilities of the federal government, provincial governments, and private sector to invest in our country to reach net-zero goals by 2050. It discusses the importance of investing in natural resources, a clean economy, and policy frameworks that will create jobs for Canadian workers and help the middle class thrive.
While these macro ideologies are important, every Canadian can help achieve these goals on a more micro level with small, everyday decisions about where they shop and what products they buy. Supporting local businesses and buying products made in Canada are vital steps to ensuring Canada’s economic prosperity for generations to come.
The pandemic brought a new awareness to how people shop. A study by Accenture says that making more sustainable choices and shopping in neighbourhood stores are priorities for 54 percent and 46 percent of consumers respectively, and 88 percent believe that these behaviour changes will continue for many years.
Buying Canadian-made products means consumers are buying quality with oversight of the manufacturing process and reducing the environmental footprint. Supporting local businesses helps stimulate the regional economy by creating valuable jobs, supporting families, and strengthening the local community and culture.
Backbone of the country
Small businesses are the backbone of our country and employ almost 70 percent of the Canadian labour force. They are adaptable to regional and national markets, trends, and influences. At the same time, they go out of their way to build relationships with their customers and their communities. This is how they try to stand out from large multinational companies.
Just as it is important for consumers to shop local and buy Canadian, it is important for small businesses to do the same by supporting local business and domestic products as they are able. For example, is there a Canadian software product alternative for back office or POS systems? Are they stocking products from Canadian manufacturers or at least offering them alongside foreign competitor products and materials?
The grocery sector has seen a huge shift toward stocking local produce and products, and customers are more aware of this trend than ever before. The post-pandemic issues with supply chain and product shortages have underlined the importance of domestic product.
Small businesses that support Canadian and local businesses and their communities are setting an example for their customers. Along with customers who shop local and buy Canadian, these businesses are returning to their communities and encouraging economic growth.
At the same time, the taxes spent on these products and at these businesses wind up back in the community. Taxes paid to small businesses and the local taxes paid by small businesses end up paying for community improvements such as schools, green space, public transit, and healthcare. Conversely, taxes paid to big corporations or when shopping online may not stay local or even within Canada.
Support local charities
Small businesses that support their communities also become representatives for their community. They are more likely to contribute to charities, especially local ones. Small businesses donate 250 percent more than larger businesses to local non-profits and community causes, says research from SCORE, a network of volunteer business mentors. As well:
- 66 percent give to local charities
- 48 percent support youth organizations
- 39 percent support local religious organizations
- 32 percent donate to local charities and social organizations
In fact, 75 percent of small business owners donate an average of 6 percent of their profits to charitable organizations each year.
And, while giving back to the community is good for the community, it is also good for business. The SCORE research says 85 percent of consumers have a more positive image of companies that give to charities, and 90 percent want to know how companies are supporting charitable causes. In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage, says data from US-based Institute for Local SelfReliance (ILSR), a non-profit organization working to strengthen independent businesses and local economies. As well, local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.
The ILSR research shows that shopping at local stores helps to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centres, which, in tum, are essential to reducing sprawl, auto mobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.
This brings us to another important reason for shopping local and buying products that are made in Canada reducing environmental impact.
Reduce environmental impact
The federal government’s budget clearly prioritizes reaching net-zero goals by 2050. The home improvement industry can have a significant impact on reaching these goals just by supporting home renovations and construction to build homes that support that goal. The materials used to build those homes are also important, but not just because they are made from recycled materials or because the manufacturer has a low carbon footprint.
A lot of energy and resources are required to produce many of these materials, and they are even worse for net-zero goals if they aren’t disposable and end up in land fills. But even if products have a low-carbon footprint and they are disposable, products that are made or sourced offshore create a larger carbon footprint based on how they are transferred from site of origin to site of manufacture to the store.
Buying locally reduces processing, packaging, and transportation waste, all leading to less pollution. Local businesses that purchase from other businesses in their area also help the environment with less commercial traffic and congestion, which. means reduced potential fuel emissions that contribute to air pollution in communities and across the globe.
ln a nutshell, locally sourced materials produce less waste by cutting out unnecessary travel and delivery and reducing the amount of packaging used.
Supported by WMH
ln Canada, our industry is fortunate to have a federally chartered non-profit organization that encourages the purchase of quality building materials and other items manufactured in Canada and intended for the residential market. Bien fait ici / Well Made Here (WMH) was collectively formed in 2018 by several industry banners and professional associations.
WMH’s vision is to strengthen the value chain between manufacturers, banners. and their network of hardware stores and home improvement centres to better serve consumers and building contractors. More specifically, WMH seeks to address five issues:
- For consumers: to help them find information on quality products made locally
- For certified contractors: to enhance their offering, in conjunction with retailers, through the purchase of local, quality products
- For retailers: to position themselves as destinations of choice for customers keen on purchasing accredited products
- For banners: to have their image and networks associated with the growing movement in favour of buying local, quality products
- For manufacturers: to stand out from imported or low-added-value products by providing technical information for DIYers and contractors
Currently, the organization is working with the federal government during consultations about the Competition Act. Competition policy involves the ongoing review and development of domestic policies and international trade agreements to encourage competition while promoting the efficiency of the Canadian economy.
“We want an improved law that considers it as a disloyal or unfair competition if products from overseas do not meet our national technical requirements (such as the construction code or the CSA specifications) or the products do not respect the Canadian standards for workers and for the planet,” says Richard Darveau, chief executive officer of WMH. “Our argument is based on the fact that a Canadian-made product usually costs more because it has to respect our quality standards, the safety and respect of workers, and the health of the planet.
“Moreover, we argue that specifically the consumption of greenhouse gases created due to transportation times should be calculated by authorities. As well, we will present that many countries such as Germany, France, and the US are known as good players involved in free-trade agreements While, in parallel, they are concretely and officially supporting the industrial products that are manufactured on their own territories.”