Research shows that many care about the ethics of where they shop. A survey of millennial consumers showed, for instance, that 79% wished it were easier to know which companies have good practices.

We all look for savings where possible. But given the choice, are we more likely to shop at a business that we know treats their staff well?

The typical business narrative is changing

There is a growing trend of modern businesses who believe we can do good while making a profit. There are
B Corp businesses with a positive social impact mandate. Social enterprises put a share of their profits straight back into their community mission. There are hundreds of living-wage certified businesses across Canada. 

And there are dozens of businesses signing up with the Better Way Alliance. We are proud to support decent work. All of us are committed to creating good jobs in an age of deep technological and economic change.

With businesses hitting the news in favour of employee rights in provinces such as Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, it’s clear the typical business narrative is changing. Employees should no longer be considered a burdensome cost, but a key resource to help businesses succeed.

Better Way Alliance member Helmi Ansari from GROSCHE on CTV News.

Our quick survey showed people care to shop at businesses that support employees

We wanted to find out if shoppers in one neighbourhood preferred to support decent work businesses. At the 2019
BIG on Bloor, a popular downtown Toronto street festival, we set up a booth to speak with local residents about decent work businesses. We asked folks three questions. Are you more likely to shop at a business that supports:

  1. a $15/hour minimum wage?
  2. paid sick days?
  3. fair scheduling for employees?

Everyone said $15/hour and fair scheduling for employees would positively influence their decision to shop. Almost everyone said paid sick days for employees would make them more likely to shop at a business.

The people we met at the festival were of course enthusiastic to speak with us about their support for decent work businesses. However, there is a good chance that increasing numbers of people in many communities are becoming mindful about spending at businesses who respect employee rights.

The large food chain A&W just took heat when it came out that they have an openly hostile anti-union focus at the company. Multiple app-based driving and courier services are facing claims that they are illegally misclassifying employees, leaving workers without legal protections. Given the choice, will people instead support companies that they know are treating employees legally and fairly?

Ask businesses their position on decent work issues

Strong evidence has already shown that fair employment practices, on the whole, are good for business. 
As more businesses join the decent work movement, they will be able to measure how profit margins have improved thanks to smart people policies.

In the meantime, shoppers can encourage businesses to transition to a successful decent work model. Ask your favourite businesses about their position on key employee rights issues such as minimum wage, paid sick days, scheduling, holiday pay, and other important items in the Employment Standards Act.

Gilleen Pearce, co-owner, Inderly – Better IT support, and spokesperson, Better Way Alliance 

The Better Way Alliance is a network of Ontario business owners who consider employee well-being a smart investment, for our long-term profitability and the health of Canada’s economy. Our members employ more than 30,000 Ontarians. Industries represented include services, retail, food and beverage, and manufacturing.