Looking beyond just compliance standards, cannabis companies are looking to implement solid CSR strategies to further boost their reputation in the industry.

It’s not just about raking in the profits. Conducting a business in an ethical and professional manner is a given and the ever growing cannabis industry recognizes the fact that to be successful in the long run, the major stakeholders, be it LPs or growers or CEOs of large companies,  each one has to conduct business in a manner that is socially responsible and one that promotes good governance within their organizations. CSR itself isn’t a new concept- several companies have been implementing sound CSR practices effectively over the years in a number of ways – taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, implementing best business practices internally and collaborating with non-profits to create programs that educate and provide resources for consumers and the general public are some of the ways CSR has become a part of company culture. 

“CSR provides cannabis companies with an enhanced overall reputation. CSR demonstrates a company’s moral compass by pointing to what they stand for in an often stigmatized industry. Not only does it showcase the company’s leadership as forward-thinking, CSR allows companies to become more integrated into the wider community, and of course, highlights their commitment to being ethical, responsible and caring.” -Bridget Hoffer, Co-Founder Marigold Marketing & PR

The cannabis industry acknowledges the importance of a robust CSR strategy with major companies leading the way. Canopy Growth and Hexo Corp have launched initiatives that promote the idea of good corporate citizenship. Recently Canopy Growth announced $2.5 million in funding to the University of British Columbia to investigate and research the use of cannabis in treating opioid addiction. Meanwhile Gatineau-based Hexo developed a CSR Charter and established a senior executive role dedicated solely and specifically to CSR. In an interview to The Georgia Straight, then vice president of corporate social responsibility at Hexo, Terry Lake emphasized the company’s focus on the well being of the planet. “For us, CSR involves what we call 4 Ps: the planet, people in our company, the public and our product. We look at how we can have a positive impact in those four areas,” he said.

Still plagued by misinformation and stigma when it comes to consumption of both medical and recreational cannabis, the industry now more than ever needs to come together to raise awareness about the financial and social advantages of legal cannabis. Then there is the consumer who with his access to technology and thirst for information is always looking for authentic and legit experiences and service from cannabis companies. 

During the CSR panel discussion at a recent #CanndoraConnect event in Toronto, Heather Nelson, CEO of Bridgeraise noted that; “Whatever your business goals are, there’s an opportunity to overlay a CSR plan”. There are so many ways you can incorporate working with charities into your business. Dr. Jenna Valleriani laid out a few options; there’s straight transaction, ongoing partnership, and even white-label services and content. Whatever options you choose CSR is so much more than attaching your logo to a cause.

For the burgeoning cannabis industry in Canada, it is crucial now, more than ever, when the industry is just starting to explode with possibilities, to have a vision for CSR- be it educating and creating awareness among consumers, safeguarding the environment or supporting local economies by creating jobs.