Ethical Swag Team
EDC Impact Report
FROM THE CLIENT POINT OF VIEW
Export Development Canada (EDC) is a financial Crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian companies of all sizes succeed on the world stage. The Crown corporation equips Canadian companies with the tools they need— the trade knowledge, financing solutions, equity, insurance and connections—to grow their business with confidence. For a purpose-driven organization such as EDC, having a strong employee onboarding process is not only a practical necessity but a reflection of its deepest values. For EDC, onboarding goes beyond teaching new employees foundational skills: it helps them experience firsthand what it means to be part of this dynamic team.
“Team“Before the pandemic, we provided all our new employees with branded swag when we met them in person on their first day,” said Treena. “With virtual onboarding, however, a key piece that was missing was an element helping us strengthen our new employees’ engagement with our vision, mission and values.”
In response to the pandemic-fueled shift to remote and hybrid work arrangements, EDC found creative ways to foster a team spirit. The company implemented a virtual onboarding program that combines real-time facilitated sessions with an online learning management system that helps new hires master the fundamentals at their own pace. While this transition proved successful, the team felt that it was incomplete without a special, personal touch. Treena Ploughman, Associate Programs Manager for EDC’s Learning Team, led the charge in turning ideation into action.
WHY EDC CHOSE THIS PARTNERSHIP
The need to update its welcome packs led EDC to rethink its existing partnerships. Beyond seeking unique products that would get new hires excited about joining the EDC team, the company needed a partnership that embodied their company culture and its values. Treena and her team responded to this situation with creativity and commitment. They conducted rigorous online research–including email exchanges and interviews–to find a partnership that could be built on a foundation of reciprocity and shared values. This search eventually led EDC to its current partnership with Ethical Swag, which, according to the company, has exceeded its expectations.
The partnership was a cause for celebration on both sides. Treena noted that “The fact that the items are mostly made from and packaged in recyclable materials and, when possible, are made by women, BIPOC, & refugees supported our ESG commitments.” This small but significant change helped EDC further cement itself as a leader in all aspects of a sustainable corporate culture.
HOW THIS PARTNERSHIP WAS SUCCESSFUL
For Treena, the partnership was a shining example of how ESG commitments can foster creative, productive relationships between organizations and within them. “The ordering process was superb,” she recalls. “A member of the Ethical Swag team collaborated with us from the beginning to help us put together a customized kit suited to our needs and audience.” This collaboration helped EDC craft welcome packages that invited new employees to share their guiding vision of a sustainable future for all.
Embracing complexity and innovation lies at the heart of everything EDC does. While creating a sense of community and belonging in a largely virtual environment may seem daunting, EDC treated it as an opportunity to reaffirm its core values by getting employees excited about them. In doing so, the company has set a valuable precedent for other purpose-driven businesses looking to prioritize human connection and responsibility for the planet while simultaneously embracing the new frontier of hybrid work.
FROM THE EMPLOYEEPOINT OF VIEW
EDC’s commitment to structuring its business upon strong ESG principles reflects its guiding belief that business is fundamentally about people. The company’s attempts to put people, and the planet at the heart of every decision has made it a creative and adaptable organization. Jeanne and Mehdi are two recent hires who became EDC team members in the midst of the company’s shift to a remote/hybrid working environment. Their stories provide insight into how businesses can prioritize human connection during even the most extraordinary upheavals.
THE STORY OF JEANNE AND MEHDI
Jeanne’s EDC journey began a year and a half ago. She currently works as the Senior Advisor on EDC’s Risk, Governance, and Management Team, where she leads and coordinates operational risk reporting for the Risk Management Committee and the Board. For her, the choice had to do with EDC’s exceptional reputation and her personal interests.
“EDC is a highly regarded and reputable organization that takes pride in helping its customers succeed in export and trade on the global stage,” she says. “I greatly welcomed the opportunity to work for EDC as the choice was easy!”
Mehdi is a recent university graduate currently working in EDC’s Communications department. As a result, he is deeply involved in understanding EDC’s mission and working to share it with a wider community. EDC’s global reach, combined with its commitment to supporting Canadian businesses, were what attracted him to the organization in the first place:
“What makes me excited about working for EDC is the fact that we work on a number of interesting initiatives, some of which have national and international implications,” he said.
For both Jeanne and Mehdi, the opportunity to work for EDC was not just another job, but a chance to be an integral part of something bigger. It was for this reason that the onboarding experience was profoundly important to them.
IMPACT OF THE ONBOARDING PROCESS
Neither Jeanne nor Mehdi had known whatto expect coming into the virtual onboarding process. What they found was an experience that balanced comprehensive learning opportunities with a special focus on developing strong team dynamics from the outset. “HR thoughtfully planned and organized onboarding material to ensure that new employees could understand EDC’s mandate, roles, responsibilities and expectations in a clear and concise manner,” Jeanne recalled.
EDC also incorporated an “Insights Discovery” course into the process, which was something new that Jeanne had not seen included in onboarding with other organizations. “The course helps employees understand their ‘colors’ or personality traits and how to work effectively with others at the onset of their EDC journey,” she explained, crediting it with helping her build strong relationships with her team members from the very beginning.
Mehdi also found that EDC’s onboarding process stood out from that of other jobs he’d worked in the past. Though initially worried that the experience would prove isolating and overwhelming, Mehdi felt supported every step of the way.
He recalled that “all the online training that I had to complete was well-written, clear, and interactive. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about our different policies in terms of diversity, integrity and business strategy. Additionally, I felt that my colleagues were patient and understanding of the fact that I had just started and was in a period of adaptation.” The foundation he established during training helped Mehdi feel like a vital part of his team, and the organization as a whole, from the get-go.
Making employees feel welcome is a common challenge for businesses. EDC took these challenges–amplified by the shift to a hybrid workplace–and turned them into an opportunity to make the onboarding process even more thorough and collaborative than before. The results are clear: by practicing a people-first approach, EDC prepared Jeanne, Mehdi, and all new hires, to help other purpose-driven companies do the same.
WORKPLACE CULTURE AND VALUES
Like many companies, EDC welcomes its new hires with a special welcome package. What sets the company apart, however, is that its welcome packages are not simply designed to get new hires excited about their job, but also to demonstrate that its commitment to sustainability and diversity is reflected at every level of the business. EDC strives to fill its welcome packages with goods that are not only environmentally sustainable, but made by innovative and forward-thinking companies that embody the best of what EDC tries to promote.
For Jeanne and Mehdi, this meant receiving welcome gifts unlike anything they’d encountered before. Jeanne was intrigued by a unique product that allowed her to grow basil using a pencil and “seed paper”. On learning that this product, like others in the package, was made by a woman- owned, sustainable Canadian business, she considered this a “win-win-win scenario”.
Mehdi, too, found that the welcome package was a powerful medium through which to connect with his employer. To him, it was a demonstration that EDC was not only committed to teaching their employees about sustainability, but to making it easy for them as individuals to embody these commitments. “We are often encouraged to reduce our environmental footprint at work and these items were a great way to motivate us to do so,” he said. By incorporating items that reflected its values rather than just bearing its logo, EDC made it easy for Jeanne and Mehdi to feel like part of a team, one that was committed to sharing its commitments at all times and all levels of the business. In this way, their welcome packages were not just full of products, but promises of a better way of doing business.
BRETON ABILITY CENTRE POINT OF VIEW
The Breton Ability Centre (BAC) provides housing, employment, and health-related services to individuals of varying ability levels living in Cape Breton. Consisting of a central support facility and several community homes, the Centre offers a variety of programs designed to recognize and support each individual’s unique educational, vocational, and social needs, enabling them to transition to community-based living options. Harman Singh is the CEO of the BAC, serving as its primary public representative and taking a leading role in advocating for clients and staff. Jennifer Burns manages the Learning & Employment Centre, which gives residents educational and vocational opportunities that provide them with valuable experience while generating proceeds that help the Centre expand its programs and services.
BRETON ABILITY CENTRE POINT OF VIEW
A mainstay in the Cape Breton community for 45 years. Breton Ability Centre currently serves over 100 residents. The Centre adopts a person- directed approach to support and care, with its dedicated team of nurses, RCW’s, behaviourists, psychologists, dieticians, and other care professionals working to create individualized development plans that meet and exceed each resident’s unique physical, social, and vocational needs. By helping residents thrive as individuals, the Centre prepares them to become flourishing community members as well.
Many residents face barriers to inclusion that are reinforced by harmful stigmas about people living with disabilities. As Harman notes, however, we are seeing signs of positive, proactive approaches to addressing these issues and creating mutual understanding by creating strong community programs. “Nova Scotia currently is transforming its services for people with varying abilities”, she says, “and BAC is leading the way by participating in ‘pockets of excellence’ projects and collaborating with the Department of Community Services to ensure the transformation is successful.”
The programs offered through the Learning& Employment Centre enable residents to develop a variety of life skills that help them along their journey toward more independent living arrangements. In settings like the Cape Breton Print Shop, Abilitea’s Café, and the Ethical Swag Canadian Fulfillment Centre, residents learn essential job skills and social skills while gaining opportunities for further education and professional development. Jennifer says that, through the Centre,”Our participants learn communication skills, collaboration, multitasking, and, most importantly, teamwork.” She gives special emphasis to the teamwork aspect, as it speaks to the heart of what Breton Ability Centre provides for its residents–the opportunity to develop lasting and meaningful relationships while building personal confidence, comfort, and independence.
IMPACT OF THE PARTNERSHIP WITH ETHICAL SWAG
The diversity of the Breton Ability Centre’s employment offerings allows residents to gain the particular skills and experiences that best fit their individualized development plans. For example, working at Abilitea’s Café gives residents the opportunity to improve their social skills and develop lasting connections while simultaneously sharpening their critical thinking skills. In the Ethical Swag Fulfillment Centre, residents assemble swag packs to be distributed to Ethical Swag’s Canadian clients, gaining valuable organizational skills and communication skills while developing a sense of personal responsibility. As Harman puts it, these programs ``create training and employment opportunities for people with varying abilities and are a great way of developing opportunities for community inclusion and a sense of belonging.``
Breton Ability Centre operates based on the fundamental principle that each resident is unique and deserves to have their uniqueness respected and encouraged. The work opportunities they provide through the Learning & Employment Centre are essential to helping residents discover and develop their unique gifts. Jennifer recalls one such success story: “One of our participants was struggling to find themselves while training through the Learning & Employment Centre. When we started our contract with Ethical Swag we noticed the sense of belonging she had for this program. She was excited to see stock arriving, taking the lead to remind staff to get it counted and organized. She was always eager to work at these packages and was so happy to have completed an order. She always felt she had reached a goal and made a huge accomplishment.”
By empowering the resident with a sense of purpose, the Centre was able to create a source of satisfaction and belonging that had positive impacts across all areas of her life. It is a shining example of the Centre’s commitment to going above and beyond its resident’s needs by providing meaningful, engaging work opportunities.