Philanthropy: Is business now in the business of saving the world?

Some of B.C.'s most prominent leaders mix capitalism with philanthropy

BC Business profiled Kicking Horse Coffee's CEO and Co-Founder, Elana Rosenfeld, and other prominent B.C. leaders on mixing capitalism with philanthropy. Read the full article here.

Besides altering the built environment, philanthropy plays a role in preserving the natural world. In B.C., organizations like Greenpeace, the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee, Tides Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation transcend their good works with a value that is almost existential. To that end, contemporary benefactors are championing environmental concerns, using methods that in some cases bear a remarkable resemblance to turn-of-last century philanthropy.

Since landing in the East Kootenay town of Invermere back in 1992 at the age of 23, Toronto native Elana Rosenfeld has gone from running a restaurant and cafe to, in 1996, co-founding Kicking Horse Coffee Co. In 2017, she got an offer she couldn’t refuse and sold 80 percent of the company to Lavazza, the Italian-based coffee multinational. (She maintains her position as CEO.)

Instead of hoarding her spoils, Rosenfeld, whose love of nature drew her to the wilds of B.C. in the first place, cut a personal cheque for $3.2 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Part of an ongoing philanthropic effort by Rosenfeld and 130-employee Kicking Horse Coffee, the money will help fund the acquisition of the Darkwoods Conservation Area in B.C.’s Selkirk Mountains, protecting the area in perpetuity.

It wasn’t just about doing good, Rosenfeld says. There was also a business case to be made—sort of. "As you choose your philanthropic partnerships, you’re making a statement around your values," she maintains. "What does the business stand for? What does the brand stand for? Who are they going partner with? What did they work with?"

Still, it’s not all about brand buoyancy. "The fun piece of it is uniting goodness with prosperity," adds Rosenfeld. "Not just financially. The more good you can do, the more good you create; more good you create, the more good you can do. It’s just like this cyclical thing that is creating a lot of good on many different levels."

By Guy Saddy.