I typically don’t get emotional at the site of promotional logos, yet there I was.
As a small string section entertained the well-dressed attendees gathered inside the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s atrium in September 2017 for a fundraiser for The Gathering Place – an organization committed to serving women, children and transgender individuals suffering from poverty – I found myself tearing up when I spotted the logos projected on the large screen above.
Seven cannabis logos, representing the women-led businesses sponsoring a swanky party for a community-centered yet cash-strapped organization. The moment was a culmination of months of work, love and partnership. And as our table was announced as the evening’s presenting sponsor, we smiled big smiles knowing that we – entrepreneurs in the legal cannabis space – were the recipient of that applause and gratitude.
This was Cannabis Doing Good, or CDG. And we’re not the only cannabis business out there giving back.
Like corporate social responsibility programs in more traditional industries (think Toms shoes’ one-for-one program), Cannabis Doing Good is a way for industry leaders to apply their pioneering spirit and business acumen to strengthen their communities by giving back and staying engaged.
And this is happening every day – with cannabis businesses donating money to community arts organizations in Colorado or giving food and clothes to shelters across California. More and more cannabis businesses are starting to emerge from the shadows of negative perceptions and oppressive politics and are demonstrating that they want – and arguably need – to be engaged with their community, neighborhoods and neighbors.
One cannabis company of note that has prioritized community engagement since its inception is Terrapin Care Station. The Terrapin brand has a well-earned reputation for establishing strong roots in local communities by partnering with respected community organizations and leaders. With a strategic focus on issues that have direct or incidental connections to cannabis, Terrapin is leading by example through their continued financial, and in-kind, contributions to their communities. Terrapin is one of a growing number of cannabis companies who share this socially-conscious vision for the future of the industry.
The way I see it: This still-young industry is perfectly poised to institutionalize philanthropic activities and proactively integrate community engagement into its still-developing culture. Moreso, we believe that it has to.
States moving towards cannabis legalization also seem to be catching on to all of the good that occurs when cannabis companies engage in corporate social responsibility efforts. It is becoming the norm to mandate or, at the very least, recommend that companies seeking licenses to cultivate or sell cannabis provide concrete plans communicating how they will positively contribute to the communities they seek to operate within.
Circling back to the facts, Harvard Business Review states that 58% of purpose-driven businesses demonstrate 10%+ growth after three years while only 42% of traditional companies can make that claim. And ten years out, purposeful, values-driven companies have 12 times higher stock prices according to Corporate Culture and Performance.
Cannabis businesses are no different. To thrive, you need loyal customers, engaged employees and a healthy community. Prioritizing purpose over profit has a significant, positive effect in each of these areas.
More so, did you know that Cone Communications finds nearly 90% of shoppers are likely to switch to brands that support a good cause, given similar price and quality? Furthermore, nearly 80% of Americans report stronger loyalty to purpose-driven brands. Customers are demonstrating that they want influence over where their dollars land.
Looking to attract millennials? A whopping 79% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.
Another recent Cone Communications study shows that 55% of potential employees would work for a socially responsible company, even if the salary was lower. On the job, 71% want their company to provide opportunities to make a positive impact, and 78% of employees want to help their company fulfill its social mission by providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions
From where I’m looking, all this data and many other complex issues (the Drug War ring a bell?) drive the need for cannabis businesses to show up in their communities as positive assets. In turn, this could create an even greater nationwide support for legalization and stage the cannabis sector as a catalyst for economic, political and social change.
And if that doesn’t give you truth bumps, I’m not sure you’re listening.
The challenges surrounding community-cannabis partnerships are complex and varied, and we want to change that. To cultivate and institutionalize industry standards for Cannabis Doing Good, businesses and community members need to discuss their partnership experiences and mutually beneficial relationships.
Our goal is to create a platform for cannabis to create memorable, impactful, story-worthy community impact. We want more moments of celebration and recognition – more applause for those who give back, and more opportunities for those who want to start.
In fact when I think back to that beautiful September evening at The Gathering Place gala – where my colleagues and I were being celebrated and recognized as community supporters, participants and advocates – I feel all the feels all over again. Together we’d raised $35,000 for The Gathering Place, a women-for-women effort that communicated very clearly to everyone in attendance that the legal and regulated cannabis industry is giving back to its communities.
And this is only the start.
Courtney Mathis is the CEO and co-founder of Cannabis Doing Good, a platform to create opportunities for cannabis and communities to collaborate, to inspire new ways of people, planet and business engagement, and to showcase companies doing good.