LOCO BC empowers local businesses to be environmentally sustainable, socially engaged, and profitable

Photo by Sara Dent

Can environmental sustainability, community engagement and the buy-local movement really increase profits for local businesses and help them compete in the global market? LOCO BC founder and business and sustainability consultant, Amy Robinson, knows so.

 She founded LOCO BC after working for 12 years with big and small businesses on sustainability issues overseas, with the UN, and in Metro Vancouver.  Everywhere she went, she found something was amiss.

Says Robinson, “I could see how this whole sustainability movement focuses on the environmental side, sometimes on the social side, but never on the economic side. The business pillar was missing”

Robinson founded LOCO BC in 2009 to educate consumers, buyers, businesses and government about the importance of local ownership and what’s known as the “multiplier effect.” Local business owners tend to purchase higher level services like marketing and finance in their own communities. They hire local labour whereas big multi-national organizations centralize services.

“When you shop at those big chains,” says Robinson, “that money just leaks out of the community.”

 Her years of experience showed her that successful local businesses are the cornerstones to successful communities.

 “Even if the Walmarts and the HP’s of the world were as green as they could possibly be, we’re still going to have a big problem, there’s still a fundamental underpinning here that is problematic.”

 For Robinson, educating consumers to spend local is key to increasing profitability for small businesses. “When you spend money locally it bounces locally three times, on average. Your money circulates when you shop at local businesses.”

 Built on a membership business model, LOCO BC not only raises awareness about the positive impacts of buying local but also connects supports and promotes local businesses.

 LOCO BC connects its 85 members to each other as a way to build community.

 “We also make purposeful connections when we see them,” says Robinson. LOCO recently connected new member, The HIVE and its 70 members, with local office supplies member Mills Basics so they don’t have to purchase them from a foreign company. LOCO also recently connected Founding members Salt Spring Coffee with Community Partner Recycling Alternative to improve their zero waste program.

LOCO members can also connect with each other on the website’s online member directory or at the monthly social mixers. Robinson says the mixers give members the opportunity to meet each other and create links “organically.”

 “Instead of us wagging our finger and saying, ‘you should localize your supply chain,’ they’re just meeting amazing people and they feel like ‘wow we’re part of this really amazing movement.’” Members also offer each other discounts.

 LOCO BC supports its members by helping them to increase profits and decrease costs. One way LOCO BC is helping to decrease costs is by working with member Dehoney Financial Group to provide a health care plan for small businesses. Not only is it very expensive for small business owners to provide health care for their employees, large health care insurers sometimes don’t want to bother with them.

 To promote its members, LOCO BC profiles each member business on its website and is launching a public awareness video campaign on member, The Tyee’s, online magazine.

 Robinson was inspired to form LOCO BC by the North America-wide BALLE movement which envisages a network of self-sufficient communities connected to other self-sufficient communities.

 “We wanted to create that culture in business, in consumers and in local government, where you look to what’s in your community first and you support those local businesses, who’re innovating on local levels.”

 Says Robinson, “we live in a global economy. Everything you buy is not produced locally but you can support the businesses in your community that are supporting your community soccer team and hiring your kids. The philosophy is: local first.”

 LOCO BC’s next mixer is on Thurs. Feb. 9th at The HIVE.

For more information or to get involved visit: www.ownyourown.ca

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