Transformational philanthropy, increasingly popular

This text is part of the special section Philanthropy

More and more companies are refusing to settle for handing over a check to the non-profit organizations they support financially. Sensitive to their social impact, they truly aspire to collaborate with them to better serve their cause. Among them, the company Énergir.

Located at Garneau Elementary School, in the Centre-Sud district of Montreal, the non-profit organization (NPO) Ruelle de l’avenir offers fun learning activities to young people aged 4 to 18 to promote success. school. They discover mathematics by practicing robotics, and fractions by making meals in a professional kitchen. In the summer, the children enrolled in the day camp cultivate a vegetable garden on the roof, then transform their shoots.

“Employees from our marketing team have already gone to give a short course. They showed the students how to sell the spaghetti sauce made with their tomatoes and at what price,” explains Maryse Lemay, head of sustainable development and community engagement at Énergir, with a smile in her voice.

The largest natural gas distributor in Quebec encourages its staff to volunteer. “We have our expertise in energy, but also all internal services: customer, tax, marketing, legal, etc. which can be useful for organizations, says Maryse Lemay. In 2021, of Énergir’s 1,600 employees, 175 gave a little of their time to a cause, and nearly 300 took part in activities aimed at raising money for Centraide. Modest figures which, according to management, should swell in 2022, so as to reach the pre-pandemic situation.

At Ruelle de l’avenir, whose premises are a few minutes’ walk from Énergir’s head office, some employees help deploy communication strategies; others do minor maintenance work or lend a hand at benefit evenings. Frédéric Krikorian, vice-president of sustainable development and public and governmental affairs, is also a member of the board of directors.

Énergir’s relationship with Ruelle de l’avenir dates back to its founding in 2008. “We literally co-created the organization,” recalls Maryse Lemay. We, the business world, with the community world and the school world, to work around an issue that affects the community where we are located, namely school perseverance. At the Center de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM), 21% of students leave high school without throwing a hat, compared to 14% in Quebec as a whole.

Helping people in their neighborhood and thinking about ways to get involved rather than investing, that’s Énergir’s niche. The energy producer and distributor is part of the movement of organizations which, out of conviction or to look good to investors, consumers and workers — 69% of Quebecers believe that it is important to elect an employer committed to their community, indicates a report published by Épisode in 2021 —, are eager to positively transform society by working together with all its actors. It thus puts into practice the principles of transformational philanthropy.

“We are part of a social fabric, we cannot fail to take care of it, it is corporate responsibility”, illustrates Maryse Lemay.


According to a study conducted by Imagine Canada in 2018, philanthropic support from the business sector today extends far beyond monetary donations. 100% of responding organizations said they support volunteerism in their workforce, and 83% donate their services.

The survey also reveals the willingness of companies to consult and align with the objectives of the United Nations Organization (UN) for sustainable development. One of them is global, regional, national and local cooperation. In the fight against poverty and environmental disruption, everyone must do their part: civil society, businesses and governments.

“We are in a context of polycrisis: climate crisis, social crisis with theinflation and a health crisis from which we are barely emerging. We will have to work together for the rest of the things. It is by multiplying the points of view that we find lasting solutions,” argues Maryse Lemay.

She cites as an example her exchanges for nearly five years with the organization Dans la rue which led them to launch, in 2022, the first trailer fueled by natural gas produced from food waste, in this case intended to accommodate itinerant young people.

Énergir paid $2 million to more than 200 organizations in 2021. It cannot develop so many partnerships. To increase its impact, it offers funding by mission rather than by specific project, and on a longer term basis.

This special content was produced by the Special Publications team of the To have to, pertaining to marketing. The drafting of To have to did not take part.

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Transformational philanthropy, increasingly popular