Return It

The Canadian Purpose Economy

ProjectReturn-It is an industry-owned, product stewardship organization with beverage container management as its core business. Its mandate is to develop, manage and improve systems to recover used packaging and end-of-life products from consumers and ensure that they are properly recycled. They defined and adopted their Social Purpose in 2020, to foster a world where nothing is waste.

The Canadian Purpose Economy Project began to take shape in early 2020 to convene, connect, and collaborate to promote the uptake of social purpose action across the economy.

In partnership with stakeholders across Canada, we have…

  • Articulated a clear, concise definition of a social purpose economy: an economy powered by the pursuit of long-term
    well-being for all in which business and regulatory and financial systems foster an equitable, flourishing, resilient future.
  • Identified opportunities across the economic system to accelerate uptake of social purpose business. A social purpose business is a company whose enduring reason for being is to create a better world. It is an engine for good, creating social benefits by the very act of doing business. It’s growth is a positive force in society.
  • Defined strategies to invite and drive change and begun to deploy them. See our Social Purpose in Canada Status Report 2022.
Canadian Purpose Economy Project founder group

Our Purpose

The Canadian Purpose Economy Project exists to accelerate the transition to the purpose economy. It engages national ecosystem actors to create an enabling environment for social purpose businesses to start, transition, thrive and grow.

It convenes, connects, curates, and collaborates to drive the social purpose business movement in Canada toward an economy where social purpose business is the norm, attracting capital, talent, and partners. In this economy businesses unlock all their assets, influence, reach and scale in collaboration with others to help Canada address its societal challenges and realize a flourishing future.

Founding Champions

Leor Rotchild, CBSR

Leor Rotchild, CBSR

“Businesses adopting a social purpose is an imperative to a just transition to a low carbon future.”

Mike Rowlands, Junxion Strategy

Mike Rowlands, Junxion Strategy

“Social purpose leaders today are creating the success stories of tomorrow.”

Coro Strandberg, Strandberg Consulting

Coro Strandberg, Strandberg Consulting

“Social purpose has the power to change the way Canada does business.”

Tessa Vanderkop, United Way Social Purpose Institute

Tessa Vanderkop, United Way Social Purpose Institute

“Social purpose can unlock value in any organization—and across the economy.”

Peter ter Weeme, BCLC

Peter ter Weeme, BCLC

“Success at scale is defined by the impact social purpose businesses can have on the communities where we live, work, and play.”

Maureen Young, Coast Capital Savings

Maureen Young, Coast Capital Savings

“Social purpose businesses
are future-fit, making them attractive to lenders and investors.”

Project History

The Canadian Purpose Economy Project builds upon more than three years of consultation and action within the Canadian Social Purpose Community.

Workshops, webinars, briefings and consultations with a wide range of stakeholders across the economy and the country all led up to the inaugural Propelling Purpose Summit in November of 2021. The Summit finalized a Purpose Economy Framework for Action and agreed on the levers of change to accelerate social purpose in business.

These levers of change were simultaneously ratified by the MaRS Business for Purpose Network in their capstone report. Key Summit organizers created the Purpose Economy Champions Group and launched the Canadian Purpose Economy Project to implement the Framework for Action, mobilize the purpose ecosystem and pursue the priorities needed to scale social purpose business in Canada and unlock their assets for good.

It received start-up funding from Coast Capital Savings and engaged Canadian Business for Social Responsibility as the Project secretariat. The Project launched its website during the second annual #PurposeinBusinessWeek, November 14 – 18, 2022.

Project Support

The Canadian Purpose Economy Project is grateful for the commitments of financial and in-kind support of our Founding Champions and these social purpose businesses.



We are also grateful for the support of our Project Secretariat, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR).

We express our gratitude to Allyson Hewitt, who made significant contributions to the Project during her time at MaRS and the Business for Purpose Network, and retired Senator André Pratte, who advanced the Project during his tenure as Executive Chairman of the Canadian Center for the Purpose of the Corporation. We are also indebted to the foundational contributions of Mary Ellen Schaafsma, former Director of the United Way Social Purpose Institute and now founder of Purpose Pathways Consulting, who stewarded the vision of the Purpose Economy for many years.

The United Way Social Purpose Institute was instrumental in catalyzing the social purpose business movement in Canada, bringing the ecosystem actors together at the Summit and formalizing the priorities for the Canadian Purpose Economy Project.

We also recognize the support of Employment and Social Development Canada, which funded research on social purpose best practices, social purpose policy options, and the social purpose ecosystem, providing much needed insights into strategies for scaling social purpose business and creating a purpose economy for Canada.