Chandos Construction: A Social Purpose Business Case

The Burnaby Board of Trade (BBOT)and the Social Purpose Institute (SPI) have entered a unique and strategic partnership to make Burnaby the center of excellence for the growth and development of social purpose-led organizations in Burnaby.

This marks the first-ever partnership between a chamber of commerce to promote Social Purpose in business and opens the door to an acceleration of the movement and adoption of social purpose practices within Burnaby. Read more here.


Burnaby Board of Trade member, Chandos, is one of Canada’s largest general contractors. They are 100% employee owned and are the first and largest B Corp certified commercial general contractor in North America. They have operations in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Social Purpose

Chandos was founded in 1980 to make a difference in communities and the construction industry. According to the company: “We continuously innovate by championing ‘Collaborative Construction’ – leading to more efficiency, cost savings and a much better working experience for everyone. And we pride ourselves on listening to and finding ways to benefit with the communities we are building for beyond the typical construction process.” The company is participating in the United Way’s Social Purpose Institute to refine and further activate their social purpose.

Community Partnerships

Chandos establishes partnerships with social enterprises in communities across Canada where they operate:

Embers” in Vancouver, “Momentum” in Calgary, “Alberta Indigenous Construction Career Center” in Edmonton, and “Building Up” in Toronto. These social enterprises help people with employment barriers gain access to jobs in the construction industry. They provide training to develop skills that help people facing employment challenges secure high paying jobs in the industry.

An example of one of these partnerships is the collaboration with Embers. Embers is a temporary staffing organization that trains and refers workers facing barriers to employment in the construction sector. Through their partnership with Chandos, Embers helps marginalized workers gain full-time employment with the company. Embers refers workers to the company when Chandos has labour needs. For three months, Embers is reimbursed by Chandos for the workers. After this time, Chandos hires the workers and gives them ownership opportunities in the business. Chandos has 10 Embers placements working for them in Greater Vancouver and intends to significantly grow those placements.

Social Innovation

The company’s commitment to supporting vulnerable populations across Canada is included in both their hiring and procurement practices. They champion ‘inclusive hiring’ by offering vulnerable individuals with a pathway to active engagement in the workforce and ownership in Chandos, including at-risk youth, Indigenous peoples, women, new Canadians, people with disabilities and LGBTQ2S+.

Chandos pursues ‘social enterprise procurement’, a purchasing approach that awards contracts to social enterprises or businesses that train and hire people with employment barriers.

Changing Lives: One Woman’s Story

Chandos hired a young Indigenous woman via a social enterprise partner. The placement was on one of Chandos’ job sites in Western Canada. The woman struggled with addiction and was periodically homeless. She’s now working full-time in Chandos’ apprenticeship program. The job boosted her skills and confidence. When she started, she didn’t believe that she was good enough to be a carpenter. Now, she mentors youth in her reserve and supports them to find employment opportunities.

Chandos Mission

Chandos has a mission to raise awareness of inclusive hiring and social enterprise procurement within the construction industry and partners with Buy Social Canada (an organization that promotes social procurement) to advance these ideas. Together, the partners created a construction industry social enterprise directory. With this directory, general contractors and subcontractors can more easily find social enterprises to hire their services. Here is a link to the directory:

On an upcoming project, Chandos has partnered with BC Housing, the University of BC and Simon Fraser University to conduct a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study, demonstrating there are no added costs to using inclusive hiring approaches.

To further advance the company’s effort to transform the construction sector, Chandos convened a series of events in May 2019, focused on “Industry with Purpose”. The events were held in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, attracting over 2,000 businesspeople and allies. Through these events, Chandos curated discussions about how organizations are embedding better business practices in their work through more diverse and inclusive hiring practices and supply chains, more mindful approaches to the connection between business and society, and other social purpose methods.

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned Chandos recommends companies prioritize social impact initiatives that are relevant and authentic to their organizations. For example, hiring at risk youth is one of the initiatives that Chandos cares about and at the same time it helps them solve an impeding challenge around labour shortages. Chandos believes companies should identify issues they are passionate about and move forward from there.

Credit:The Chandos Social Purpose Profile was published by  Coro Strandberg Consulting.