When researching the term ‘social enterprise’, you will find definitions galore, but for Good Nature Groundskeeping (GNG), an Ottawa-based landscaping company, being a social enterprise simply means creating jobs for people who face barriers to employment.
This mission statement has separated GNG from other social enterprises for almost 14 years, according to the company’s operational manager Dave Segaert. The company’s day-to-day operations include four 2-4 man crews working around the clock under a GNG staff member to make commercial and residential grounds sparkle. GNG’s number one priority is to provide meaningful employment for people who suffer from mental health issues and are at risk of homelessness in line with the number one United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) — NO POVERTY. This focused pursuit has allowed the company to be equally profitable and socially responsible.
“With a lot of social enterprises you hear about triple bottom lines, but our main mission is to provide real jobs to people who otherwise can’t get them,” says Segaert. “We actually work with three of the four biggest subsidized housing providers in Ottawa, and they use us because we’re the best at what we do.”
Segaert’s journey with the company has taught him quite a bit and the impact that GNG has on employees’ lives keeps him in social enterprise. Years ago, an individual living on the streets of Cleveland suffering from schizophrenia joined one of Segaert’s crews and his life completely turned around. “He’s now a peer support worker at a large organization in Ottawa — he probably never envisioned himself doing this while homeless,” says Segaert. “That’s where social enterprise has crazy impacts on peoples’ lives.”
GNG embodies a full-circle mantra — the company has effectively doubled-down on providing employment opportunities for disadvantaged folk while securing contracts for their crews with social housing companies. “For our contract with Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) we have to bid and win — it’s a situation where OCH needs landscape maintenance and we can offer that and we can also offer the people that live in those same communities work,” said Segaert. “The bigger we get, the more jobs become available for people who live in these communities.”
Growth is a big part of GNG and Segaert is avidly seeking staff members to expand the business. With more hands on deck, GNG will be able to continue to embody three of the UNSDGs: NO POVERTY (UNSDG number one), DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH (UNSDG number eight), and REDUCED INEQUALITIES (UNSDG number 10).
“When you’re so small it doesn’t feel like you’re making much of a splash on a global scale,” says Segaert. “But between the three social enterprises under Causeway (an agency) we employee something like 50 people, so that’s a real number. That’s 50 people that wouldn’t have jobs otherwise or would be out there looking.”
The future is bright for GNG — the grass is always greener on the side of employment opportunities for all.