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Canadian businesses see pandemic as an opportunity to improve environmental, social, and community impact, Sage study finds

Knocking Down Barriers report reveals more than 80% of Canadian SMBs are familiar with their environmental, social, and community impact, and over 70% consider the pandemic an opportunity to promote sustainability, diversity, and community efforts

TORONTO, July 15, 2021 Sage (FTSE: SGE), the market leader in cloud business management solutions, today released the Canadian findings of its new report, Knocking Down Barriers, which surveyed decision makers at businesses with 250 or fewer employees across nine countries, and explored their thoughts on sustainability, diversity, community and digital inequality.

In Canada, the report uncovered key opportunities for Canadian businesses:

  • More than 80% of Canadian small and medium size businesses (SMBs) are at least somewhat familiar with their environmental (82%), social (84%) and community (84%) impact.
  • The top three issues identified by Canadian SMBs as most essential for businesses, government and society to address are: skills development and lack of education (37%), racial inequality (30%) and poverty (23%).
  • At least 70% of Canadian SMBs believe the pandemic presents an opportunity to promote sustainability (77%), diversity (70%) and community efforts (73%).

Employee well-being top concern for Canadian SMBs

When asked which positive initiatives they currently prioritize, 51% of Canadian SMBs cited employee health and well-being – the highest percentage among all the markets surveyed. Other top responses included prioritizing diversity (31%), sustainability and environmental issues (29%) and community investment (26%).

When asked why having a positive social and environmental impact matters to their business, two of the top three reasons given by Canadian SMBs were attracting new customers (38%) and lowering costs (32%). The third most popular reason, cited by more than a quarter of respondents (26%) is because it is simply the right thing to do.

“Canada is internationally renowned for its efforts in promoting diversity, supporting justice and protecting the environment, and our Knocking Down Barriers survey indicates that reputation is well earned,” said Steve Ryujin, Interim Managing Director, Sage Canada. “We weren’t surprised to learn the majority of small businesses in Canada consider employee health and well-being a top priority, or that nearly three-quarters of Canadian SMBs view the pandemic as an opportunity to increase their support for social, environmental and community causes.”

Report coincides with Sage’s new sustainability and society strategy

Sage conducted the Knocking Down Barriers survey to coincide with the launch of its ambitious new global sustainability and society strategy, which builds on the success of its five-year-old corporate philanthropy program, Sage Foundation. This strategy includes a new commitment to help tackle the climate crisis, with a pledge to be net zero across its operations and supply chain by 2040, with an interim step to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

Sage CEO Steve Hare commented, “Sage is standing with the millions of small and medium size businesses (SMEs) we serve around the world by tackling the big challenges of our time. We want to knock down the barriers that hinder access to opportunity, equality, and sustainability. We are upping our commitments to our environmental impact with an ambitious net zero carbon target across our entire value chain, and our social impact, using our technology, time and experience to support a new generation of diverse and sustainable businesses.”

To achieve its goals, Sage is focusing on three strategic pillars:

Tackling digital inequality for innovation, enterprise and progress

According to the World Economic Forum, 70% of new value created in the global economy over the next decade will be based on digitally enabled business models. Sage wants everyone to benefit from the opportunities created by this rapid digitization, which is why the company is increasing investment in its Sage FutureMakers program, which gives young people access to Artificial Intelligence education and awareness through an online learning platform.

Tackling the climate crisis by powering sustainable business models

Canadian SMBs are eager to reduce their environmental footprint and Sage is ready to help. The company is building on the success of its small business advice platform, Sage Advice, which serves over six million small businesses globally, with a Sustainability Hub to guide small businesses on their journey to addressing their own impact. 

In addition to helping SMBs understand and reduce their environmental impact, Sage aims to reach net zero across scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2040, by reducing the impact of its own business operations, cutting emissions by 50% by 2030 and efficiently managing its supply chain.

Sage has also committed to the SBTi (science-based target initiative), the UN climate change Race to Zero and signed up for the UN Global Compact Business Ambition for 1.5°C Pathway. Sage continues to participate in the annual CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) and is rated AA by MSCI and low-risk by Sustainalytics, supporting the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Tackling economic inequality by supporting underrepresented groups 

Starting and growing a business is a proven route to long-term employment, high job satisfaction, and wealth creation, but many people lack the confidence, skills, and financial support to do so. In the Knocking Down Barriers report, on the topic of why all Canadians do not have an equal opportunity to start their own business, the top three reasons given by Canadian SMBs were lack of access to private finance (60%), lack of government funding/support (50%), and inequality of knowledge/resources (50%).

To help address this problem, Sage is providing strong digital and financial foundations for businesses and start-ups run by underrepresented groups, including a three-year global partnership with non-profit lending platform Kiva aimed at improving financial inclusion in communities that find it hard to start or grow their businesses, which will initially support 12,000 entrepreneurs.

In Canada, the Sage Foundation has supported 14 organizations dedicated to helping members of economically disadvantaged groups become entrepreneurs, including Covenant House Vancouver, Prince’s Trust Canada, and the True Patriot Love Foundation.

“Our partnership with Sage began in 2017 through their Grants for Change Enterprise Fund, which supports vulnerable youth populations to reach their full potential. In addition to this critical funding, Sage has provided numerous volunteers over the past three years who have dedicated a full day of community service to support our youth and our fundraising programs,” said Mary Pappajohn, Development Officer Corporations and Foundations, Covenant House Vancouver.


Sage undertook an online survey of 11,504 SMB decision makers (18+ adults) working in businesses employing 250 or fewer people in Canada, US, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain, and South Africa about their perspectives on sustainability, diversity, community, and digital inequality. The survey included 1,096 respondents from Canada. SMB decision makers are defined as owners or those in c-suite leadership roles e.g. CEOs. The full report can be found here. For any questions about the methodology of the study, please contact [email protected]

Media contact

Monique Daniel
[email protected]

Phone: (905) 781-0758

About Sage

Sage is the global market leader for technology that provides small and medium businesses with the visibility, flexibility and efficiency to manage finances, operations and people. With our partners, Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to deliver the best cloud technology and support. Our years of experience mean that our colleagues and partners understand how to serve our customers and communities through the good, and more challenging times. We are here to help, with practical advice, solutions, expertise and insight.

About Kiva

Kiva is an international non-profit, founded in 2005 in San Francisco, with a mission to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive. 

About Covenant House Vancouver

Providing love and hope to Vancouver's homeless and at-risk street youth, Covenant House Vancouver helps young people aged 16 to 24 who have fled physical, emotional and sexual abuse; who have been forced from their homes; and who have aged out of foster care.

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