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RBC's Canada United Campaign 'scales up' grassroots Shop Local programs

RBC is hoping Canada United campaign will grow ‘organically’, engaging both consumers and small businesses.
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Canada United is more than a campaign.

It’s a movement that hopes to unite Canadians to boost the economy and support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched by RBC, Canada United brings together partners that include the federal government, over 50 leading brands, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce network.

The goal is to put in place a new COVID-19 fund that will provide grants to small businesses, but even more importantly, encourage Canadian consumers to “buy local.”

“Canada United was launched to kick-start an economic rebound by rallying consumers to give local businesses the support they need to reopen during these uncertain times,” said Neil McLaughlin, Group Head, Personal & Commercial Banking with the Royal Bank of Canada.

“By bringing together government, business associations and corporate Canada, we are looking to start a movement to get Canadians to buy local and support businesses across the country. We are genuinely excited by the energy that all of our partners are bringing to this effort,” McLaughlin said.

Gabriel Woo, Head of Consumer Ventures at RBC, explained further: “We saw a lot of really exciting grassroots movements across the country, in support of local business. But the issue we saw was that they were all really small.”

To have a national impact and boost the economy, those ‘grassroots’ campaigns “would have to happen at scale,” he said.

That’s where RBC came in, as Canada’s biggest bank with an estimated 17 million customers in Canada and around the world.

RBC began looking at ‘scaling up’ several months ago, partnering with Canadian Chambers of Commerce and well-known Canadian brands that include Boston Pizza, CN, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, Corus, Indigo, Hudson’s Bay Co., Leon’s, Golf Town, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?,  Mastermind Toys, Pet Valu, Rexall, Roots, Staples, Sobeys, SleepCountry, Telus, ToysRUs, and WestJet.

Canadian Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng, has already assisted with the launch of Canada United, Woo said, by preparing a promotional video for Instagram.

“She helps get the word out,” although at this point, there has been no financial commitment from the federal government to the campaign, he said.

There are two parts to 'Canada United.'

Small to medium-sized Canadian businesses can apply for and receive a grant of up to $5000 from the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, to cover the cost of PPE for employees, modifications to their businesses to accommodate reopening (e.g., plexiglass screens and new signage) or develop an e-commerce platform.

Consumer spending is the other component.

“Consumer spending is at least one-third of the Canadian economy,” Woo noted, and has been the portion of the economy hardest hit during the pandemic, as businesses closed their doors and some consumers found themselves facing unemployment and financial hardship.

The Canada United campaign asks Canadians “to rally, to really come together,” and buy from local and Canadian companies.

Those who aren’t in a position to make purchases can still help, through what Woo calls “microaction.”

“You can still participate without spending,” he said, explaining that RBC is donating 5 cents to the Small Business Relief Fund every time viewers watch the Canada United video at GoCanadaUnited.ca or ‘like’ the postings on social media, between July 20 and August 31, up to a maximum of $2 million. 

The campaign will culminate in a Canada United Weekend, Aug. 28-30, when Canadians will be encouraged to focus on ‘shopping local,” to “show local businesses some love.”

Corporate partners are being encouraged to come up with their own fundraising or promotional campaigns, leading up to and including the Canada United Weekend. The goal, Woo said, is to get the word out, to make people aware, and to drive a “viral” movement among Canadian consumers.

“That’s the most important thing,” he said. “The grant will help small businesses, but the thing that will really help with the Canadian economy, is to get Canadian consumers to support local Canadian businesses.”

RBC is also promoting the 'buy local’ campaign with a ‘Points for Canada Program’ – increasing the number of points earned by RBC loyalty card holders during July and August, and providing discounts when points are redeemed at Canadian retailers.

The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund is being administered by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the national network of Chambers of Commerce. Grant applications are available by clicking here. Eligible business owners, who own and operate a small to medium-sized business registered or incorporated in Canada, can apply.

Applicants do not have to bank with RBC - "By no means!" said Woo - but must have annual sales between $300,000 and $3 million, and employ up to 75 people.

He acknowledged that the limits exclude many of the small ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses that are struggling with the impacts of COVID-19, but noted that RBC worked with the Chambers of Commerce to set the guidelines.

“It’s not that we want to leave anyone out. It’s that we have to draw the line somewhere,” he said, noting that chances are that businesses with annual sales below $300,000 don’t employ a significant number of people.

The goal is to “support businesses that are creating more employment,” Woo said. “Small businesses are critically important for the health of the economy.”

A recent RBC report ('Small Business, Big Pivot') highlighted the importance of Canada's 1 million-plus small businesses, finding that they accounted for 42 percent of GDP and 48 percent of new job creation in the country. The report also found that companies with fewer than 100 employees accounted for 60 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic - twice the level of job losses that they experienced during the financial crisis of 2008. 

To participate in a ‘microaction’ as part of the Canada United campaign, visit GoCanadaUnited.ca , like the Canada United facebook posts, or use #CanadaUnited on Twitter – and remember to shop local.