Canadian Biomass Magazine

Canada’s bioscience employers recognized for diversity commitments

January 19, 2023
By BioTalent Canada

BioTalent Canada announced the recipients of its inaugural I.D.E.A.L. Bioscience Employer designation. 

The I.D.E.A.L. Recognition Program recognizes organizations in the Canadian bio-economy who embody the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility leadership (IDEAL), as best practices needed to promote growth and success in the biotech sector.

The program was launched earlier this year and BioTalent Canada received applications from organizations large and small across the country. After careful evaluation of all applications received through an impartial evaluation, nine recipients were selected to receive the I.D.E.A.L. Bioscience Employer designation. 

“Diversity is critical to attract and retain talent in Canada and is a key strategy cited in our Labour Market Research, particularly in our study of creating resiliency in the bio-economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Rob Henderson, president and CEO of BioTalent Canada. “We developed the I.D.E.A.L. Bioscience Employer Recognition Program as the culmination of a study we conducted in partnership with the Future Skills Centre to showcase some of the great things happening and what’s possible when organizations make equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility a priority.” 

The research project conducted by BioTalent Canada and funded in part by the Future Skills Centre examined best practices of Canadian bioscience companies to enhance their talent acquisition and retention efforts in stressful times. 

“We know that the biotech sector will need to attract and retain many skilled and talented people to its future workforce,” says Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre (FSC). “This program recognizes employers’ efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible labour market, which is what Canada will need to ensure maximum participation in our economy for growth and prosperity. It’s a great example of the kinds of programs FSC is supporting to reach a wider talent pool so that workers, employers and industries can adapt and thrive in the economy of the future.” 

Criteria used to evaluate the submissions included an organization’s alignment of IDEA principles to their vision, values, strategies, and outcomes; leadership accountability for IDEA; and the priority the organization places on IDEA learning and awareness, among others.

Recipients of the 2022 I.D.E.A.L. Bioscience Employer Recognition Program include the following organizations (listed alphabetically):

AgriTech North: This organization based in Dryden, Ont., focuses on reducing food costs in northern Indigenous communities, holds daily discussions and learnings on IDEA topics, and is led by a chief executive who is Indigenous and differently abled. 

BioCanRx: This cancer researcher headquartered in Ottawa has made a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at its gender balanced board of directors. Additionally, BioCanRx runs an Indigenous Student Internship program and includes patient voices in all its research findings.  

Health Cities: The Edmonton-based company is focused on providing health data to decision makers in Alberta. Health Cities promotes equity in healthcare and provides internships and apprenticeships for under-represented groups in the bio-economy. They also focus strongly on employee mental health. 

Life Sciences Ontario (LSO): A Toronto not-for-profit that advances Ontario life sciences, LSO runs an internal/external committee focused on inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility leadership, and incorporates those principles into its strategic planning. The committee is comprised of members of the LSO board and external experts in IDEA.  

Nicotine Dependence Service (CAMH): The Nicotine Dependence Service at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto includes IDEA principles in its organizational charter. It also puts IDEA principles at the centre of the programs it offers to the public and consults with staff to develop their culture and values.  

Origin Materials: This carbon negative materials company based in Sarnia, Ont., is adding IDEA components to its 2023 performance indicators for staff. Additionally, the company tracks gender diversity metrics and hired a consulting firm to conduct a survey to measure IDEA as their team grows.   

Raft Brew Labs: Situated in Calgary, Raft Brew Labs uses biotechnology to bolster small beverage producers in Canada and has created an inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility handbook through one-on-one conversations with team members and offers incentives to increase those principles among employees.  

Shift Health: This organization integrates inclusion and diversity into its vision and mission and works with marginalized communities. The Toronto-based group also works to build awareness of the challenges faced by individuals with visual impairments and creates written content that is more accessible.   

STEMCELL Technologies: This Vancouver-based maker of scientific instruments has a three-year strategy built around equity, diversity and inclusion. Its main pillars are to focus on gender equality, increasing the representation of underrepresented groups, and investing in Indigenous communities. They also conduct regular audits on their hiring, promotion and pay equity processes. 

“Each of these organizations is walking the talk when it comes to IDEA principles,” says Henderson. “Incorporating these principles into the workforce and across the bio-economy will be critical to meeting current and future talent needs.”  

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