BCLC: how a gaming company turned into a social purpose company


A gaming society may seem like the antithesis of “social good”; but for BCLC, that’s exactly why a game company should move towards a social purpose model: “People can look and say, ‘Hey, if a game company can bring a social purpose; so surely my company can do it too.

Consumers around the world increasingly expect businesses to play a positive role in society, and they are making their voices heard with their money. The pandemic and growing climate and social crises have driven unprecedented investments in environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies as consumers – and increasingly governments – demand more of businesses.

The gaming industry is also feeling the effects of this reality. In response, in 2020, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation
(BCLC) began to uncover and articulate its guiding social purpose by answering three fundamental questions:

  1. Why we exist. What is the societal reason for the existence of BCLC?

  2. How we could have a unique positive impact. What positive societal impact can BCLC have that no other company can?

  3. Hear 75 insights from 25 goal-driven brand leaders…

    Not sure where to start or if you want to start with your company’s social purpose? After learning from dozens of people who have, you’ll understand how setting a clear social purpose can benefit organizations of all shapes and sizes, in any industry.

    What could and should we do to reflect our social purpose throughout our value chain? Describing the products and services we sell is easy; but what impact do they have? What can BCLC do along the value chain to reflect its main objective?

Instead of a traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach, BCLC has adopted a holistic social purpose model beyond the siled and marketing-driven models associated with traditional CSR.

“For us, the social purpose is a transformation of our organization – where we constantly iterate and improve our operations for the good of society,” said Greg Moore, Chairman of the BCLC Board of Directors. “We want everyone who interacts with us to be better off for that interaction.”

BCLC spent a year organizing meetings with stakeholders to determine how a gaming company could ensure the common good. In 2021, it had a socially oriented North Star:

We exist to generate win-wins for the greater good.

A gaming society may seem like the antithesis of “social good”; but for Moore it is exactly Why a gambling company should move towards a social purpose model: “People can look and say, ‘Hey, if a gambling company can serve a social purpose; so surely my company can do it too.

Generate winners against social perceptions

The game has lasting appeal due to the suspense found in the magical moment between the bet and the outcome. The bet is often lost; but experience is always gained.

But for a small percentage of gamers, the “magic moment” can take a dark turn. Problem gambling is the scarlet letter of the industry and is one of the reasons BCLC was created in the first place. BCLC exists to ensure that gambling in British Columbia is safe, legal and secure; and to use the proceeds of the game to contribute to the common good. Since its inception, BCLC has returned more than $26 billion in benefits to the Province of British Columbia to support health care, education and community initiatives.

In this regard, BCLC has always sought to strike a healthy balance between gaming entertainment and player health by providing products, services and experiences that promote healthy gaming. BCLC provides net gaming revenue to the province for the benefit of all British Columbians; and the organization’s award-winning player health program is licensed in 11 jurisdictions across North America.

But the subject of the game is always polarizing.

“People have a preconception about the entertainment and gaming space,” Moore said. “For us, it’s about going beyond this perception and informing not only actors and stakeholders, but all of society that BCLC has a social purpose – that we lead by example and that it’s not just a slogan on a wall.”

For BCLC, universal “win-win” means extending its player health model to everything
aspects of operations and never say “good enough”; the company’s social vocation calls on it to conduct its business in such a way that, in all procedures, transactions and relationships, everyone wins.

Find the right place

BCLC began its quest for social purpose with a fact-finding mission to uncover where stakeholder values, BCLC values ​​and assets leveraged by the company intersect. Through this process, BCLC has identified a single social purpose that intersects with stakeholder values, pressing social issues and BCLC’s unique offering.

“It’s not our role to change people’s values, because values ​​are very personal,” said Pierre ter Weeme, Chief Social Purpose Officer and VP of Player Experience. “What we’re looking for is community — the things that people really hold dear.”

With an understanding of shared value, BCLC created a decision lens to inform day-to-day decisions across the organization – from how to interact with customers to which supplier to source. BCLC will consider the following when considering each decision as an opportunity to achieve a broader social goal:

  • What is the win-win that goes beyond revenues for the province and meeting the expectations of partners? First gain = Benefits for BCLC/revenues for the province; second victory = benefit for others.

  • Can we amplify profits by generating a third gain?

  • How does the decision benefit the greater good, beyond the province’s revenues?

  • If this decision does not benefit the greater good, what can we do to ensure that it does?

  • Does anyone lose in this decision in the short or long term? If so, how can we mitigate the loss?

  • How can we generate the greatest positive impact from our work?

  • Does this decision make the players feel valued? Can this player value have a bigger impact?

“We are fundamentally changing the way we do business and how we
see our business,” ter Weeme said.

BCLC will deploy the unified social purpose in key areas typically stored in individual CSR/ESG silos – including sustainable sourcing; employee experience; product value alignment; Indigenous reconciliation; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); climate commitments and more.

“We had these disparate initiatives that were happening historically; but now we have brought it all together in this framework,” ter Weeme said. “Being a social purpose business really raises the bar in terms of expectations.”

If a business is truly changing, it will turn words into deeds; and ter Weeme sees plenty of calls to action to start engaging with his new social-focused lens. It helps rebrand the organization to the public, build new relationships, assess internal change, and manage risk in an unstable social and environmental landscape. And of course, ter Weeme also expects this to lead to stronger relationships with players and communities and better financial performance.

Metrics ranging from commitments to DEI to net zero are being revamped to measure whether BCLC is generating win-wins for the greater good. But at the end of the day, tangible positive impacts in communities across British Columbia and beyond are the ultimate indicator of success, said ter Weeme.

“Transparency is a very important element,” he said. “We establish a bunch of measures; and we share them publicly partly to inspire other organizations and partly to be accountable.

In a Sustainable Brands™
webinar on Thursday, September 15, BCLC presents the results of a study commissioned by Forrester Consulting explore lessons learned in articulating and operationalizing social purpose and how these experiences impact marketing strategy and practice. The conversation will include:

  • Global shifts in the expectations that businesses and consumers want and expect businesses to adopt.

  • How brands should integrate social purpose in a thoughtful and sincere way, especially in marketing.

  • How to involve stakeholders and the different approaches to this end.

  • How to measure success.

To agree
to learn more about how BCLC is working to advance the social purpose community and encourage new businesses to consider purpose-driven transformation.

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