What’s a recycler worth?

Raven Recycling has teamed up with a Vancouver credit union to determine how valuable the non-profit is to the Yukon.

Raven Recycling has teamed up with a Vancouver credit union to determine how valuable the non-profit is to the Yukon.

The recycling depot wants to pin a dollar figure to its community worth and tell residents its impact on public finances and the environment.

VanCity, a BC-based credit union, and five other funders solicited Raven’s involvement in the Demonstrating Value Project, a research collaboration that studies the public influence of social enterprises.

Raven has been taking people’s garbage for a while and it was time to take a step back for self-evaluation, said executive director Joy Snyder.

“We’ve been around for 15 years so, whatever we’re doing, we’re doing right,” said Snyder.

“There must be some value if we’ve been around for so long.”

Social enterprises have financial objectives, but with a social or environmental mission, said Bryn Sadownik, VanCity project co-ordinator.

Ensuring the success of such endeavours benefits communities and sets precedents for new enterprises, she added.

But resources can be slim.

“There are lots of tools to look at the financial side of projects, but not a lot to describe their societal value,” said Sadownik.

“But we can demonstrate their worth and bring more support and make the case for more investment.”

Sadownik is in Whitehorse studying Raven’s operation for preliminary research.

At Raven, researchers will look at the financial impact on taxpayers, from its 20 employees to the effect of diverting tons of garbage from the city’s landfill.

Residents do not pay for the service through taxes as they do in other cities.

“Raven bears the cost,” said Snyder.

“We make our money as a business. We have no core funding from governments.”

Contracts and bottles subsidize the operation, which includes public education programs, she added.

The goal for any enterprise is self-sufficiency, and any profits made at Raven are sunk back into the business.

Raven was chosen for its northern location and unique mandate.

Researchers consider it an unusual social enterprise because it’s a non-profit that is run like a business.

Its longevity was attractive, too, said Sadownik.

“Raven Recycling has been operating for 15 years and there is plenty of experience it could bring into the project,” she said.

Eight enterprises were chosen for the pilot project, including a café in Vancouver’s downtown East Side that employs drug addicts looking to get back on their feet.

Researchers hope the final results and framework can be applied to new emerging and established enterprises across Canada.

“We’ll end up with a set of tools that any social enterprise can use,” said Sadownik.

Raven utilizes its results to secure funding and support from finance organizations and government institutions.

But Raven is also hoping the results will help residents understand the importance of the enterprise to the community, a task that hasn’t always been easy.

Past campaigns like Stark Raven Mad were moderately successful so there’s still a need for Raven to make its case to the public, said Snyder.

“There is competition (in Whitehorse) and you want to get out there and tell people why they should use Raven,” she said.

The success of Raven can be motivating, said Snyder.

“If we can say, ‘Hey, look at this thing we got up and running,’ other people can see that and start their own enterprises,” she said.

Preliminary project results are expected in May.