Bridgitte Anderson
Credit: Greater Vancouver Board of Trade

The president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade reflects on how much she has learned from innovative and resilient businesses

For the complete interview, check out The BCBusiness Podcast.

1. Over the past couple of years, what has surprised you the most?

What I have been pleasantly surprised at is the resilience and the innovation of so many businesses. But when I look at the other side of that coin, what I have been surprised with, maybe in not such a positive way, is the growing divisiveness that I’m seeing across society.

The polarization, I think, is really challenging. We’re at a time in society, and particularly the pandemic, where people need to come together to find solutions to some really complex problems. And so seeing the polarization and the divisiveness, whether it’s regarding the pandemic and health care or a number of other issues, is discouraging and concerning.

2. Professionally and personally, what have you taken away from the experience?

I took on this role just a few months before the pandemic hit, so almost my entire experience at the Board of Trade has been impacted by it. And while it was challenging in many ways—a lot of what we do is bringing people together in person—it offered so much opportunity. We made a very quick pivot to virtual events, and we were able to continue to bring people and perspectives together in a virtual manner.

So it has taught me, again, about resilience and innovation and looking for opportunities for growth outside the usual parameters. It has also taught me to reach out. There has been a sense of collaboration that was unusual, I would say, in previous times. It’s collaboration among different business organizations, industry organizations, and also the willingness to work with government. That is not to say that we will always agree with what government is doing, but there is a willingness to try and find solutions.

3. It’s been a tough time for many businesses, families and individuals, but has COVID done anything to change our province for the better?

I hope so, and particularly around the acceleration in the digital shift. I think it has taught us that we don’t have to do things the way we had always done them, that we can look for new and innovative ways. And so that shift to digital really needed to happen and continues to need to happen.

But during this pandemic, we also had an enormous climate event that has awakened a lot of individuals and businesses to think about what they need to do to address climate change. There have been enormous events around diversity and inclusion and around Indigenous reconciliation. I would call it an awakening on many levels.

READ MORE: The 2022 Business of Good Awards

4. If we want to build back better from the pandemic, how can we do that in Metro Vancouver and across B.C.? What key steps could we take?

We all need to take a look at the challenges and the opportunities that have been presented over the past few years, whether that is the pandemic or climate events or issues around economic reconciliation with our Indigenous communities. There is a lot of work that we can and we should be doing, but together we can do it.

And so my advice is to think about how we all find solutions together. We’re not always going to agree on everything, but the polarization and divisiveness needs to stop if we are going to build back better.

5. In these unpredictable times, what advice do you have for local businesses that are hoping to come out the other side?

That’s a tough one, because they are the experts. If anything, I have learned so much from all of them during the pandemic. I have been in awe of their ability to innovate and be resilient. Nobody thought that at two years, we would still be in this place. Many of us thought we would be coming out the other side of this by now.

My message would be less to those businesses, who know what they’re doing, and more to those who are setting policy, to think about how we can make it easier for businesses to operate in this region, and to ensure that we are a competitive economy and region so we’re attracting investment, attracting trade and ensuring that we’re going to thrive in the future.

Hobbies: Running, hiking, snowshoeing, cooking

Last book I read: Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, which was heartbreaking and devastating but so incredibly well written

Favourite TV show: Ted Lasso. It’s such a message of positivity, it’s funny, and it makes you feel good

Most memorable concert: The Tragically Hip’s final tour

Favourite place in B.C.: Anywhere with water

Pet peeve: Inconsiderate drivers

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate