Why He’s Top 40: He demonstrates that free enterprise doesn’t have to come at the expense of human values, environmental sustainability and personal happiness.
If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be? “It needs to be OK for Edmontonians to climb up on the roof and, fists clenched on the hips, proclaim how awesome we are, and our strengths, for all of our neighbours and the world to hear.”
From the outset, Dennis Cuku’s Mosaic Family of Companies enterprise seems like a conglomerate of contradictions. One firm, Oil Country Engineering, designs drilling rigs for the oilpatch. The other, EcoAmmo, consults the energy sector on green building certifications.
But Cuku, a self-described serial entrepreneur, sees it as his way to channel revenue from one source to create a common good with another. “I’ve taken heat from environmentalists,” he says. “But really what we’ve done is build this strategic Trojan horse, and then invest the profits into sustainable projects and socially conscious businesses in Edmonton.”
The biggest testament to that consciousness was the February opening of the company’s headquarters, The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce, on the city’s southern perimeter. With solar panels capable of generating a total of 213 kilowatts, it is the first net-zero office building in Alberta and the northernmost structure of its kind on the planet.
It’s also an example of the way Cuku conducts business, discarding the bullish mindset of greed-is-good capitalism in favour of a more benevolent method to get things done.
“I’m driven to free the minds from our culture in terms of the old-school socioeconomic paradigms we subscribe to,” he says.
“A lot of that giving back, that philanthropy work, is part of helping people self-actualize. Giving is receiving.”
To that end, he encourages his employees to follow that credo. Cuku isn’t afraid to occasionally close the office a few days a year so the staff can volunteer on community initiatives, such as the 500 man-hours dedicated to Habitat for Humanity and countless more spent to help with Edmonton’s Food Bank or raise funds for the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
It’s that altruism that Cuku believes will help society adapt to a rapidly changing world.
“There needs to be a humanistic approach to business,” he says. “If we’re going to subscribe to this idea of capitalism, we don’t have to rape and pillage along the way. We can still have free enterprise and we can still have what our planet needs.”