Canada's Greenest
Employers (2021)
Winners from our 14th annual editorial competition
This year marks the 14th annual edition of the Canada's Greenest Employers competition (Photo credit: Gruizza/Getty)

About the Competition

Background

Now in its 14th year, Canada's Greenest Employers is an editorial competition organized by the Canada's Top 100 Employers project. This special designation recognizes the employers that lead the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness in their organizations. These employers have developed exceptional sustainability initiatives – and are attracting people to their organizations because of their environmental leadership. This award grew out of two remarkable speeches given by Al Gore and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at our annual conferences in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Prior to 2009, this award was called "Canada's Most Earth-Friendly Employers". This year’s winners were announced in a special magazine published on April 19, 2021, and featured in the Globe and Mail. Read the press release issued the same day for more background in this year’s competition.


LoyaltyOne conducts annual waste audits and continues to refine its waste reduction strategies, expanding its waste diversion program to capture organics, clothing, eyeglasses, e-waste, coffee cups, batteries and writing instruments

Selection Process

Each employer is evaluated by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers in terms of: (1) the unique environmental initiatives and programs they have developed; (2) the extent to which they have been successful in reducing the organization's own environmental footprint; (3) the degree to which their employees are involved in these programs and whether they contribute any unique skills; and (4) the extent to which these initiatives have become linked to the employer's public identity, attracting new employees and clients to the organization.


The Community Grants Committee at Winnipeg-based Assiniboine Credit Union helps keep non-profit organizations in the community sustainable and successful

Reasons for Selection

Each spring, our editors release the list of winners and publish their reasons for selection – click an employer's name below to read why each of this year's winners was chosen. Publishing detailed Reasons for Selection is an important feature of our competition: it provides transparency in the selection of winners and "raises the bar" so that other employers can improve upon these best-practices.


In addition to planting more trees, Humber College improved its waste diversion by almost two-thirds since 2012

Eligibility Requirements

Any employer operating in Canada may apply for the Canada's Greenest Employers competition. Employers of any size may apply, whether private or public sector.

2022 Competition

Applications for our 2022 competition will be available early in 2021. Our 2022 winners will be announced in the spring of 2022 near Earth Day. Join our mailing list to stay up to date and receive an application for next year's competition.

Cowbell Brewing in Blyth, Ont., has worked with a local conservation authority to plant 12,000 native trees and pollinator plants on over 9.3 hectares of its land, helping ensure its brewing operations remain carbon neutral
Cowbell Brewing in Blyth, Ont., has worked with a local conservation authority to plant 12,000 native trees and pollinator plants on over 9.3 hectares of its land, helping ensure its brewing operations remain carbon neutral

Introduction

As climate change challenges the world, Canadians know we must do better, particularly in business.

Canada's Greenest Employers 2021, selected by Mediacorp Canada Inc. and celebrated here in this special competition for environmental leadership, have the kind of practical strategies that make a real difference. And as these Greenest companies show, sustainability and success do go hand in hand.

Under the stress of a global pandemic, not only have they continued to green their organizations in so many innovative ways -- from electric vehicles to solar reflecting roofs to creating habitat for honeybees -- but increasingly demonstrate a formalized commitment supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy

All have ambitious plans to reduce their ecological footprint. Indeed, some have already achieved carbon neutral, while others are well underway to meeting their varied targets.

Examples include: Accenture with a goal to reduce carbon by 11 per cent by 2025 (over a 2016 baseline year); and Schneider Electric Canada with manufacturing plants in Victoria, Edmonton and Brossard, Quebec now certified zero waste to landfill.

Community partnerships also strengthen the contribution companies can make towards a healthier planet. For instance, Cowbell Brewing Co. in Blyth, Ontario, has worked with Maitland Valley Conservation Authority to plant over 12,000 native trees and pollinator plants on over 9.3 hectares of its land, helping ensure its brewing operations remain carbon neutral.

Many winners maintain that COVID-19 has sparked a reset on their best practices. Post pandemic, they expect to continue with less commuting and travel as well as an increased use of technology to connect -- all with positive environmental benefits. Additionally, the sustainability culture of Greenest employers has spilled into home offices, increasing awareness and encouraging individuals to make more environmentally responsible choices to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

Every effort counts. Young people looking to join an organization are more mindful than ever of a company's environmental practices and have set the bar high. From a carbon perspective, business as usual with its bad behaviours is no longer good enough.

Methodology

Mediacorp's Greenest Employers is an editorial competition that recognizes employers that lead the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness. Applicants for the award are compared to other employers in their industry and must pay a fee to enter the contest.

Winning employers, selected by editors of Mediacorp's Top 100 Employers, are evaluated using four main criteria: (1) unique environmental initiatives or programs they have developed; (2) whether they have been successful in reducing their own environmental footprint; (3) whether their employees are involved in these programs and contribute unique skills; and (4) whether their environmental initiatives have become linked to the employer's public identity, attracting new employees or customers.

Any employer operating in Canada may apply for Mediacorp's Greenest Employers competition. Employers of any size may apply, whether private or public sector. The Globe and Mail is not involved in the judging process.

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2021 Winners

Here are the 2021 winners of the Canada's Greenest Employers competition. Click an employer name to read our editors' full Reasons for Selection:

Josie Abate (centre), sustainability officer at Keilhauer Ltd., designs a stool with the engineering team with a view to reusability and using sustainable materials
The Vancouver head office of Perkins&Will Canada Architects features a three-storey tropical living wall, with over 30 species of plants, that connects employees with nature
The Vancouver head office of Perkins&Will Canada Architects features a three-storey tropical living wall, with over 30 species of plants, that connects employees with nature

Getting to Zero

How one member of Canada's Greenest Employers turned itself into a sustainability leader

So what's the big deal? The president of one of Canada's Greenest Employers drives a Prius. Hardly a surprise. Except that Mike Keilhauer has been driving one of Toyota's low-emission hybrids since they first arrived in Canada in 2000. Really, before they arrived.

"I bought it sight unseen a year in advance," says Keilhauer, president of Toronto's Keilhauer office and commercial furniture manufacturer. "I told the Toyota guys I wanted to be the first one in Canada to get it." And was he? "No, I was the first one in Ontario. They gave the first one to Dr. David Suzuki in Vancouver."

Which was fine with Keilhauer, since Suzuki was one of the people in the 1990s who inspired him to make revolutionary changes to his company in the name of sustainability. Keilhauer's saga in many ways showcases how company leaders can, with determination, bring about transformative and ground-breaking green policies, even in an industry as full of chemicals and potential waste as furniture-making.

He and three brothers founded the company in 1981, mentored by their late father Ed, a master upholsterer, but at that time, says Mike, "we were a startup company just trying to survive." Come the Nineties, though, he began listening to people like Suzuki and, most impressionably for him, Ray Anderson, late CEO of the American carpet giant Interface, who in 1994 had a "come to Jesus moment," notes Keilhauer. Anderson set his company on a path to "Mission Zero" with a pledge to reduce its negative impact on the environment and "live zero every day."

"So we started dipping our toe into it back in the mid Nineties," says Keilhauer. There was a vision. "If you could do the whole manufacturing cycle as a closed loop, so that you use the same materials over and over and over again, it would actually be a system that can maintain itself, and would be great for the environment," he says. But getting there was no easy journey. "Just trying to get recycled materials was hard. There were no supply chains for them."

They started out simply, he says. "We did our facilities, we did our source of power, we did waste to landfill. That's sort of the low-hanging fruit that I think every company should be working on."

Then came the product line itself. "We had to go in and break down all the materials in every one of our products, down to the core elements. Not just, oh, it's a plastic, but what's the plastic, what's the chemical content of it, what are the materials that go into it, because we're trying to be Red List free, which means carcinogenic-free materials. But to do that, you have to really dig deep, and it's hard to get there, because your suppliers don't always have the information or aren't willing to give it up."

Then came the product line itself. "We had to go in and break down all the materials in every one of our products, down to the core elements. Not just, oh, it's a plastic, but what's the plastic, what's the chemical content of it, what are the materials that go into it, because we're trying to be Red List free, which means carcinogenic-free materials. But to do that, you have to really dig deep, and it's hard to get there, because your suppliers don't always have the information or aren't willing to give it up."

Today, Keilhauer has come close to achieving closed-loop manufacturing, with over 85 per cent of waste diverted and strict controls on its suppliers and their materials. It recently introduced the Swurve, the company's first carbon-neutral chair.

"In essence it comes back down to reduce, reuse, recycle," says Keilhauer. "Then you have a perfect closed loop. That's always been our goal and our driving force for 25 years. You just have to take the first step and commit to it, and then make sure you're actually looking at everything you do to see how you can do it better."

To Richard Yerema, managing editor of Mediacorp Canada, which runs the competition, stories like Keilhauer's are integral to the winners of Canada's Greenest Employers. "These are the practical examples of what's possible," he says. "That's the strength of this list."

He notes that as with its other employer competitions, Mediacorp looks at the policies that make a company more rewarding for employees. "The Greenest companies are inspiring beyond just the benefits they offer -- it's like, this is the company I want to work for, this is a legacy I can leave my kids," says Yerema. "And where the rubber meets the road is in employment -- the people who bring in the practical policies and make change happen. These are the folks that lead that conversation and inspire other businesses to follow suit."

With a Prius -- or soon, for Keilhauer, an electric vehicle -- in the parking lot.

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