Meeting the Challenge of Living on a Small Planet
The tragic impact of the novel coronavirus has reminded the world how interconnected and vulnerable we are on Planet Earth. It has been a tough lesson, but it's one that Canada's Greenest Employers were working on long before the COVID-19 crisis hit.
Well ahead of the virtual shutdown of the world's air routes, for instance, KPMG LLP was finding ways to cut air travel in order to reduce its total emissions for the planet's benefit. The Toronto-based professional services firm began collecting detailed data last year on how much its people were travelling. The numbers even included business class, because passengers there take up more space, raising the per-capita emissions their travel causes. The firm turned to using much more video conferencing, or finding smart solutions -- by flying in an expert or facilitator to an office, say, rather than flying a group of associates to an outside location.
KPMG's program was not sparked by cost cutting, says Kristine Remedios, chief inclusion and social impact officer. "We started this strategy based on the environment, because air travel is where we have the most emissions," she says. "That's where we could make the most impact. So yes, there are costs, but I wouldn't say cost was our driver. The environment was our driver."
That is indeed the pattern among Canada's Greenest Employers, says Richard Yerema, managing editor for Mediacorp Canada, which runs the competition.
"It has moved well beyond the idea of, 'hey, we should do some of this green stuff,'" he says. "It's now, 'this is affecting everything we do, the products we sell, how we're going to produce them, how we're going to recognize the impact of our operations.'"
Virtually all of Canada's Greenest Employers have a serious recycling program in place, often cutting office paper use by 75 per cent or more. Their cafeterias increasingly get rid of single-use plastics. But they are also working on their own production processes. Aramark Canada, the large food services enterprise, is aiming for 100 per cent sustainably sourced fish and seafood. Labatt Breweries of Canada has reduced its water consumption by 45 per cent in recent years. Durham College in Oshawa, Ont., is harnessing large-scale geothermal energy to help heat and cool its campus. More and more employers are boasting LEED-certified buildings.
And there are many smaller innovations, often instituted by employee-led committees, that are making a difference. At MD Financial Management in Ottawa, employees are rewarded with an extra payment of $100 a month if they walk, cycle or take transit to work. Desjardins Group has installed nearly 200 charging stations for electric vehicles in Québec and Ontario. Countless employees have volunteered on environmental improvement projects in their communities, such as the rain gardens and other amenities set up by Canon Canada's people in their Branch Out program.
Employers, notes Yerema, don't exist in a vacuum. "We talk about climate change as a real threat to how we're going to live as a species," he says, "and a lot of that science is informing decision-makers at all levels. Most leading and responsive organizations have reacted. And they're hiring people who are growing up with the idea that we have to make sure we're doing things differently."
Newer organizations, he notes, have often built sustainability into everything they do. He points to AET Group, an environmental consultancy in Kitchener, Ont., which is based in a renovated old house with a variety of environmental features, including permeable pavement in the parking lot and a solar array to power electric vehicles. "And it's not a big company," notes Yerema. "Green doesn't mean going out of business, it means changing the way you do business."
Ultimately, he says, "an employer is a collection of people. We're all part of society. And I think the conversation that may come out of this period is, we do live on a small planet, we're vulnerable, and we have to take care of ourselves in all areas."
– Berton Woodward
- Accenture Inc.
- Adobe Systems Canada Inc.
- AET Group Inc.
- Aramark Canada Ltd.
- Assiniboine Credit Union Limited
- BC Housing Management Commission
- BC Hydro
- BC Public Service
- Bell Canada
- BlackBerry Limited
- BluEarth Renewables Inc.
- Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited
- Canon Canada Inc.
- Capital Regional District, The / CRD
- Co-operators Group Limited, The
- Cowbell Brewing Co.
- Credit Valley Conservation Authority / CVC
- Labatt Brewing Company Limited
- Loblaw Companies Limited
- LoyaltyOne, Co.
- Manitoba Hydro
- Matrix Solutions Inc.
- McGill University
- MD Financial Management
- Mohawk College
- Mott MacDonald
- Mountain Equipment Co-op
- Nature's Path Foods, Inc.
- Nightingale Corporation
- Ocean Wise Conservation Association
- Perkins+Will Canada Architects Co.
- Printing House Ltd., The / TPH
- Red River College
- Reliable Controls Corporation
- Royal Bank of Canada
- SAP Canada Inc.
- Schneider Electric Canada Inc.
- Sheridan Nurseries Limited
- Sodexo Canada Ltd.
- Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
- Surrey, City of
- Surrey School District No. 36
- Sylvis Environmental Services Inc.
- Symcor Inc.
- TD Bank Group
- The Beer Store and Brewers Distributor Ltd.
- Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. / TMMC
- TransLink (South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority)
- UBC / University of British Columbia
- University of Alberta
- University of Northern British Columbia
- University of Toronto
- University of Victoria