Environics Research’s Climate Action Journey – Part 1
Discussions about climate action often fixate on governmental failures at the national and international level, without adequately considering the role grassroots movements, and local entities (including businesses like Environics) can play in promoting positive change. The individuals working at Environics share a deep concern about the changing climate.
But as an organization, we had the same challenge that many citizens face: what should we be doing? What’s possible? What’s effective? What’s just for show – or, in the case of business, even greenwashing? These questions ultimately led us to join Green Economy Canada’s new National Hub – a commitment we were proud to announce today.
Our History & The Path Ahead
Environmental commitments are nothing new for our organization. We’ve been taking steps to be more sustainable for decades. In 1980, we introduced our first transit pass subsidy to encourage employees to use public transit – for both the urban and environmental benefits. We began powering our Toronto headquarters from renewable sources through Bullfrog Power almost as soon as that offering became available in the marketplace. We’ve also been an active participant in a sustainability group sponsored by our landlord, which has led initiatives in our building related to energy efficiency and reduction, water conservation, waste management, recycling and green cleaning.
Despite this history, over the last several years, as we contemplated how to respond to the climate crisis, we couldn’t see a clear path forward. Our concern and our motivation were real, and we didn’t want to do something that wasn’t truly worthwhile. We decided to begin by convening a small group to identify the areas most important for Environics to address, given our business, location, expertise, culture and other qualities. The result was the “Environics Research Plan for a Changing World.” The core elements, or pillars, of the plan:
Measure and reduce Environics’ carbon footprint
Integrate the changing world into corporate decision making to help Environics and its employees be more resilient
Find ways to make positive environmental contributions outside of Environics
Environics Climate Crew
We introduced the plan and walked our employees through it in a series of Town Halls. There was a lot of enthusiasm across our team – and a set of volunteers, who have become the “Environics Climate Crew,” assembled to tackle the first pillar.
We quickly discovered it wasn’t easy to find an approach that seemed effective and meaningful. There are plenty of certification programs, emissions audits, and carbon offsets out there. But as we began to explore them, we weren’t convinced any of them were the right fit for us. We’re a relatively small business – a professional services firm with 50 employees spread across our Toronto headquarters and offices in Ottawa and Calgary. Many of us work remotely much of the time. (We had a flexible work policy long before the pandemic.) So the offerings that might make sense for a large industrial business or a major institution weren’t well suited to us. And we’re not alone: The Government of Canada defines a small business as one with less than 100 employees. In 2019, such businesses represented 69% of the total private labour force and employed 8.4 million individuals in Canada.
To develop an approach that we could pursue with conviction, we decided to engage with Green Economy, a national non-profit accelerating Canada’s transition to a vibrant and inclusive net-zero future. They brought the technical knowledge we were after, as well as experience working with a variety of organizations of different sizes across different industries. We wanted their expert support to pursue a real program of change, and to guide us through a process that would be transparent and true to our goals.
#nofilter – Skies filled with smoke from West Coast wildfires during the Fall of 2020 pictured above
Green Economy Canada Collaboration
Today, we’re announcing that as part of our Environics climate action plan, we have joined Green Economy Canada National Hub – a community composed of organizations pursuing clear sustainability goals and publicly reporting their progress. Over the next year, Environics Research will be guided by the Green Economy Team to measure our environmental footprint, and subsequently reduce it. (Pillar 1 will be our main focus for 2023, and we’ll advance the other two pillars soon after.) During the year ahead, we plan to share our progress and challenges – being clear about what we know for sure and what we don’t (we’re researchers, after all). We hope that, in some small way, it will help others, including smaller enterprises, to take their first step toward meaningful climate action.
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