For nearly five years, Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR) has been convincing companies and organizations around Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, Ontario, to instigate a cultural shift that would help sew environmental responsibility into the way Canada’s 10th most populated urban area grows and evolves. In early 2013, SWR proudly claimed that one-seventh of Waterloo Region’s workforce was now turning this vision into reality, and that local businesses had already made public commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 10,000 cars off the road. In January 2014 it launched Sustainability CoLab, an offshoot social enterprise that aims to inject the same momentum into other communities.
SWR’s flagship program is the Regional Carbon Initiative (RCI), a guided set of milestones designed to turn companies’ GHG reduction goals into reality. As of March, there are 64 RCI member companies that occupy some 2 million metres2 of office space – design and engineering firms, energy services and utility providers, social support and health care providers, environmental advocacy organizations, educational and cultural institutions, retailers, manufacturers, consultants, construction companies, foundations and software developers. SWR supplies GHG accounting software and other tools, technical and strategic expertise, help organizing employee-led green teams and the growing support and wisdom of the rest of the RCI network. It has also shrewdly crafted that network with a strong culture of recognition and a rising bar for achievement.
Read more about SWR, the RCI, Sustainability CoLab and the GHG-slashing business case they’re currently building across Ontario in the Sharing issue of A\J. We also asked a couple of Waterloo Region’s leading RCI members to explain how their companies have benefitted from being a part of the network, and the two people driving Sustainability CoLab to explain the impact they expect to see in 2014. Watch all three videos below.
Elizabeth Pringle is an associate partner at Ernst & Young, chair of its Kitchener office’s eco-committee and a volunteer member of SWR’s policy advisory committee. The Kitchener outpost of the global professional services provider has implemented a range of sustainability measures as part of its commitment to the RCI, including changing their document printing systems to save ink, paper and energy; installing sensor lights to cut unnecessary electricity usage and insulating window film to avoid heat loss; replacing plastic cutlery and paper plates to reduce waste; and by deploying a flexible workspace allocation system called ‘hoteling,’ wherein employees that spend a lot of time at clients’ offices can simply book desk space when they need it (rather than having workspaces that are often unoccupied). Find more details about Ernst & Young’s corporate commitments to sustainability here.
Claire Bennett has led Wilfrid Laurier University’s exemplary efforts to prove that Canadian postsecondary institutions can bake sustainability into their operating procedures and reap huge cost savings, a higher quality of on-campus life and a substantial bump in their reputations. In January, WLU became the first university on the planet to go through the STARS [Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System] version 2.0 evaluation process, upping its rating up to silver. Bennett credits SWR’s invaluable support for getting WLU involved in community-scale environmentalism, and the Waterloo-based campus’ strides in waste management have become a fabulous example for other large businesses in the region and universities across Canada.
Mike Morrice founded SWR in 2009 (after developing the concept as an undergrad at WLU, incidentally) and spent nearly five years inspiring and guiding the non-profit’s remarkable progress in Waterloo Region. In January 2014 he transitioned into his new role as executive director of Sustainability CoLab, where he and managing director Priyanka Lloyd will work with the provincial network’s first five community members – SWR, Niagara Sustainability Initiative, Durham Sustain Ability, Sustainable Kingston and Ottawa-based EnviroCentre – to enlist more businesses in committing to reduce their carbon emissions. They’ll also be building knowledge-sharing and support infrastructure to grow and embolden the network to achieve even deeper impacts and encourage a widespread uptake of great sustainability strategies and action plans.
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