See what Canada’s greenest employers are doing to embed sustainability practices

by Brianna Crandall — May 1, 2017 — As consumers and employees keep environmental concerns high on the public agenda, many forward-thinking organizations are making sustainability a permanent feature of their organizational cultures. That’s the message from this year’s winners of the Canada’s Greenest Employers competition, organized by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which is celebrating its 10th annual edition.

According to Richard Yerema, managing editor of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project at Mediacorp:

When we started this competition a decade ago, the programs we wrote about were largely informal and incidental to an employer’s principal business. Over the years, we’ve seen a shift towards more formal programs and strategic sustainability policies, which reflect a much longer-term commitment on the part of employers. This year’s winners aren’t afraid to address the adverse impacts of their operations, and are charting the course for others in their industry.

Canada’s Greenest Employers is an editorial competition that recognizes the employers that lead the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness. Winning employers, selected by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, are evaluated on the following 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 to attract new people to the organization.

According to Mediacorp Canada, the competition grew out of two “remarkable” speeches by Al Gore and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the annual editorial conference on the Top 100 Employers project in 2006 and 2007.

Here are a few examples of how this year’s winners have incorporated environmental values into their organizations:

  • Burnaby, British Columbia-based BC Housing, an agency of the provincial government, administers an annual sustainability survey for all employees; the program has been so successful that over half their employees now take alternative transportation (bike, walk, or public transit) to work.
  • Foodservice provider Aramark Canada, based in Toronto, encourages staff to connect with local farms and sustainable food producers through a program that supports the development of local food sources within 100 km.
  • Electric utility Manitoba Hydro, based in Winnipeg, recently built Canada’s first LEED Platinum office tower for its staff; the building includes over 10,000 sensors and automatic solar shading to minimize electricity consumption.
  • Lévis, Québec-based Desjardins Group / Mouvement des caisses Desjardins focuses on encouraging alternative transportation by employees; thousands of staff use carpooling, bike-sharing, shuttle buses and transit rebates provided by the company.
  • Staff at the University of Alberta in Edmonton work with students on an innovative “Eco Move Out” program, which encourages departing students to donate or recycle electronics, non-perishable food items, clothing and household items; over 12,000 kg of goods were collected last year.

The full list of this year’s Canada’s Greenest Employers, along with the editors’ detailed reasons for selection, explaining why each of the winning employers was selected, are available online.