Greener Horizons Vancouver: How sustainability leaders are building credibility with third party verification 

Greener Horizons Vancouver: How sustainability leaders are building credibility with third party verification 

Wednesday February 6, 2019

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Credibility within the sustainability space is increasingly becoming an important discussion topic for businesses. Several global institutions are finding a receptive audience when it comes to trusted carbon disclosure standards, alignment with global targets or other third party verification standards. The expertise and organizational resources required to meet them, however, can seem daunting. How can businesses recognize new standards of global sustainability leadership without creating a credibility gap for their own social responsibility programs?

Bullfrog Power, Canada’s leading green energy provider, brought together a panel of business leaders to discuss the business case for verifiable external sustainability practices.

The panel discussion included:

The panelists’ contributions and learnings are summarized below.

Mike Rowlands, Junxion Strategy

Since 1998, Vancouver-based Junxion Strategy has worked to catalyze progress on social and environmental sustainability. Headquartered in Vancouver with offices in Toronto and London, UK, Junxion has served clients on four continents.

As moderator, Junxion President & CEO Mike Rowlands opened the panel discussion by highlighting results from the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer. According to the report’s results, Americans’ trust in institutions (particularly government) took the most precipitous decline Edelman has ever recorded between 2017 to 2018. Globally, trust was lowest in media institutions. In Canada, a slight decline in public trust of institutions mirrored the international trends.

With these global and local trends in mind, Rowlands posed the question, “How do we earn public trust from our peers, partners, employees and stakeholders?”

Helping customers express their values
Manuel Gorrin, Nature’s Path

Nature’s Path is a family-owned producer of certified organic foods with a portfolio of more than 150 products. Known for its rigorous reputation for Organic, Zero Waste and Fair Trade certifications for its products, Nature’s Path has firmly invested in its reputation and what it represents.

“Our values lie at the heart of the motivation behind our partnerships and certifications,” Gorrin explains. “The leadership team at Nature’s Path strongly believes in and supports the certification standards toward which we strive. Beyond that, our team members believe in these values as well. As a company, we ask ourselves: Do we support our choices of Organic Certification, or green energy from Bullfrog Power? The answer is a resounding yes.”

Gorrin also believes that the strong beliefs espoused by Nature’s Path help its customers reflect and champion their own values. “Every time someone buys one of our certified products, they agree with the stances we take. In doing so, they are expressing their own beliefs. We are a way for them to express themselves.”

Transparency as a bridge to trust
Jamie Gray-Donald, QuadReal Property Group

Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, QuadReal Property Group is a global real estate investment, operating and development company.

The company’s $27.4 billion portfolio spans 23 Global Cities across 17 countries. QuadReal was established to manage the real estate program of British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), one of Canada’s largest asset managers with a $145.6 billion portfolio.

Jamie Gray-Donald, SVP, Sustainability at QuadReal, stresses the importance of transparency in the organization’s environmental initiatives. “We feel that transparency is a bridge to trust,” he says. “Transparency isn’t a branding exercise—stakeholders want to see the tangible results of our sustainability efforts.” For its part, QuadReal has committed to an 80% reduction in the annual carbon footprint of its Canadian portfolio from a 2007 baseline, which aligns with the Paris climate agreement. QuadReal also annually publishes the energy data for each of the buildings it manages.

Gray-Donald further emphasizes the importance of driving positive values beyond the walls of the company and outward to external networks and stakeholders. “We have over a dozen global partners who help us invest, and we’re phasing in annual property level carbon reporting and sustainability updates to align with our values and how we do business,” he explains.

Representing the community through certification
Marion Town, Vancouver Airport Authority

“The Vancouver Airport Authority is very much a reflection of our community because of its unique governance structure as a financially independent community based not-for-profit organization,” Town explains. As Canada’s second busiest airport, YVR served 24.2 million passengers in 2017 and aims to provide significant economic and social benefit to communities on Sea Island, across B.C. and beyond.

According to Town, the Airport’s building and operations reflect the culture and history of the surrounding community. The airport prominently features Indigenous art and culture, and “was one of the first and foremost elements in creating a sense of space and place,” she says. On the sustainability front, YVR committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 2012 baseline by 33% by 2020—a target that will be achieved in 2022 even with significant passenger growth, thanks to a new geothermal exchange heating and cooling system that’s being built. “The investments we’ve made in the airport reflect our values, and I think it shows,” Town explains.

The key to validating these values is the help of third party certification, states Town. For example, the Airport is Salmon-Safe Certified (a certification that helps protect local watersheds and salmon habitats), has its carbon footprint certified under Airport Carbon Accreditation and is also Certified Gold under the Rick Hansen Foundation for building accessibility—with the highest score out of any building in Canada.

“We’re committed to representing our community through our building and operations, and third party verification plays a crucial role in validating our efforts,” Town says.

Looking to the future

When asked about the implementation of future environmental initiatives, the panelists offered the following:

Manuel Gorrin, Nature’s Path: “We believe environmental education—especially in children’s education—will be increasingly important in sustainability efforts. We are currently supporting groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation and the Jane Goodall Foundation in order to support education and change at that level in our community.”

Jamie Gray-Donald, QuadReal Property Group: “We plan to look further into supporting the diversion and reduction of food waste—a topic which we believe deserves a larger conversation. We’re supportive of some recent regulations around single-use plastics, and we hope to contribute to a united effort for researching and implementing new initiatives.”

Marion Town, YVR: “The issue of water consumption is one that we are planning to continue exploring further. We’ve made a commitment to reduce our water consumption, and we are also researching some innovative ideas around wastewater management.”