Sustainable Business Initiative Update
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In the third year since we relaunched our sustainability reporting program as the Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI), we saw our members commitments manifesting as measurable progress towards sustainability. Through the support and guidance we provide with initiatives like reducing greenhouse gases, and establishing progressive employee and procurement policies with the B Lab Impact Assessment, the SBI continues to enable positive changes in Hamilton and Burlington. Our framework is more flexible than ever, having added two new target-setting streams in 2017, which has resulted in a noticeable uptick in set baselines and targets in 2018.
Each year as global warming intensifies, we begin to see more and more drastic changes in weather. In 2018, there were more heating degree days (days where the weather required indoor heating for ambient temperatures) than in 2017. Some of our members saw an increase in their natural gas consumption due to the colder temperatures. Other members also saw an increase in their natural gas consumption due to an increase in business sales. In 2018, our members increased their commitments to reducing Greenhouse Gases by 133% over 2017. The SBI assists our Bronze Members in adapting to these fluctuations by researching strategies and best practices to reduce and mitigate emissions.
This past year brought some significant attention to the problems we have with our waste. With China rejecting our recyclables, it shed light on our poor recycling habits, such as cross contamination and wishful recycling. Although we only have one observing Bronze Member looking to report on waste, we have several other members who have incorporated waste reduction methods as part of their daily operation. In 2018-2019, there have been four waste audits completed by our Collaborative Experiential Learning (CEL) program, which have helped to identify areas of concern and levels of contamination. With this information, our members plan to implement reduction methods and separation strategies. The SBI is developing support materials to help organisations understand their impact on the environment through their waste and ways to reduce that impact.
B Lab updated their assessment and launched version 6 at the beginning of 2019, which incorporates new questions, retires others and adjusts the weighting of the scores for many questions based on global research on best practices. The SBI provides detailed analysis of the results of an assessment to assist our members with raising their scores, improving their triple bottom line and working towards becoming eligible to become a B Certified Corporation – Businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. The average score for our Silver Members completing version 5 assessments has increased from 70.5 to 88.6. In 2018, we had two members complete the version 6 assessment which saw an average decrease in score by 4 points.
Global Reporting Initiative
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) transitioned their GRI G4 reporting guidelines to a new modular structure called GRI Standards – the first global standards for sustainability reporting. The new structure aims to simplify sustainability reporting by reducing redundancies in reporting the Disclosure Management Approaches. The changes make it easier for organisations to transparently report their impacts on the economy, environment and society. This helps organisations, stakeholders and the general public understand the contributions, both positive and negative, towards sustainable development. The SBI compiled tools for our Gold Members to ease the transition from GRI G4 to GRI Standards, helping them to find the appropriate disclosures and structure for their reports.
Hamilton Health Sciences
The sustainability report was undertaken by compiling a large amount of qualitative and quantitative data and information about out key environmental and social indicators. The process itself was very enlightening and it allowed the stakeholders the opportunity to see how their program/disciplines work connected to the larger picture of organizational sustainability. The process also highlighted the opportunities for improvement in areas such as program collaboration, data capture, performance measurement and communications. The stakeholder engagement with the materiality assessment also highlighted that staff are engaged and concerned about environmental health topics in areas beyond what are presently measured or can be easily captured in a report such as this.
The report also has highlighted a number of areas that they will continue and/or start to track and measure in future years, such as:
- Organizational volunteer work and community outreach
- Opportunities for training and education, especially related to environmental sustainability and diversity
- Environmental metrics such as waste and energy
- New environmental metrics & initiatives related to water
- Corporate engagement and outreach on issues related to environmental sustainability
- Metrics focused on gender, diversity and inclusion
Royal Botanical Gardens
In their 2018 report Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) aimed to provide detailed and comparable information on their business impacts by including more historical data than their 2017 report. While their current greenhouse gas reduction target has a baseline of 2017, they provided energy and emission data from 2016-2018. The same approach was taken for their waste, water and biodiversity disclosures.
They continue to use the American Public Gardens Association’s Public Gardens Sustainability Index (PGSI) as a key determinant in what is material for us to measure. The PGSI is an industry-specific tool with a structure that encompasses Environmental, Social, and Financial Sustainability best practices for gardens of all sizes, financial capacities, community demographics, and geographies. In their reports they aim to align the attributes of the PGSI with the disclosures of the Global Reporting Initiative.
Since beginning their reporting process they have been able to make progress towards establishing effective systems for measuring, setting goals and communicating on their performance in environmental areas. They are excited to be positioned to be able to establish greenhouse gas, waste and water reduction targets in the near future.
Capturing the wide variety of activities taking place at RBG is a challenging process and stakeholders span across a variety of unique departments. While their GRI report has been prepared from a department focused on environmental sustainability, they worked to expand on the information shared in this report in social and economic areas of their operations. Expanding this scope further will be a major focus area of their 2019 GRI report.
All information reported in the 2018 report was identified through a Materiality Analysis conducted in 2017 for the 2016 report. This was an internal analysis.
In 2019, Walker plans to update their Materiality Analysis and broaden their stakeholder engagement, to include the opinions of their external stakeholders, as they transition their reporting to the new GRI Standards. They also plan to set specific goals to reach with their updated list of indicators. They are proud of the progress they have made with respect to their GHG reductions, but know that there is a lot more work to do. With their Climate Action Plans and Energy Action Plans they will identify areas of opportunity to make changes and further reduce their GHGs.
Examples of Sustainability Initiatives
Our members are committed to the areas in which they are reporting, but do great work in other ways as well. Here are some the specific initiatives undertaken by our members over 2018 and early 2019:
- Energy management systems or energy plans
- Lighting retrofits and automation projects
- HVAC improvements
- Boiler retrofit
- Renewables, storage and offsets
- Climate Resilience Plans
- Window retrofits
- Lights out campaigns
- Ride sharing and carpooling programs
- Bicycle commuter infrastructure projects (hydration stations, new locking stations, bike shelter)
- Implemented EV charging stations
- Transitioning fleet to electic vehicles
- Conducting waste audits
- Waste Diversion Campaigns
- Waste Reduction Campaigns
- E-waste recycling programs
- Double sided printing policy
- Company volunteering initiatives
- Community dollars invested
- Pollinator and biodiversity projects
- Procurement policies
- Created more job opportunities
- Companies offering professional development opportunities