Sustainable business

For too long we have been told by governments and corporations that the future of our planet is someone else’s responsibility. With a new government and increasing awareness of the importance of the environment, it’s time for all of us to assume more stewardship of sustainable practices.

As described in Wikipedia, “Sustainable business, or green business, is an enterprise that has minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy”.

At the October 26 information session held before the Board meeting, I introduced the concept of sustainable business. I discussed with owners my suggestion that sustainability should be an asset for firms seeking to do business with CCC #82. There was significant interest in the idea but some legitimate concerns. We understand initial costs for some projects could be higher in the short term but savings might accrue over time.

Some points raised:

  • We should strive to be “green” ourselves before expecting it of others.
  • Given that many of our owners are seniors, what is a reasonable payback period?
  • How do we determine that a business is truly operating on sustainable principles and not just “greenwashing”?

There are a number of ways Frobisher Place can be more green:

  • We installed new windows throughout the building. Initial indications point to reduced gas consumption as a result. Those findings should be updated.
  • We have taken other steps to reduce our natural gas consumption and received incentive grants from Enbridge.
  • We reduced electricity consumption and received incentive grants from Hydro Ottawa.
  • We should continue to look at ways to further reduce energy consumption by measures such as LED lighting.
  • We should design an education campaign to make residents aware of ways to reduce energy consumption such as use of Energy Star appliances, turning off lights when not in use, keeping windows closed.
  • Recognising that owners with electric vehicles must pay separately for battery charging, we should nonetheless show that we are receptive to green vehicle use.
  • We should be open to consideration of other emerging, energy saving technologies.
  • We should investigate organic waste disposal options.
  • We can reduce paper use by relying more on electronic communication.
  • We should examine our investments to ensure our funds are with environmentally and socially responsible organisations.

Older owners have understandable concerns about paying higher condo fees now for measures that cost more today but mainly benefit younger owners in the future. At the October 26 session it was suggested a 5-year payback period be used as a guide. For example, the initial cost of LEDs would need to be offset by the lower cost of electricity over 5 years. Ikea has various LED bulbs.

Greenwashing is essentially using PR to pretend to be sustainable. Recent news coverage of coffee cup disposal at Starbucks and Tim Hortons and the Volkswagen emissions scandal come to mind. When we send out requests for proposals we should ask bidders to show us how green they are. We could use the information they provide in assessing their merit.

I propose that we include sustainability as a criterion when considering proposals from outside companies seeking to do business with us. I volunteer to lead this initiative and will move an appropriate associated motion at the Board.

Doug Brandy, Thursday, November 5, 2015