A Sustainable Strategy: Outsmarting Carbon, Squeezing Out Dollars

Climate Smart is a social enterprise based in Vancouver, BC that works with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to take action on climate change. In three short years Climate Smart has trained 550 businesses, worked with more than 25 host partners and built a business network of climate smart intelligence.

Supporting Businesses With Braun

Last week I met with Christine VanDerwill from Climate Smart, Morten Schroder from Van Houtte Coffee and Mark Hendrickson from Ocean Mama.

Using custom-developed online greenhouse gas management software,  Climate Smart helps businesses and non-profits create sustainability strategies to measure and reduce carbon.

It’s Not Just Singing Kumbaya

We may often get involved in sustainability to help the planet and because it’s the right thing to do. While that’s a grand fuzzy feeling, those running businesses are often interested in saving money.

In fact, Bob Willard, recently told me that he’s had to recalibrate his number crunching because the business case for sustainability just keeps getting better. In fact, he estimates a “typical company” can profit by at least 51 to 81% within five years or less!

By focusing on building the business case, Climate Smart teaches companies to reduce waste, increase efficiencies and increase their ROI (Return On Investment).

The Learning Moment

What is unique about Climate Smart, at least from my perspective, is the cohort-based training that accompanies its web-based software and one-on-one support.

One or two employees from each company register for a Climate Smart training that is divided over three half day sessions. By getting like-minded peers into the same room, people offer ideas and solutions to common and unique challenges.

Sustainability Crowd Sourcing

It is a mini-form of mass collaboration, which is an important concept for resolving sustainability dilemmas because each company’s situation is slightly different. By sharing experiences working on an issue, more creative and plausible solutions are put forward.

By working on individual company dilemmas and having the support of others to bounce ideas around about what’s worked and what hasn’t, synergy and momentum generates improved solutions that expand the group’s expertise.

The Climate Smart format leverages a group of employees connected to their companies rather than relying on an external expert to carry out a site inspection and offering a series of recommendations that have not necessarily considered a company’s priorities, culture or buy-in.

It is like learning to ride a bicycle, you can do it on your own, but it’s more fun to learn with others.

The Climate Smart model provides the “seep-time” to nuture knowledge and cultivate a personal champion within a business to attend the trainings and spearhead a carbon emission reduction plan.

As experience and initiatives are implemented, participants gain the confidence and track record to tackle more complex issues and more substancial upgrades.

A Gold Star For Good Behaviour

Companies that complete the training and accomplish their emission targets receive a Climate Smart seal available for recognition, bragging rights and enhanced credibility. Nevertheless, this recognition has led to more than a seat at the front of the class. Companies that have graduated from the program are reporting increased market share, reduced costs and a better bottom line.

Show Me The Numbers

Freybe Gourmet Foods is a family run business that manufactures European deli meats. After going through a Climate Smart session and analyzing operating hours of their manufacturing facility, Freybe redistributed shifts and compressed their work week by 6 hours, which reduced their overall energy consumption by 2%.

Freybe also made a capital investment of $39,000 plus labor to switch their lights from intensive metal-halides to T5s fluorescent tubes that saved over 530,000 kWh of electricity in nine months. They also installed variable frequency drives (VFDs) on their refrigeration units that allowed adjustable energy consumption based on demand. Another investment in automated refrigeration controls has increased their savings to 100,000 kWh annually, or a 12% reduction in their total annual electricity bill.

Glacier Creek Contracting is a contractor in Whistler, BC that performed a waste audit with the help of Climate Smart to assess waste streams on their construction sites. Working with their waste hauling service to divert additional recyclable materials, they reduced their waste stream by 35%, or 226 tons in Co2 emissions that has saved them $64,500 in hauling fees since 2009.

Pretty impressive?

Now all of this was what I learned from Christina with Climate Smart.

But what were Morten from Van Houtte Coffee and Mark from Ocean Mama doing at the meeting?  Find out in my next post!


David Hendrickson is Principal of David J Hendrickson Consulting and is based in Vancouver, BC. David is a professional planner and holds a PhD in sustainability. He is author of The Sustainability Greenprint and enjoys sea kayaking, skiing and puddle jumping with his family.   Follow David on Twitter @davidjhen