Using Your Raving Fans To Sell Sustainability Strategies

You know that when you sit down for a meeting with a consultant, you wait politely and then brace yourself for “the pitch.”

So there I was meeting with Christine VanDerwill from Climate Smart, Morten Schroder from Van Houtte Coffee and Mark Hendrickson from Ocean Mama. Climate Smart’s recent initiative is around food and beverage processors.

If you missed the story you can catch up on that sustainability strategy.

Yet, what happened next wasn’t quite what I expected.

Christine from Climate Smart, who peddles carbon reduction programs to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) actually remained quiet and didn’t speak.

The person who wouldn’t stop talking was Morten from Van Houtte Coffee!

Morten had just returned from the Delta Rotary to share the business case about his experience.

In fact he wouldn’t shut up!

Morten explained how Van Houtte Coffee started participating in the Climate Smart program in 2009.

Van Houtte coffee emerged out of a storefront in 1919, not far from the fabled Montreal Forum,and continues to supply grocery stores and cafes with premium coffee. Van Houtte was sold to Vermont’s Green Mountain Coffee in 2010.

In British Columbia, Van Houtte completed a baseline energy audit of their operations in 2009. They then reduced their electricity by 28% (72,000 kWh) in their largest building by upgrading their lighting, saving an equivalent amount of electricity to operating 15 electric vehicles annually.

They signed on with the local natural gas company to purchase biogas from the landfill to heat 10% of their six buildings.

Along with the lighting upgrades on a building less than ten years old and a “turn off the lights” campaign they registered a two-year payback on their capital investment.

Currently, they have four hybrid vehicles in their operations, reducing emissions and costs 60% when compared to other vehicles running the same routes. The installation of GPS units in all fleet vehicles also helped improve travel efficiencies. Costs have fallen 20% overall in fleet costs.

Start with a snowball, end with an avalanche

Van Houtte BC reduced paper consumption by 25% and eliminated 50,000 envelopes by switching to e-statements rather than mailing out hard copies. They also started purchasing 100% post-consumer paper, recycled printer cartridges and switched from a traditional courier to a greener hybrid courier fleet.

Van Houtte recently added composting to their recycling efforts and installed a baler to compress their cardboard. What once required daily pick-up is now in a high compact pile and picked-up monthly, which reduces hauler fees.

Picking the Low-Hanging Fruit

I really don’t like the expression, low-hanging fruit. It’s a clique and over-used in sustainability, but illustrates how it is best to start with small projects, get traction and then move on to taking deeper impacts.

From a fruit grower’s perspective it makes sense to pick the lowest hanging fruit last!

The fact is, if you actually grow fruit, you’d probably start picking at the highest part of the tree, since that is where the fruit is the sweetest and ripest.

By focusing on costs and easy wins first, company culture begins to change and sustainable actions become the default mode instead the “alternative” way of doing business. What Climate Smart has been able to do in a short period of time is create a bunch of raving fans.

Climate Smart lets it’s clients do the talking. They create raving fans so that other potential clients witness how going green ultimately saves money.

Some would say that’s how “conversion” process happens.

Are you a believer?

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.