When the average person hears or reads something in the media about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climate change and carbon footprints, more often than not they’ll envision large-scale industries and billowing smokestacks spewing unknown horrors into the air.
“You tend to think that it’s a big-business issue,” says St. John’s Board of Trade chair Andrea Stack, “but small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a significant footprint that we also need to reduce.”
Each year, the 4,874 SMEs in the greater St. John’s area contribute 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from waste, electricity, fuel oil and transportation — with the latter two representing 75 per cent of projected emissions.
Moreover, the 770 businesses with more than 20 employees account for over 64 per cent of those emissions in the business community, and 65 per cent of the projected emissions are attributed to three sectors: construction, accommodation and food services, and retail trade.
Those figures and many more will soon be available through the St. John’s Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP), a comprehensive analysis of the GHG emissions produced and energy consumed by the SME community that was prepared for the board of trade by way of its spot as one of three Canadian chambers of commerce selected to take part in the Climate Smart Chambers pilot program. (Mississauga, Ont., and Victoria, B.C., are the others.)
The program is being administered by Climate Smart Businesses, Inc., a Vancouver-based certified B Corp that provides training and software to help SMEs measure carbon emissions and develop a reduction plan.
Since its inception in 2007, Climate Smart has worked with more than 40 host partners like the board of trade and close to 900 SMEs, training over 1,600 people. On average, firms that take part achieve an 11 per cent reduction in GHG emissions, which equates to an annual saving of $27,000.
As part of the program, the board will select 10 local SMEs to take advantage of a reduced rate for the official Climate Smart certification program, which involves training management and staff how to track energy, fuel and waste costs in a web-based software.
From there, the SMEs will be provided with an adviser who looks at the numbers critically and works with the firm to develop a tailored reduction plan.
“Our organization is set up to help business succeed, and while reducing a carbon footprint is important to the community and I think people are becoming more aware in general of that, this program is not just about cutting carbon, it’s about cutting costs as well,” says Stack.
“It ends up being a win-win because businesses are cutting costs as a result of this as well, so at the end of the day it’s not a tough decision. It’s the right thing environmentally and it’s the right thing for business from a cost perspective.”
It could also help endear green-minded customers and clients and create an awareness among the upcoming pool of employees, many of whom may be more inclined to work with businesses that share the same environmental values.
Stack says the board will look to establish a good cross-section of all sectors while making sure to include representation from the highest-emitting sectors.
A further 15 local SMEs will have the chance to participate in a special webinar training cohort, but the program itself is open any board member — they just won’t receive the discounted rate.
While some might suggest the same reduction tactics are available for free online, thereby eliminating the need to pay a third party for the same information, the board says Climate Smart’s approach is what lends value to the investment.
“If you’re going online and getting a checklist that says you need to turn off your lights, compost, anyone can do all this stuff,” says Rhonda Tulk-Lane, the board director of business solutions. “This is tailored to your business.”
Adds Stack, “They’ve got the program in place, they’ve got a great reputation and they’ve got the proven results.”
Existing board members interested in taking part can contact Tulk-Lane at the board of trade. For more information, visit stjohnsbot.ca and climatesmartbusiness.com.