Planet Wise Business Guide for Climate Action

Planet Wise Business Guide for Climate Action

The climate crisis is affecting everyone. More and more businesses want to do their part in addressing the crisis – and Canadians are increasingly expecting this from businesses. How can you be part of the solution?

Welcome to Vancity’s Planet-Wise Business Guide for Climate Action. The aim of this guide is to help your business respond to the climate crisis by taking actions that reduce, or avoid generating, greenhouse gas emissions.

Together, we’re on a journey to net-zero –and if you don’t know what that means yet, don’t worry, we’ll explain it.

Take action with Vancity

We want to encourage the businesses we work with to also take meaningful climate action. But we also know that, to achieve our goal of reducing the emissions we finance, we need to help our business members reduce their emissions so we’re making it easier for you to do so:

Get Planet Wise Business loans Get Climate Smart training and scholarships

Why is climate action important for businesses?

Climate action reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) –the gases and pollutants, like carbon, that are warming our planet and impacting everyone here at home and around the world. Reducing GhGs lessens the effects of climate change on people, the planet, our economy, our homes, and businesses. It can cut costs and enhance business success in other ways. And it’s what many customers expect from those they do business with.

Businesses – large and small – are strengthening their competitiveness and improving their bottom-line by finding ways to reduce their greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions. They are responding to customer expectations, costs associated with energy and carbon taxes, long-term risk exposure, climate-related supply-chain disruptions, and opportunities for leadership and innovation.

Vancity’s own climate action is rooted in our goal to be a financial force for change. We were the first financial institution in North America to become carbon neutral in our operations. Recognizing the climate emergency, we set a goal to be net-zero by 2040. This will mean that the emissions from anything we finance will be eliminated or significantly reduced, and any remaining emissions will be brought to net-zero.

What’s driving businesses to take climate action?

Here’s what we’ve heard from businesses about why climate action makes sense:

Cut costs & increase efficiencies

Climate action can generate operating efficiencies and cut your organization’s costs. For example, increasing the energy-efficiency of buildings and business operations is one of the most common ways companies shrink their GhG emissions, but also generates savings on your electricity bill that can be quite significant. Reducing solid waste or excess consumption of paper or other materials can also help businesses save money while reducing GhG emissions.

Get ahead of regulations and access support

Governments are leveraging regulations and other tools to help reduce GhG emissions from the business sector. BC’s carbon tax aims to encourage emissions reductions or a switch to low carbon technologies and equipment, such as electric vehicles. Regionally, bans on organic waste in the landfill and recycling requirements are reducing GhG emissions associated with waste.

Businesses can respond to taxes and regulations by seeing them as drivers for change. Others take advantage of federal, provincial, and utility-company rebates to support building energy-efficiency upgrades, or incentives for efficient or low-carbon vehicles and equipment. (For links to some rebates and incentives, see Where to get more information and support below.)

Leverage climate action to drive value creation

Businesses get ahead by changing and innovating, and climate action can be a driver for this too. How can your climate action generate greater business success? One approach is to introduce new low-carbon products or services. For example, Hemlock Printers offers their Carbon Neutral Printing options to attract customers who care about climate action and want to do business with companies that care about climate action too. SPUD, an organic grocery delivery service, tags products with a “local” label. This gives their customers the option of choosing groceries that haven’t travelled so far—thereby avoiding GhG emissions associated with product shipping.

Engage your employees & attract great ones

Is finding and keeping great employees one of your biggest challenges? In a recent study of office workers, almost two-thirds (65%) of the respondents said that they were more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies, and 83% said they wanted to see their company commit to great climate action. In particular, Millennials and Gen-Z workers claim they want to work for employers that model strong environmental values.

This means that climate action and leadership can help you attract and retain good employees. By taking action on climate—businesses tell us—you create a sense of pride in the company, which translates into employee loyalty and productivity.

Attract customers that share your values

A growing number of customers expect more than just good quality products and services. They want their purchasing dollars to go to companies that are making efforts to reduce their GHG emissions . A 2019 survey by IPSOS found that 69% of consumers worldwide have changed the products or services they use out of concerns about climate change. Canadian surveys over the last two years have consistently found high numbers of Canadians – 73% in a proprietary 2020 survey Vancity conducted – saying that a business’ climate record matters to them when making a purchase.  

Demonstrating your commitment to climate action and making it part of your company’s brand and reputation can help you attract these customers or clients.

Case study

505-Junk is a local company specializing in junk removal for residential, construction and commercial clients in Metro Vancouver. Owners Barry Hartman and Scott Foran wanted to reduce their GhG emissions, reduce costs and increase productivity.

Results

  • Became Climate Smart certified and increased their margin over 15%
  • Cut emissions by 50% per vehicle km by replacing inefficient trucks and optimizing routes.
  • Additional benefits of attracting clients who appreciate their commitment to maximizing waste diversion, and taking climate action by reducing their GhG emissions.

When they responded to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for services to one of Canada’s largest Property Management companies, 505 learned they won the contract because the company gave preference to businesses that measure and reduce their GhG emissions.

Get Climate Smart training and scholarships

 

Build on other sustainability commitments

Many businesses have other social and environmental sustainability commitments. Some focus on reducing waste and plastics consumption; some install solar to generate renewable energy, or demonstrate environmental leadership in others ways. Some companies support other local businesses and suppliers to strengthen the local economy; others focus on caring for the well-being of their customers, neighbours or our global community. Climate action reinforces these and many other sustainability commitments.



Saving over $100,000 in fuel costs

Vancity business member, Platinum Pro-Claim Restoration signed up for Climate Smart training using a $1000 scholarship from Vancity and learned how to reduce their emissions, obtain funding and get cost-savings.

Between 2016 and 2020, this property restoration company tapped into government incentives to begin converting their sales fleet to electric vehicles. Here's what they accomplished:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 25% per $1000 revenue
  • Saved $118,375 in fuel costs
  • Saved $100/month per vehicle in repairs & maintenance.
Get Climate Smart training and scholarships

How can my business take action?

There are so many ways for you to shrink your organization’s GhG emissions. Some are relevant to all businesses and industry sectors; some are not. Some require a budget, and some require your company to make changes to your policies and procedures, or to encourage your employees to help make change happen.

Here’s a check list of opportunities to get you started:

Buildings – heat & electricity

  • Check thermostat settings and turn them down when no-one’s at work. Consider smart thermostats and sensors for lighting too.
  • Is your building well-insulated? –Install (or increase) insulation in your walls and ceilings, and around your pipes and water heater –or at least install weatherstripping around doors and windows.
  • Close the doors and windows of your business. These can be a big source of heat loss.
  • Do you have big bay doors? If you have a warehouse, commercial or industrial facility with large doors that are open a lot (typically loading bays) consider air curtains to prevent heat loss which can be expensive. Check out FortisBC’s air curtain rebates.
  • Do you have a restaurant or a food processing company? Upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment like better refrigeration can help reduce your electricity costs. Changing your lighting will also reduce the heat the lights give off (which makes your coolers work harder). BC Hydro offers rebates for energy-efficient equipment upgrades.
  • Upgrade to more energy-efficient lighting, boilers for water and space heating, or other heating and ventilation equipment. Or consider radiant heaters if you have big warehouse spaces.

Equipment & machinery

  • Regular maintenance …and can you turn it off when you don’t need it?
  • Office equipment such as computers, printers and copiers can be set to go into sleep mode or turn off when idle.
  • Is there more energy-efficient equipment or machinery that doesn’t use so much fuel or electricity? What equipment options will reduce your GHG emissions and your utility bills?
  • Look for government and BC Hydro incentives for fuel-switching. That's when you switch your vehicles and other equipment, and/or your building heat, to electricity. This is an effective way to lower your GhG emissions – and may save you money since BC’s hydro-generated electricity is among the cleanest and cheapest in Canada.

Case study

Colortec is a family-run printing business in Burnaby, that achieved deep cuts to their carbon emissions by upgrading equipment. These upgrades resulted in a 65% reduction in natural gas consumption and 46% reduction in electricity.

  • Upgraded to an energy-efficient LED UV digital printing press
  • Retired an old inefficient natural gas-powered dryer
  • Switched a propane forklift to electric
  • Efficient fleet management – using the right sized vehicles for the job
  • Replaced shop lighting with energy-efficient LEDs
  • Switched from paper to electronic invoicing

We've made upgrading your equipment affordable with preferred interest rates when you choose solutions that cut emissions.

See Planet Wise Business loans

 

Transportation – products and goods

  • Good planning and policies can reduce GhG emissions associated with shipping (inbound and outbound). How frequently do you need those office supplies? Do you need all that inventory? Can you reduce the number or frequency of weekly or monthly shipments?
  • Route management software can free up time and reduce fuel costs. These can save your company money while cutting your carbon emissions. There are lots of options available so understanding your needs in terms of cost and functionality will help you make a selection.
  • Consider low carbon options. Can you ship by rail or sea? Ask your shipper about those options and look for “green” shipping and courier companies.
  • Can you buy locally to reduce the distance your supplies travel?

Transportation – people

  • The COVID pandemic taught us that we don’t need to jump on a plane or into a car to have that business meeting. Consider when is it really necessary for business travel?
  • If you have a company fleet of cars –can you convert to electric vehicle (EV) or hybrid? If your sales team use their own cars, can you incent them to convert? Plug In BC offers rebates on EVs and EV chargers.
  • Can you incent or support your employees to walk, cycle, carpool or take transit to and from work? Secure bike storage, showers and change facilities, discounts on transit passes and carpool matching services are some of the ways businesses are cutting carbon from their employees’ commutes.
  • If you have other service or delivery vehicles –can you downsize to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles?
  • Driver training can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15% for smaller vehicles and 35% for larger trucks and buses. SmartDriver training is one support that trains employees to drive in a more fuel-efficient and safe way.
  • Can you incent or support your employees to walk, cycle, carpool or take transit to and from work? Secure bike storage, showers and change facilities, discounts on transit passes and carpool matching services are some of the ways businesses are cutting carbon from their employees’ commutes.

Waste

  • Have clear labels to support staff with recycling efforts.
  • Talk to your suppliers –do we need all that packaging? Is it recyclable?
  • If you’re a restaurant, food processor, manufacturer or other maker –can you do an audit of your production processes and procedures to find ways to reduce waste, offcuts, or over-production?
  • How can employees help reduce waste? Encourage them to use reusable cups, eliminate single-use bottled water at the office (use filtered- or tap-water instead) and support your staff in doing so.

Paper

  • Can you find ways to go paper free for meetings and inter-office communications?
  • Paperless invoicing, and other customer communications can save you money in paper, envelopes and postage.
  • What about your marketing and promotions –will digital advertising and promotions or e-newsletters to your customers work just as well (or better) than paper?
  • If you do use paper, choose 100% post-consumer recycled paper and print on both sides when you can.

Other considerations

  • Are there rebates, incentives or other supports available for these changes? See resources.
  • Will it increase our productivity?
  • How can we get our employees involved?
  • Can we create opportunities for customer engagement …or new products or services?
  • What’s stopping us from doing this?

Measuring & planning

  • If you want to get serious about GhG management, you may want to compile information on your fuel consumption and other data so you can measure your GhG emissions. Repeat this measurement at least annually.
  • Measuring your GhG emissions will guide your planning for what actions to take. Best practices in carbon management dictate that you should take action to reduce your largest sources of emissions.
  • The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard is the most common standard used by small, medium, large and multi-national companies around the world to guide what and how to measure corporate GhG emissions. It helps you determine your largest (and other significant) emissions sources.
  • Measuring your carbon footprint takes time and commitment—but it gives you a clear picture of your GhG emissions, and helps you make good decisions about reduction opportunities.
  • If this all sounds complicated, there are resources and support to help you.

As Vancity business members, you can get scholarships for training to learn to measure and reduce your GhG emissions according to the GHG Corporate Accounting Standard. You’ll get access to a GhG data and management tool, and expert guidance to develop your GhG emissions reduction plan.

Get $1000 scholarships for Climate Smart training


Restaurant emissions reduced by 30%

Forage restaurant reduced its GhG emissions by 30% through equipment upgrades, and established policies and training for zero waste operations.

  • Zero waste food & other purchasing policies—tracking customer demand, attention to inventory & avoiding packaging
  • Zero waste training (and re-training) for employees
  • Delivery partners use reusable containers
  • Giving customers options to reduce waste such as on-tap wine and beer options

We've made upgrading your equipment affordable with preferred interest rates when you choose solutions that cut emissions.

See Planet Wise Business loans

Next Steps

So far, we’ve explained how you can start identifying areas for climate action that lead to reduced GhGs. The next steps of your climate action journey may include setting a net-zero target. There are many resources available from Vancity and our partners to help you reach your goals.

Beyond reductions: Net-zero – what does it mean & how do I get there?

Companies, countries (including Canada), and cities around the world are setting targets to achieve net-zero. This means they will continuously work to reduce GhG emissions as much as possible, and then they will find ways to offset or balance out their remaining emissions so that their net measured carbon impact is zero.

Prioritize GhG reductions –before you purchase offsets.

For many businesses, getting to zero will be challenging without purchasing carbon offsets (also called carbon credits). Carbon offsets are reductions in GhG emissions that are achieved outside your business –and each year you purchase ownership of those GhG reductions. (See carbon offset definition in Glossary.)

Net-zero is a tall task for many businesses, and the devil is in the details. What are you including in your measurement –your largest and most significant emissions sources? Are you prioritizing reductions before you purchase offsets?

Financing and training supports

Vancity’s here to help you take climate action. Check out these Vancity resources:

Vancity’s community partners can also help: 

  • Get more local: LOCO BC.
  • Get Climate Smart – tools and training for GhG measurement, management and certification.

Rebates and other resources

Want to learn more about climate action for your business? Here are some resources:

  • Clean Energy BC provides information on a variety of programs, incentives and other support for energy-efficiency and low-carbon upgrades for your buildings, vehicles, and equipment –including advice on how to combine federal and provincial incentives. Not-so-hot tip: check for updates because sometimes government incentives come and go.
  • Climate Smart Case Studies: Want more ideas and inspiration for climate action? Check out case studies of what SMEs around BC and other parts of Canada are achieving.
  • Guide to Greenhouse Gas Management for Small Business: This US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) publication provides detailed guidance for small businesses to learn how to do your own GhG inventory –how and what to measure, and how to collect data. It doesn’t guide you in how to achieve GhG reductions.
  • Energy-saving support for small businesses: Does your business use natural gas for heating or production or manufacturing equipment? Fortis BC provides energy-saving tips for business and for specific industry sectors, such as restaurants and manufacturers. You can also get free 1:1 advice from GreenStep Solutions, and information about rebates that can help you save energy, cut costs, and reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Electricity savings tips and rebate for businesses: BC Hydro Power Smart also offers rebates and tips on electricity savings related to lighting, and equipment such as pumps, compressors and refrigeration.
  • Plug In BC provides info on all the incentives available for purchase of electric vehicles (EVs) and EV chargers.
  • SmartDriver–the federal government provides free, practical training to truckers, school bus, and other professional drivers to help commercial and institutional fleets to lower their fuel consumption, operating costs and harmful vehicle emissions. Fleet energy-management training that helps truckers, transit operators, school bus and other professional drivers improve fuel efficiency by up to 35 percent. Driver training is also available from other providers.
  • SME Climate Hub: A global community of businesses committed to climate action, the SME Climate Hub provides tools and resources to help small-to-medium size enterprises reduce your carbon footprint.

 

Glossary of climate related terms

Carbon: A short-cut for “carbon dioxide” (CO2) – which is, by far, the most common of all the greenhouse gases. In fact, we often talk about carbon when we really mean several different greenhouse gases.

Carbon dioxide (C02): The most common of the seven heat-trapping (greenhouse) gases. CO2 is released through human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, as well as natural processes such as volcanic eruptions.

Carbon footprint: A measure of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted by your business activities. Your footprint is measured in tonnes of C02e (see below).

Carbon intensity: The rate of GhG emissions relative to another activity, such as revenue generated, or greenhouse gas emissions per square metre of a building, or per unit of production. It’s important to reduce carbon intensity and to reduce the total amount of GhGs generated by your business.

Carbon negative: Means the same as “climate positive” i.e., activities that go beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions, by removing additional greenhouse gases (GhGs) from the atmosphere.

Carbon neutral: Any greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from a company’s activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed by another business, organization or project. Typically, businesses cannot achieve carbon neutrality without purchasing carbon offsets (see below).

Carbon offsets (also called carbon credits): Reductions or capture of GhG emissions from projects that a third party quantifies and bundles for sale. Carbon offsets are sold to companies to compensate for emissions that businesses are unable to reduce. Each carbon offset is a transferrable instrument certified by governments or independent certification bodies and represents an emissions reduction of one metric tonne of CO2e.

Carbon sequestration: A natural or technical process that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it in solid or liquid form. Forests, bogs, and other vegetation (called nature-based solutions) can sequester (absorb and store) carbon emissions, and innovative technologies are being developed to capture and store greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Climate change: This is the long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns, especially the rise in global temperatures that began accelerating with the Industrial Revolution, as industry and other human activity is causing climate change. Climate change is resulting in extreme weather events and other impacts around the world.

Climate emergency: A situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental (and social and economic) damage resulting from it. In 2020, the United Nations Secretary General called on all national governments to declare a climate emergency and stay on an emergency footing until carbon neutrality is reached.

Climate adaptation: Adapting to climate change means taking action to prepare for and adjust to both the current effects of climate change and the predicted impacts in the future. While climate change is real and it is happening, there are lots of opportunities for businesses to mitigate (I.e., reduce GhG emissions) –not just adapt.

Climate positive: Means the same as “carbon negative” i.e., activities that go beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions, to create an environmental benefit by removing additional C02e from the atmosphere.

CO2e i.e., Carbon dioxide equivalent: The unit of measurement used to calculate GhG emissions. The “e” is for “equivalent” because there are actually 7 main greenhouse gases captured in measurement, but we calculate their equivalency to C02, and often just refer to them all as “carbon emissions” or “carbon footprint”, because carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the most common greenhouse gas.

Co-benefits: A term that refers to benefits that a business (or community) may generate at the same time as reducing GhG emissions. For example, reducing fuel consumption will reduce operating costs while reducing GhG emissions.

Decarbonize (decarbonization): Lowering the amount or intensity of greenhouse gas emissions that are generated by your business activities. Implementing changes or solutions that do not emit any (or as much) carbon (GhGs).

Fuel-switching: Fuel switching is the substitution of one energy source for another in order to meet requirements for heat, power, and/or electrical generation. In British Columbia, because our electricity supply is mostly hydro-electricity, this energy source generates much lower GhG emissions. So, fuel-switching from fossil fuels (gasoline, natural gas, oil, or diesel) to electricity energy supply is a great way to reduce GhG emissions. 

GhG emissions (or GHG emissions): This is the short form for “greenhouse gas” emissions. See definition of greenhouse gases below.

Global warming:  This refers to the impact of all the greenhouse gases being emitted into our atmosphere. Human activity is causing a net warming effect on our planet. Even if you have a cold winter or cold day, overall, the earth is warming, and the pace of warming has accelerated in the last 40 years.

Greenhouse gases (GhGs or GHGs): Carbon Dioxide, methane and 5 other main gases that cause the greenhouse gas effect. Carbon dioxide is by far the most prevalent GhG in the world. GhG emissions come from fossil fuels combustion in our vehicles, heating our homes and buildings with natural gas or oil, forests burning, waste decomposing, deforestation, and many other activities.

Greenhouse gas effect:  Like a greenhouse, i.e., greenhouse gases in our atmosphere let in the sun’s heat but trap some of this heat from escaping back out. The problem is that increasing GHGs are trapping too much of the sun’s heat –causing global warming. This is the greenhouse gas effect. [insert image/graphic?]

Emissions: The is the short-form way of referring to greenhouse gas emissions / GhGs.

Greenhouse gas mitigation:  Mitigation refers to GhG reductions. Any way you reduce your GhG emissions is mitigation.

Low-carbon: Equipment or processes that generate very few greenhouse gas emissions. E.g., a hybrid vehicle generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional car or truck that runs on gasoline or diesel.

Methane:  The second most common greenhouse gas in the world. Agricultural activities, livestock, burning fields and forests, and even the production of fossil fuels, generate methane emissions. It is one of the 7 main GhGs reported when you measure your emissions.

Mitigation: See Greenhouse gas mitigation –above. Mitigation refers to GhG reductions. Any way you reduce your GhG emissions is mitigation.

Net zero—or Net zero carbon:  Reducing GhG emissions and investing in solutions that bring the balance of your emissions to net zero. Once reductions have come as close to zero as possible, remaining solutions  may include carbon sequestration through forests or other nature-based solutions, and/or technologies that sequester (or trap) GHG emissions. Many businesses (and governments) are setting time-bound targets for net zero. E.g., Vancity is committed to Net Zero by 2040.

Renewable energy: Solar, wind, biofuels, and other sources of useful energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale. This type of energy source stands in contrast to fossil fuels (natural gas, oil, diesel, and gasoline); fossil fuels are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Sustainability: Balancing our business and economic needs with the wellbeing of people (society) and our planet (environment), so that we can support and sustain wellbeing for generations to come.

Tonnes of CO2e:  Your greenhouse gas emissions are usually calculated in tonnes. Smaller businesses may report kilograms (kg) of C02e (carbon dioxide equipment).