Sustainability Steps for Organizations
Whether you’re in a small family business or large corporation, a charitable non-profit or public body, your workplace is a pivotal place to show sustainability leadership and build commitment.
All sectors can make a difference, by how you produce and deliver goods and services, manage workflow, operate work sites, and support employees and the community.
Here are some ideas for organizations.
Aboriginal & Non-Aboriginal Relations | Agriculture & Food | Air Quality | Biodiversity, Fish & Fisheries | Business & Sustainability | Climate Change & Energy | Community Engagement | Consumption & Waste | Economy, Income & Employment | Education | Forests & Forestry | Health | Housing | Population | Water Quality & Quantity
Aboriginal & Non-Aboriginal Relations
Build Stronger Relationships
- Governments, businesses and non-profit organizations can support good relationships between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal communities. Learn more about current issues through the First Nations Summit (www.fns.bc.ca), Union of BC Indian Chiefs (www.ubcic.bc.ca), BC Assembly of First Nations (www.bcafn.ca), Métis Nation British Columbia (www.mpcbc.bc.ca), Union of BC Municipalities (www.civicnet.bc.ca), BC Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation (www.gov.bc.ca/arr) and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (www.ainc-inac.gc.ca).
- Consider formal and informal agreements, such as protocols and Memorandums of Understanding, to improve communication, information-sharing, joint planning, co-management, shared decision-making and shared services between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal entities. Explore opportunities for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal business owners and communities to work together on business ventures.
Agriculture & Food
Support BC Food Production
- Buy local food for meetings and events whenever you can – it’s a good way to support local agriculture and to cut related transportation costs.
- Municipalities can prepare Agricultural Area Plans and identify and plan for agricultural lands and food production within Official Community Plans. Many other local government policies and practices can support farmers and farmlands. Steps include:
- maintain “A1” zoning to support agricultural production rather than allowing rural residential, commercial or industrial uses, which can alienate farmland
- avoid indirect signals about future urban development on farmlands, such as rezoning lands in the ALR for other uses or allowing subdivision roads to extend into a farm field
- use “edge-planning” at the urban-rural fringe to prevent conflicts between farmers and adjacent urban dwellings.
- Municipalities can enhance local food production and community involvement by creating community garden space on municipal land and encouraging businesses and schools to allocate space and volunteers for community gardens.
- Farm operators can adopt and implement Environmental Farm Plans and manage their land in a way that supports ecosystem health. Starting in 2012, more funding is available per project for most beneficial management practice categories, and there’s an option to submit group applications. You’ll find details on the Ardcorp website.
- Another way for producers to demonstrate a commitment to specific agricultural practices is by obtaining certification, such as that offered through the Certified Organic Associations of BC and Salmon Safe BC.
- Governments can continue air quality monitoring and reporting initiatives such as the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network, the National Pollutant Release Inventory and the Air Quality Health Index.
- Public and private sectors can also support innovation, development and use of cleaner technologies to minimize air pollution.
- Communities can develop Airshed Management Plans and encourage local roundtables (such as PGAIR). http://www.bcairquality.ca/readings/index.html
- The BC Air Quality Health Index reports on the health risks posed by a mixture of pollutants. It offers rating for 14 communities — throughout Metro Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley, as well as in Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Vernon, Victoria and the South Okanagan. Visit www.bcairquality.ca/readings/index.html.
Biodiversity, Fish & Fisheries
Environmental Stewards Needed
- Farm operators and ranchers can make a positive impact by managing land in a way that supports and enhances biodiversity. A planning guide, produced by the BC Agriculture Council, is available at www.bcac.bc.ca.
- Public and private organizations can partner with groups that focus on enhancing biodiversity and wildlife habitat on private and public land, such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Land Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited.
- Local government can make a difference in the health of waterways through plans for liquid waste management and reduction of stormwater runoff.
- Both the public and private sector can support campaigns to foster sustainable behaviour, such as water conservation through rain barrels and low-flow appliances; limits on vehicle idling; a switch to clean-burning stoves and woodburners; and creation of wildlife habitat by conserving corridors, avoiding invasive plant species in favour of native trees, shrubs and flowers; and restoring riparian areas.
- Private businesses, such as tourism operators, can follow best practices to minimize their impact on biodiversity, habitat and wildlife. Visit the BC Wilderness Tourism Association to learn more.
Business & Sustainability
- Here’s something every organization wants to do: buy smart! But think beyond price to long-lasting goods that are extracted/harvested, manufactured and can be disposed of in an environmentally sustainable way. Also look at suppliers that deliver benefits to the community. The BuySmart Network is a good place for information and training on sustainable purchasing.
- For other ideas on greening your workplace, also check out David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge at Work: www.davidsuzuki.org.
Climate Change & Energy
Become Power Smart, Climate Neutral
- When it comes to saving electricity, consider BC Hydro’s Power Smart incentives for businesses.
- Do you operate a fleet of vehicles? You can cut energy consumption and emissions through more efficient fleet management practices – including the vehicles you purchase, vehicle maintenance, route planning and driver training. Visit the E3 Fleet website to learn about fleet review and rating services and about green fleet technologies.
- Community leaders can set a framework for the future by doing climate change vulnerability assessments and both mitigation and adaptation strategies. Here are two sites tailored with communities in mind: Climate Action Toolkit (mitigation) and ReTooling for Climate Change (adaptation tools).
- Governments and employers in all sectors can provide incentives, facilities and infrastructure to encourage people to walk, cycle, carpool, or take public transit, instead of driving alone to work. Employees can also be encouraged to participate in sustainable transportation events such as Bike to Work Week or the Commuter Challenge.
- Local governments can make a big impact by adopting green building guidelines for businesses and zoning bylaws that promote dense, mixed use development in their community.
Volunteer or Donate
- Offer your employees opportunities to volunteer for a worthy cause and help others in the community. Connect with your local volunteer centre through Volunteer BC.
- Another option is to make corporate donations or match employee donations to community development projects. Look too at supporting employee participation in community fundraising and awareness events such as the Terry Fox Run or the Weekend to End Breast Cancer.
Consumption & Waste
Use Resources Wisely
- The three Rs still make good sense, especially in the workplace! To reduce, reuse and recycle, see the Recycling Council of BC and BC Industrial Materials Exchange. To learn about products covered by industry stewardship for recycling and disposal, visit www.productcare.org program and www.esabc.ca.
- Businesses and industries can make a big impact by choosing the most efficient use of resources in production (for example, water, wood, paper and energy). If you’re looking for ways to save, consider a waste assessment in your organization. This can sum up the weight, volume and types of waste materials generated and identify options for change.
- Every office can reduce paper waste by printing documents only when necessary and on both sides of the paper. Where possible, re-use paper that has been printed on only one side, and recycle paper, cardboard and newsprint when it is no longer needed.
- Communities can support local businesses during Waste Reduction Week (third week of October). When it comes to biodegradable waste going to the landfill, municipalities can initiate or support community composting programs.
Economy, Income & Employment
Support People and Communities
- Consider initiatives such as job-sharing, cooperative enterprises, peer lending groups and entrepreneurship training to see how they can support employees with family care responsibilities or other needs or those in different stages of their career.
- Governments and community organizations can implement policies and programs for reducing poverty and providing affordable housing, childcare and other social services to people on reduced incomes.
- Explore how you can offer employees a living wage and benefits to help them meet the costs of living. A number of organizations, such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, have calculated a living wage for some communities: www.policyalternatives.ca. Governments can ensure that their policies and taxes do not disproportionately burden low-income households.
Hands Up for Lifelong Learning
- The BC Network for Sustainability Education offers an online meeting space so educators can learn from each other: www.walkingthetalk.bc.ca.
- Help employees pursue lifelong learning by giving them time and opportunities for professional development.
- Lend a hand to those coming into the workforce by offering them valuable work experience. Explore work programs for youth interns, recent graduates, new immigrants, persons with disabilities and unemployed people in the community.
Forests & Forestry
Support Sustainable Forestry
- Forest companies can incorporate local interests and issues into their forest planning and management by working with community advisory committees.
- Both forest companies and certification bodies for forest products can continue to implement rigorous monitoring, evaluation and reporting procedures for forest planning and management.
Clear a Path to Healthy Living
- Schools can help promote healthy living for kids through the many resources offered by Action Schools. Take a look: www.actionschoolsbc.ca.
Raise the Roof
- Local governments can develop land use plans and development policies to create a diverse mix of housing options, and can provide developers with incentives for incorporating affordable housing units into new developments.
- Federal and provincial governments can help communities develop affordable housing options.
- If you’re a developer, make green housing choices part of your service. Take time to show the value of energy efficiency in enhancing home value over time, especially in the face of rising energy costs. For more, see www.builtgreencanada.ca.
Population and Land Use
- FBC’s Smart Planning for Communities program is helping local and First Nations governments strengthen the social, economic and environmental fabric of their communities by incorporating sustainability principles and practices into their planning processes. See the services and resources on offer with Smart Planning!
- Communities and developers can learn how to implement principles and practices to help communities prepare sustainable neighbourhood plans that include land use, transportation, urban design and building design plans. Start your research on our Smart Planning for Communities pages.
- Communities can embrace sustainability by creating planning timelines that extend beyond a generation (e.g., 100-year plans) and embed sustainability principles and actions in all guiding documents and decision-making processes.
Water Quality & Quantity
Live Water Smart
- Governments can work on collaborative processes, ground water regulation, liquid waste management plans, water conservation programs for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural water use, educational materials, incentives and rebates for water-saving devices, and water meters.
- Check out two helpful web resources: the FBC guide Rethinking our Water Ways, and the Water Bucket BC to learn more.
- All sectors can become more water wise. Farms, for example, can boost the health of a watershed by adopting efficient irrigation practices. Visit www.irrigationbc.com to access irrigation calculators and guides to help farmers optimize water use based on local and seasonal conditions. Also visit www.farmwest.com to tap into helpful data from a network of climate stations across BC.
These steps for sustainability are drawn from FBC’s 2009 and 2010 Sustainability Snapshot reports, with updates.