Toronto aims for Canada’s greenest employer award


Wed., July 19, 2017

City would join Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa in winners’ circle

The City of Toronto has given itself three years to make the cut as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers, part of its newly passed climate change strategy, TransformTO.

“We, as a large operation, need to, kind of, be the first out of the gate,” said Linda Swanston, a project lead with the city’s Environment and Energy division.

“It’s absolutely critical if we’re going to be trying to catalyze a community wide movement.”

It is not yet clear however if the council will commit the recommended funding to implement TransformTO initiatives, which could stymie the city’s progress.

“Our ability to achieve the goals set out in TransformTO is dependent on resources being allocated as identified in the TransformTO report,” Swanston said.

By greening its operations, the City of Toronto, which accounts for six per cent of all emissions in the city, is aiming to inspire other local companies to follow suit.

Aiming to be one of Canada’s Greenest Employers is a “laudible” goal, said Mark Winfield, a York University professor who studies energy efficiency.

“It’s a good way of raising environmental awareness inside the company or the organization,” he said.

“Environmental issues have been a little late to come to (Mayor) John Tory’s agenda, although he seems to be coming more engaged with climate change lately.”

But knowing what the award means in practice requires a close examination of its criteria. There isn’t one agreed upon standard for the “greenest employer,” he said.

The green competition is an add-on to Canada’s Top 100 Employers, run by Mediacorp Canada Inc. explained Richard Yerema, Mediacorp’s managing editor.

About 300 organizations apply for the green competition each year alongside their top 100 applications. In 2017, 70 made the cut.

While, the City of Toronto made the list for the top 100 employers overall and the list of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in 2017, it hasn’t applied for the greenest employers contest in recent years, Swanston said.

Mediacorp bases its green competition on four criteria: unique environmental initiatives and programs a company or organization has developed; how successful the employer has been in reducing its own environmental footprint; how involved employees are in these programs; and how linked those initiatives are to the public identity.

They do ask about greenhouse gas emissions goals, but their focus is on the organization’s policy approach, rather than their concrete environmental achievements, Yerema said.

Municipalities have a “special role to play” in environmental action, whether through recycling and compost programs, transportation planning, or building design, he said.

Calgary, which made Mediacorp’s list of Canada’s Greenest Employers this year alongside Vancouver and Ottawa, welcomes the new, “friendly” competition from Toronto, said Christopher Collier, the director of Environment and Safety Management with the City of Calgary.

“It’s a prestigious award – it’s something that’s difficult to earn and we’re very proud that we’ve been able to do that,” he said.

His city was recognized for its long-term focus and its consideration of environmental impacts in infrastructure, transportation and development planning. As well as its water conservation strategy which aims to cut water consumption by 30 per cent over 30 years, and its status as the first major city in Canada to adopt a sustainable building policy in 2004.

“We’ve had the good fortune of having really great political leadership in Calgary from his worship Mayor (Naheed) Nenshi down to the councillors,” Collier said.

“They’ve always been very supportive and they’ve championed environment and they have done for years and years, which might surprise folks coming from outside of Calgary that the oil and gas town is actually very progressive when it comes to environment.”

Moving forward TransformTO outlines a host of new initiatives and plans to enhance programs already in place, with a goal to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in a way that promotes healthy, equitable community development. The city, which aims to reduce emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 and 65 per cent reductions by 2030, isn’t starting from scratch.