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Climate Smart helps 775 companies find the business case for energy efficiency

Image of carbon emissions message written on chalkboard
Climate Smart helps businesses make the case for energy efficiency, and most importantly, help quantify how businesses are making a difference and contributing to the environment.

Companies collectively manage CO2 emissions by one million tonnes annually

Since its launch six years ago, B.C.'s homegrown carbon-cutting consultancy, Climate Smart, has stuck with a simple concept: make it easy, and they will come.

"It was always the idea that reducing carbon emissions could be affordable but rigorous, and that we could build internal skill sets for employees in different areas of an organization, as opposed to people having a 'sustainability' job title," says president Elizabeth Sheehan.

Climate Smart focused on the small and medium-sized business sector, recognizing its potential for making a contribution on climate change — if technical and financial barriers could be reduced.

Today, the social enterprise counts 775 companies as its clients. Combined, those businesses have managed about one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the amount of greenhouse gas that would be released if all the cars in Canada sat idling for 12 hours straight.

Case studies from a sample of just 40 Climate Smart businesses show a total annual cost savings of $1 million and 5,000 tonnes reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, Climate Smart companies consistently report significant returns in terms of staff engagement and reduced turnover related to their sustainability initiatives.

Companies take action with Power Smart incentives built in to training and coaching

Climate Smart's basic formula combines 12 hours of classroom training for staff, a user-friendly software platform for tracking carbon emissions, and follow-up coaching to answer questions and help problem-solve.

The goal is "measure, reduce, leverage": help companies assess their CO2 emissions, implement the best ways to reduce them, and then capture the value from having taken action.

"It's the 'what gets measured gets managed' idea," says Sheehan. "We provide the means for businesses to see, quickly and efficiently, where their greenhouse gas impact is. We lead with the business case for taking action — operational efficiencies, lighting retrofits, a shift in culture. Then we follow with the environmental benefits."

Climate Smart has partnered with BC Hydro to ensure Power Smart incentives for small and medium-sized business are part of the training and coaching discussion.

While there are minimal carbon emissions savings associated with trimming usage of BC Hydro's hydroelectric-based power, Sheehan says electricity reduction is one of the top two or three areas businesses choose to focus on first.

"It's because it's where behaviour change is really easy and visible to employees," she says. "And because it's a great cost savings."

Peer learning and competition create progress

Climate Smart has identified three things that work best for the small and medium-sized businesses they target:

  • Peer learning
  • The ability to apply international carbon accounting standards in an easy format
  • The ability to make progress visible to employees.

And they've had interesting results that weren't planned. "We've enjoyed hearing how much peers are learning from each other," says Sheehan. One company tested a cardboard compactor to reduce transportation costs, and "the idea spread like wildfire" says Sheehan.

Another is sharing the cost-savings from energy reductions with the staff who help make them happen (Read case studies here.)

Now, Climate Smart has started to target specific sectors, such as construction, in order to build the learning and results about emissions reductions in specialized circumstances. The enterprise is also seeking ways to work across supply chains, or with business communities such as boards of trade, to aggregate impact and improve peer learning.

It also injects a dose of friendly competition.

"For example, telling a company that 'your peers in construction are achieving on average around $50,000 a year in savings by going through Climate Smart,'" says Sheehan. "Here's where you stand on emissions compared to them."

Climate Smart has helped prove there's a business case for efficiency for businesses of all sizes. Perhaps more importantly, it has demonstrated that businesses are willing to play a role in making change.

"I always think about the quote we had from one company," says Sheehan. "They said, 'Thanks for helping us quantify how we're making a difference, and contributing on the environment.'"

Check upcoming Climate Smart training dates.