Canada’s Green 30

Companies that integrate sustainability programs into their workplace culture win praise from their employees

Amber Bracken

Employees of the Edmonton software company Intuit (Photograph by Amber Bracken)

A few years ago, when accountant Darren Wood, 28, was considering a job at the Edmonton office of Intuit—a multinational company that makes software for tax and finance management—he asked a friend who worked there what it was like. There were standard questions, about salaries and workplace culture, but he also wanted to know about the company’s environmental footprint. “That was a pretty big decision point for me,” said Wood.

What appealed to him was the fact that Intuit’s environmental policies and programs were driven by employees. Six months after he started working there, he got involved with his local “green team,” a volunteer group that operates in each of Intuit’s offices; last year, he started leading the group. In that time, they’ve organized cleanups of river valley parkland; organized social gatherings where employees ride bikes to provide pedal-power for generators that run sound systems and smoothie blenders; joined up with a fruit-picking program; and participated in a community garden next to its new LEED-certified building, providing fruits and vegetables to a nearby low-income neighbourhood. The plan: to make sustainability fun, rather than an onerous task.

“Some of the other places where I’ve worked, it was very much dictated: ‘This is our green policy, this is what we’re doing, these are the recycling bins, use them.’ I think Intuit is different,” says Wood. “We’re not being told to volunteer at a community garden or promote local food. It’s very much employee-led, and it makes it more effective.”

Intuit has been named one of this year’s “Green 30”—a collection of Canadian businesses whose employees, according to consulting firm Aon Hewitt, are most positive about their record of environmental stewardship. But Intuit’s approach to sustainability also marks something of a shift in how companies are integrating green programs into their operations. Having them driven by employees and incorporated into the corporate culture—rather than dictated from on high in the boardroom and bolted on as an afterthought—makes green initiatives far more effective at achieving meaningful change.“If employees at relatively lower levels of the hierarchy see that it’s not just lip service, but real commitment on the part of the organization, there’s more of a sense they’re actually engaged in something meaningful as a collective,” says Steve Mannell, the director of Dalhousie University’s college of sustainability in Halifax. “Where it seems to not work is where a commitment to sustainability is imposed from above, as another apparently arbitrary administrative policy, and it doesn’t feel like it has any connection with the reality of the workplace.” Or, in some cases, he adds, it may even make their jobs harder, and that can generate dissatisfaction among employees. “If you’re doing the high-profile thing, but not doing the everyday things, there’s that cognitive disconnect,” he says.

So companies are working to do both. Cisco, for instance, set a corporate goal to trim air travel by two-thirds in the next five years, a practical, integrated initiative that feels more meaningful than just another recycling program. At LoyaltyOne, the company invested in electric vehicles for staff to make a dent in emissions.

Proper integration can be difficult for companies where sustainability isn’t their core business, but, if aligned with their corporate culture, it can still work, says Neil Crawford, a partner with Aon Hewitt. For instance, a company that pursues community engagement can take up green projects as part of its community-building efforts; a company committed to cutting costs can find savings in green initiatives. “You can do some basic things, but some of the things that have a greater impact are a little bit harder to do,” says Crawford. “It can’t just be stuck on at the end. It needs to be consistent with the company’s thinking.”

What do companies get out of it? Well, green initiatives save money, but they also help attract and retain talent. Wood, for instance, has now been at Intuit for nearly four years, and sees interest among his colleagues growing. “We’ve been getting great participation,” he says. “People are excited.”’



The Green 30 is based on how employees perceive their companies’ environmental efforts. We asked each organization that made this year’s list, compiled by Aon Hewitt, to highlight some of the key programs and achievements that earned them high marks.


Arrow Professional Services Inc.



• Limits carbon footprint by conducting Skype interviews with candidates to avoid transportation costs

• Reduces paper in the office, including having resumés emailed and scanned


Benefits By Design Inc.


Kingston, Ont.

• A volunteer day off included cleaning up the nearby Lake Ontario shoreline

• Office bicycles let staff run errands without the hassle of driving a car


The Berkeley Retirement residences


• In addition to five-stream recycling centres on each floor, staff and residents are educated annually on the dos and don’ts of recycling, while money from refundables is given to charity

• Energy consumption has been cut with the help of sensor light switches, low-flow toilets and efficient light bulbs


Brigil Real estate

Gatineau, Que.

• At a condo project under construction, the only trees cut in 14 hectares of forest are where the 12 towers will stand

• So employees don’t have to drive off-site for food, its headquarters has free coffee machines and a café serving breakfast and lunch


Builddirect technologies inc.

Home improvement retailer


• A member of the Canadian Green Building Council, it offers such green products as bamboo and cork flooring

• Its officers are close to public transit, and provide lockers and showers for cyclists


C.S.T. Consultants Inc.

Education savings plans


• Through measures including standardized printing, it saved the equivalent of 40 trees and nearly 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity last year

• Every Earth Day, the firm schedules a general office cleanup, complete with big recycling bins and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies


Chubb Insurance Co. of Canada



• A push for electronic broker policy documents has eliminated more than 50 per cent of print versions

• Virtual desktop infrastructure gives workers enhanced access to workspace from mobile devices, and allows more work-from-home options


Cisco Systems Canada Co.

Networking technology


• Instituted a goal in 2013 of eliminating two-thirds of business travel in five years

• Recycling and take-back programs provide customers with no-cost ways to manage their electronic waste


College of Applied Arts and Technology Pension Plan

Pension management


• An employee-run green committee organizes events, such as participation in the local Clean Toronto Together campaign

• Promotes responsible investing by encouraging businesses to disclose statistics on carbon emissions and water management


The Co-operators Group Ltd.

Insurance and financial services

Guelph, Ont.

• A partnership with Bullfrog Power (a 100 per cent green energy provider) will help it achieve a 50 per cent carbon reduction target

• To spread understanding about the firm’s sustainability strategy, an online learning program was created for workers


Farm Credit Canada

Financial services


• A group of employees called the Green Champions act as environmental ambassadors by organizing initiatives such as garbage cleanups and a recycling program for pens and batteries

• To make sure offices are running efficiently, the Crown corporation performs energy audits on their most energy-intense buildings

G. Adventures has a program to help farmers in Guatemala convert to organic agriculture

G. Adventures has a program to help farmers in Guatemala convert to organic agriculture

G Adventures



• It subsidizes public transit passes and offers free bicycle tune-ups to encourage alternative ways of commuting

• The head office is Bullfrog-powered and uses as many fully green products as possible, including soap and cleaners


Gibraltar Solutions Inc.

Cloud and virtualization technology

Mississauga, Ont.

• At some point in the year, 95 per cent of employees work from home, thus reducing carbon emissions

• Common-sense green office policies include printing on both sides of the paper and having the last person leaving a room turn off the lights


Rick Martin, Habanero Consulting Group partner, offering free bike repairs to the officeÕs neighbours and passers-by during the VancouverÕs Bike to Work Week.

Rick Martin, Habanero Consulting Group partner, offering free bike repairs during Vancouver’s Bike to Work Week.

Habanero Consulting Group

IT consulting


• Office locations are chosen to be close to major transit; the firm uses a car-share service when needed for work duties

• Employees and their partners in Vancouver provide free bike tune-ups to the public during the city’s Bike to Work Week


Intuit Canada

Tax and financial software

Mississauga, Ont.

• An employee carnival was powered entirely by people taking turns pedalling on bike generators

• The firm sponsors lunches to showcase small local farmers, food manufacturers and caterers



Retail management software


• An employee-founded and -led green team initiates programs such as energy conservation and recycling

• Workers have adopted a park behind its office in Regina and will be responsible for its upkeep, as well as use its recreational facilities


Island Savings Credit Union

Financial services

Duncan, B.C.

• Last year, Island Savings moved to secure, paperless e-statements to reduce impact on the environment

• When its flagship branch in Duncan relocated across town, the firm created a multi-purpose green space where the former branch stood


Klick Inc.

Digital health marketing


• Living-wall plants cover two structural columns in the reception area, providing unexpected nature in an interior space

• The wellness centre’s showers are used by employees who cycle to work


La Capitale Financial Group

Insurance and financial services

Quebec City

• To promote alternative modes of transportation, the building has interior bicycle racks, showers, changing rooms, as well as electric-car charging stations

• Offices are flooded with natural light and boast views of the historic city

Customer Care Centre Interior - This is a sample of the interior office of LoyaltyOne's double LEED Gold office building.  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an internationally recognized green building standard of excellence.

LoyaltyOne: Most employees work in energy- and water-efficient LEED-certified offices. (Richard Johnson)

LoyaltyOne Co.



• More than 80 per cent of employees now work in LEED-certified offices, thanks to improvements to infrastructure and energy and water use

• A fleet of fuel-efficient and electric vehicles are available for workers


Mennonite Savings and Credit Union

Financial services

Kitchener, Ont.

• Solar panels on the Waterloo branch rooftop have generated the equivalent CO2 offset of planting 345 trees

• “Creation care loans” are offered to finance customers’ solar and geothermal heating and energy-upgrade projects


Storm Water solutions - A rain garden lined with plants.  It encourages the consumption and filtration of run off. Elm Drive Rain Garden, Mississauga.

Municipal Infrastructure Group: A rain garden lined with plants encourages the consumption and filtration of run off in Mississauga. (Lucas Finlay)

The Municipal Infrastructure Group


Vaughan, Ont.

• Expertise in areas such as rainwater harvesting and low-impact development encourage sustainable solutions

• By considering sustainable measures at every stage of its work, the firm strives to balance environmental, social and economic considerations for builders and municipalities


National Leasing Group Inc.

Equipment leasing


• Converting a 50-year-old warehouse into an energy-efficient office resulted in energy savings of $20,000 annually

• Paper use is kept to a minimum through the use of an electronic library for documents, Smart Boards in meeting rooms and an electronic payment system


O.C. Tanner recognition Co. Ltd.

Corporate recognition

Burlington, Ont.

• Employees can grow their own vegetables and herbs in raised garden beds on the firm’s premises

• It sponsors a local environmental group, Burlington Green, and helps with its annual Clean Up Green Up event


Optimus SBR Inc.

Management consulting


• Eliminated two kilograms of waste per person through new procurement measures, as well as office education, including reduced paper use and increased recycling

• Developed a “green paper reduction tool” for clients that models the life cycle of paper use, and the associated costs, across organizations


Scott Construction Ltd.

General contractors

Burnaby, B.C.

• It contracted with a courier that uses electric or fuel-efficient vehicles for 70 per cent of its fleet

• A member of the Canadian Green Building Council, it has accredited programs, including waste management and indoor air quality


Stikeman Elliott LLP

Legal services


• Sustainable efforts include double-sided printing, which alone saved 8.5 million sheets of paper in 2013

• Encourages recycling of common office items such as pens, batteries, coffee packaging and even paper towels, resulting in a waste-diversion rate of 86 per cent


e green/living wall featured in our Burnaby Heights Community Branch; which was recently certified as LEED CI Gold.

Vancity: The Burnaby Heights Community Branch features a living wall. (Matthew Plexman)

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union

Financial services


• The headquarters, which has a top environmental rating, includes reflective e-glass and recyclable carpets; it’s on mass transit routes and workers get reduced parking rates for carpool vehicles

• The building’s rooftop garden is managed by employee volunteers with produce donated to community kitchens in the Downtown Eastside


Vista Projects Ltd.



• Using personalized access cards at printers eliminates unclaimed documents

• To eliminate plastic water containers, the firm distributed water bottles made using sustainably harvested bamboo, food-grade silicone and stainless steel


Windsor Family Credit Union

Financial services

Windsor, Ont.

• To celebrate Earth Day, the credit union participates in tree-planting activities and provides seedlings to members

• All new locations have energy-efficient fittings, such as motion-sensor lighting and programmable thermostats.

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