May 31, 2004

Business and Sustainability

The Benefits of Eco-Efficiency in Our
Schools, Institutions and Businesses

The meeting was attended by 13 members, 1 friend and 13 guests, including participants from four school districts and several businesses.


Desmond Berghofer welcomed everyone and briefly described the work of the Institute. The Institute works to shine the light on necessary ethical practices to improve the well-being of people and the community. It has a number of projects underway in five theme areas. Most notably we are working to encourage the teaching of values in BC Schools, to raise awareness of energy issues and the need to reduce our dependence on fossil-based fuels, and to promote individual responsibility for health maintenance. In today's program we were focusing on the theme of Stewardship and the Environment and the meeting was chaired by Jim Haliburton who leads that sector.

Introduction to the Stewardship and Environment Sector

Jim Haliburton began by referring to the mission statement of the Stewardship and Environment Sector, which aims to encourage individuals and private and public sector organizations to face environmental challenges with a coordinated plan of action and to work together for a sustainable local and world environment.

Before introducing today's program Jim asked several people in the audience to describe projects that the Institute is supporting in the Stewardship and Environment Sector.

Michael Dunn gave an update on the Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning. The Institute began supporting this concept of nature-based learning two years ago and joined the Board of Directors (represented by Desmond Berghofer) at the Board's founding in July 2003. In its first year of operation the Board has overseen the development of program and facilities. The Centre will eventually operate on the five largest southern Gulf Islands. At present facilities are being renovated in association with the Hope Bay Bible Camp on Pender Island for a planned startup of programs in February 2005. Also arrangements are being made to use facilities at a school on Saltspring Island. Summer programs have been offered for the past two summers. The overall objective of the Centre is to give children and adults an opportunity to re-connect with nature and to work to shift our culture from the practice of making decisions as if nature doesn't matter. The Board is currently focused on fund raising and has launched a Charter Membership program, inviting individuals to become Charter Members by contributing $500. Gerri Schwartz, co-founder of the Institute for Ethical Leadership, is the first Charter Member. Anyone interested in the Centre or Charter Membership can contact Desmond Berghofer at 604-734-2544 or

Randy Yeung from Viresens gave a report on their program to raise awareness of children in schools about energy consumption at home. This was featured at an Institute meeting about two years ago. Since then they have received funding to develop portable labs for use by students. They have visited 40 schools and reached 2000-2500 homes. For further information contact Randy at

Lily Briggs and Nina Clark reported on several projects they are working on. In the Eco-Schools project they have visited 30 different classrooms in North Vancouver to raise students' awareness about ecological living. In the Eco-Home project they have developed a package of information to help home owners reduce the environmental footprint of their homes. This information is available on their website at This summer these two young women are taking their energy and commitment to Costa Rica to help on a project to preserve the turtle population.


Jim Haliburton introduced today's program by describing the Institute's long-term objective of getting students in high schools, colleges and universities involved in environmental site inspections as part of their academic program. This would assist the GVRD in implementing its Eco-Efficiency program. To describe this program in more detail, Jim introduced Amy Robinson from the Sustainable Businesses Department of the GVRD.

What the GVRD Does. Amy described the work of the GVRD in her area as a partnership of 21 municipalities concerned with delivering common services such as maintaining air quality and controlling wastewater. She works in the Demand Side Division which focuses on how to curb demand for services through the maxim of reduce, reuse and recycle. They work in three areas: residential; demolition and land clearing; and institutional, commercial and industrial. As a strategy they have developed the SmartSteps program.

The SmartSteps Program. The objective of this program is to reduce demand, promote eco-efficiency, and improve overall sustainability. They have developed a suite of products including guides, reports and tools, such as directories, to encourage green purchasing.
They have developed a top ten list of things any business can do to reduce consumption.

Top Ten

  1. Engage employees
  2. Maintain and upgrade equipment
  3. Reinvigorate recycling program through continuous improvement
  4. Conserve water
  5. Be more energy efficient
  6. Reduce single occupancy vehicle trips to work
  7. Purchase products and services that have reduced environmental impacts
  8. Manage your supply chain
  9. Consider the total cost of your investment decisions
  10. Establish prescribed policies and practices

Resource materials for each of these activities are available from Amy. They also have case studies of best practices in different sectors..

Tools. Two tools have been developed to assist institutions and businesses.

  1. Business Case Total Cost Software Assessment Tool
  2. Products and Services Directory.

They can also provide technical assistance in the form of site visits and recommendations for improvement.

Business Case Total Cost Software Assessment Tool. This tool was described by Andrew Doi also from GVRD. It is an accounting technique to provide a way of thinking about both financial and environmental costs. Businesses tend to underestimate their waste. The tool shows associated costs related to environmental factors, e.g., insurance. It looks at direct and indirect costs, especially things that are often overlooked. It focuses on longer-term horizons. It gets at hidden costs. It can be tailored to the size of the business.

Example of Use of the Tool by GVRD. Andrew described how the tool has been used at GVRD to compare the costs of shifting to Hybrid Vehicles to replace the current Chevy Cavaliers. They looked at environmental damage costs and fuel costs and found that the Hybrid Vehicle would pay for itself in less than six years.

In summary, the Business Case Total Cost Assessment Tool helps facilitate financial decision making and prompts the user to think about things differently. It is available on the GVRD website at

Eco-Efficiency Assessment Program. Any Robinson reported that this program was piloted in one company in each priority sector such as transportation, retail, schools, and restaurants. Though the reports are not yet complete, they have seen good anecdotal evidence of benefits to the companies, such as saving on water, sewage and electricity costs. They are working with interested institutions on an on-going basis. They are also developing an Awards program for Green Businesses. In the education sector, Amy has worked with Capilano College and is currently working with the Delta School Board.

Questions. A brief Question and Answer period followed the presentations.

Q. How do institutions and businesses take the next steps?
A. GVRD is ready to get out and work with institutions, schools and businesses.
Amy is the contact for the school sector.(

Q. Do you have any impact on Translink?
A. Not much.

Q. Do you use the BCHydro approach of giving incentives to users to reduce the
need for Hydro to invest in new capital projects?
A. There are no real incentives for reducing water or sewage use . It is prevented by legislation.

Q. The assessment tool seems to encourage businesses to look only at
themselves, not at the big picture of sustainability. Is this true?
A. That is true. We are not looking at programs like ecological tax reform or
certificate trading.

Q. What is the dollar value to a business for customers to know that it is
environmentally responsible?
A. It is hard to say. It should be important to a school board to have its students
become environmentally aware, and this starts with practices in the school.

Q. What percentage of the water in the GVRD is metered?
A. Only 30 % of the water used is known, that is, who uses it. Various
municipalities are now looking at metering, but it is not a high priority yet.

Q. Do you think this would be a good place to start, i.e., to measure what we use.
A. Yes.

Q. Do you have a list of green businesses available to the public.
A. Most of our information on purchasing is for businesses, but there are some
things available that would be of interest to the public.

Scorecard Exercise. Amy Robinson presented a scorecard that participants could use to rate their organizations on the 10 smart steps.. This is attached to the Highlights. Further discussion followed.

Download the scorecard (PDF)


What are the green power certificates mentioned in #5? Answer: This is a BCHydro program. An organization can make a commitment for a part of its energy bill to go towards developing green energy. In this way you make a statement to BCHydro that you are prepared to pay a premium to BCHydro for green energy.

Various participants commented on how well their organization scored. All found the instrument useful

Jim Haliburton in conclusion encouraged participants to pass the scorecard around. He also reported that two institutions that could not be present at the meeting, Douglas College and BCIT, will be getting in touch with Amy.

Concluding Remarks

In concluding the meeting Gerri Schwartz reminded everyone that this was the last meeting before the summer break. We will meet again on September 27, 2004.

She also encouraged people to be proactive about what was presented tonight and to use the highlights to get the information to others. Follow up with Amy or Andrew at the GVRD or with us at the Institute. Contact e-mails for Amy and Andrew are:

We are planning a major conference next year called Connections III, which will be an opportunity to see how all the themes fit together and how to move projects ahead.

Anyone interested in becoming a Friend or Member of the Institute to help with the work would be welcomed.

Next Meeting

The next meeting is September 27, 2004: 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Vancouver Public Library
Theme: Re-Gathering

This will be an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of ethical leadership and to discuss overall direction for the coming year.