Pacific Blue Cross is a leading benefits provider in British Columbia but also a leader in the community as well. In 2012 it was the recipient of the Family Friendly Organization of the Year at the Burnaby Business Excellence Awards and in 2014 they were recognized by the City of Burnaby for their Environmental Achievements. Pacific Blue Cross was also one the earliest members of the Burnaby Board of Trade’s Pledge for a Sustainable Community.
Jamie Ellis is the Facilities Manager at Pacific Blue Cross and he shared why sustainability is important to them and how they’re going about becoming a more sustainable organization.
BBOT: When did sustainability become a consideration for your organization?
Jamie: Sustainability has been part of our business for a number of years, through paper and cardboard recycling. However, it became a larger part of our business in late 2007. In 2008 we formed our Green Team and completed our first carbon footprint assessment. The Green Team agreed on areas where we could reduce our footprint. Over the next few years we targeted waste and energy consumption. In 2012 we took the Pledge for a Sustainable Burnaby. In 2013 and 2014 we went through the Climate Smart program. We have a pretty significant reduction strategy that was created by us through the Pledge as well as Climate Smart.
BBOT: How did you choose what you should tackle?
Jamie: We looked at the 2 key areas that came out of our 2008 assessment and created a list of things that we could do. We encouraged the team to think outside the box. We then graded each item depending on impact and cost. We started with the low hanging fruit (the things that didn’t cost much to do). This included changing to compact fluorescent lights, moving from CRTs to LCD monitors, changing HVAC schedules to reduce energy, implementing Styrofoam recycling, pop can and bottle programs and computer equipment recycling.
BBOT: Are there any particular sustainable initiatives that have impacted your organization?
Jamie: Implementing the zero waste program probably had the most impact. This involved the removal of all desk-side garbage cans and designating 3 or 4 areas per floor as recycling stations. We now capture compost, soft plastics, mixed containers, pop cans/bottles and garbage. We have reduced the waste going to landfills by 2/3 and I believe we can get that even lower.
BBOT: Has sustainability had a favourable (or any other kind of impact) on your organization?
Jamie: I believe it has had a favourable impact. Employees are more aware about waste and energy reduction and the importance of it. They also understand that this is something that the organization wants to do and that we do care about the environmental issues that surround us.
BBOT: They say that organizations who undertake sustainable measures are at the beginning of a long process or journey. Are there next steps or goals for PBC in terms of objectives?
Jamie: We are always looking at ways to find further reductions. We have crossed-off the low and most medium level objectives. Now we are at a time where we have to look at the areas that may have higher costs associated with them. These may be in the form of carbon credits or certificates.
BBOT: What obstacles or barriers have you encountered and how did you overcome them (or how are you overcoming them?)
Jamie: Employee engagement – not with all employees, but there were issues. The implementation of the zero waste program was one of those obstacles. People are very attached to their garbage cans and did not want to lose them; therefore, a number of staff did not immediately buy in to the program. With continued education as well as the realization that it was not going to go back to what it was, more people were encouraged to get on board.
BBOT: Has the taking the Pledge helped PBC communicate its sustainability-related goals and initiatives internally with staff, or outside the company with clients?
Jamie: Taking the Pledge helped us to review our original reduction plan, cross-off the things that we had done and then come up with new ideas. In terms of communicating our goals, our Green Team routinely communicates with the organization about changes that we are making as well as the outcomes. We publish updates and achievements in our weekly internal newsletter and post information on our corporate site, including our Pledge for a Sustainable Burnaby.