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Feature Writer
Brenda Bouw is a freelance writer and editor, as well as an author and ghostwriter based in Vancouver. She has more than 20 years of experience as a business reporter, including at the Globe and Mail, Canadian Press and the Financial Post.

Top company profile: Saskatchewan Research Council

The research and business organization is committed to operating more sustainably

Since it was founded in 1947, the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) has been helping companies grow and then later find ways to reduce their energy, water and waste. The SRC has also developed tools that allow companies to analyse their overall carbon footprint.

Then, earlier this decade, the provincial Crown corporation realized it had overlooked one key stakeholder in its mission to improve environmental performance – itself.

“It was a laugh/cry moment a few years ago when we realized we should be applying some of these tools to ourselves,” says Laurier Schramm, president and CEO of the SRC, one of Canada’s leading applied research, development, demonstration and technology commercialization organizations. “We decided that we couldn’t be all that we could be if we weren’t conducting our own business in a responsible manner and if our communities and partners didn’t perceive us to be doing that.”

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Steel work

The world is going to need a lot more steel in the coming decades, but reducing emissions remains a daunting task.

When it comes to building a low-carbon economy, the steel industry is both part of the problem and part of the solution.

Steelmaking is energy intensive and one of the world’s leading industrial sources of greenhouse gases, generating nearly two tonnes of CO2 emissions per tonne of steel produced and accounting for about five per cent of total GHG emissions. On the flip side, steel is essential to building the infrastructure required in a low-carbon economy - everything from wind turbines and electric vehicles to mass transit systems. Another bonus with steel is that it’s recyclable.

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2017 top company profile: Vancity

The B.C.-based credit union continues to lead corporate Canada on sustainability.

It would be easy to begrudge Vancity for receiving yet another honour for its corporate citizenship if it wasn’t working so damn hard to earn it.

Canada’s largest community credit union has been tackling some top-of-mind social issues ranging from racism and refugees to gender equality and affordable housing. Meantime, its membership and assets under management keep growing. Today, Vancity manages about $25.6 billion in assets, up seven per cent from 2015, and has a goal to grow that further to $40 billion by 2020. It wants to see its membership reach 600,000, up from about 523,000 today.

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Getting up to speed

Preparing Canadian freight rail for a low-carbon future

When it comes to environmentally friendly modes of transportation to move goods across Canada, the train is considered best.

About 28 per cent of Canada’s emissions come from the transportation sector and of that about four per cent is from railways.

Canada’s freight rail industry says it has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity by about 40 per cent since 1990, while increasing its workload (measured in revenue tonne kilometres) by 83 per cent, according to the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), which represents the passenger and freight industry, including leading players such as Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).

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Training tomorrow’s workforce

Canadian colleges are beginning to prepare students for a low-carbon job market, but more work is needed.

Canada’s clean technology industry is growing at four times the rate of the overall economy, putting increasing responsibility on educators to prepare workers for the transition to a low-carbon future.

When it comes to post-secondary education, colleges in particular are poised to provide the job-training skills required for everything from water and soil testing to home energy retrofits and stakeholder engagement.

Colleges across Canada are making changes to their curriculum and adding instructors with sustainability and cleantech industry expertise to help educate the next generation of workers. Still, experts say more can and needs to be done to embed sustainability across the entire educational system to help meet both growing skills demand in the workforce and society’s expectation of more environmentally friendly organizations.

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