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Aiming for an eco-friendly bottom line

Report details carbon emissions of Sudbury businesses
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Richard Eberhardt, project manager for Green Economy North, presented details of the Business Energy and Emissions Profile for Sudbury.

A new report outlines the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas emissions produced by small and medium-sized enterprises in Sudbury, with the aim of helping them reduce their current use by 20 per cent over 10 years.

The Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP), launched by Green Economy North on March 28, is only the second report of its kind in Ontario, after York region.

Developed by the B.C.-based organization Climate Smart, the profile includes 2,993 Sudbury businesses, employing 51,000 people, which represents 68 per cent of all the businesses and organizations in the city.

“The purpose of this is to deliver to the business community in the City of Greater Sudbury some sense of their role and responsibility in reducing their overall carbon emissions, and more than just how much is coming from their industry,” said Richard Eberhardt, project manager at Green Economy North, an organization that helps local businesses set and meet sustainability targets.

“It presents in fairly good detail both case studies, as well as data about what strategies would be most effective, have been most effective, in other jurisdictions.”

The bulk of the overall emissions in Sudbury come from mining operations, followed by public sector organizations, such as hospitals, postsecondary institutions and schools. But because those entities are legally required to report their emissions to government every year, that data is already available, Eberhardt said.

“What we didn’t know was the emissions that come from the rest of our small and medium-sized enterprise sector,” Eberhardt said. “And that’s a huge, broad range of businesses and organizations — most businesses and organizations, actually, in our city.”

Those sectors include retail, construction, food services and accommodation, support services (cleaning, waste removal), financial, wholesale, and manufacturing.

Combined, they produce 254,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent and greenhouse gas emissions per year.

To put that in context, it’s the equivalent of 108 million litres of gasoline consumed, 53,000 cars on the road, 9 million incandescent lightbulbs, or 10.4 million tanks of barbecue propane.

Of the sectors, the top three emitters are construction, accommodation and food services, and retail and trade. Together, they produce 68 per cent of SME emissions in Sudbury.

The report also shows that the emissions come from a variety of sources — mobile transportation, natural gas, solid waste, and electricity — and breaks down those percentages by sector.

In construction, for example, emissions largely come from transportation, whereas in the food service and accommodation sector, natural gas, used to cook and heat space, is the largest source of emissions.

Eberhardt said this is useful because it can point businesses to specific areas they need to work on to reduce their greenhouse gas output.

“The strategies that a construction company would use to reduce their emissions are different from the strategies that an accommodation or food service operation would use, where it’s almost exclusively focused on the building that’s being used and the efficiency of the appliances that are being used that’ are going to drive those emissions,” he said.

Though there are obvious environmental benefits to reducing a business’s emissions, there are also economic advantages.

Elizabeth Sheehan, executive director of Climate Smart, said businesses she’s worked with in other jurisdictions have reduced their emissions by 11 per cent while realizing a reduction in costs of $27,000 per year.

This comes from reducing their waste, energy and transportation fuel, and “being smarter about how they use their products and services,” she said in a Skype broadcast from Seattle, Wash. 

Climate Smart has worked with more than 850 businesses, across sectors, since 2007, and produced the first BEEP for Victoria, B.C. in 2013.

The organization starts with a community business database, such as a business licence list or numbers from Statistics Canada, and creates a per-employee emissions intensity model, by sector. The approach earned Climate Smart the top prize in MIT’s Climate CoLab Smart Cities contest last year.

“The BEEP is actually a carbon-mapping tool that unlocks business data to help cities and on-the-ground partners to strategically work with local businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” Sheehan said.

In Sudbury, a 20 per cent reduction of the current 254,000 tonnes of CO2 per year would amount to 50,000 tonnes of CO2, or roughly the equivalent of taking 10,800 cars off the road, Eberhardt said.

Although the targeted timeframe for that goal is 10 years, how fast a business can reach that target really depends on the individual company, since many businesses have been proactive and have already been making changes to reduce their output.

“Reaching 20 per cent may happen very easily, and very quickly,” Eberhardt said. “Or it may be a challenge to make that extra 20 per cent.”

Eberhardt said the report will be distributed to economic development organizations throughout the city, and will also available online at www.greeneconomynorth.ca/beep.



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