CRAIG SOROCHAN: It’s easy to become a green business

Vancouver Island Green Business Network offers tools and guidance to create eco-friendly operations

Vancouver Island has no shortage of businesses that are using “green” to their advantage. It’s easier than ever for businesses to operate with environmentally friendly practices and to make money while doing so.

The Vancouver Island Green Business (VIGB) program is a non-profit initiative that provides practical tools and guidance to help companies be greener. There are already many successful Vancouver Island-based businesses incorporating environmentally sustainable practices into their day–to-day operations, and some shining examples for others to capitalize on.

The Green Business program has signed up 45 businesses since its launch last January and is set to certify 60 more across Greater Victoria this year before the program expands up Island for 2015.

VIGB is the only local certification program that recognizes the efforts of small- and medium-sized businesses that are working to improve their environmental and social performance. The program sets a standard for environmental practices across three sectors: retail stores, restaurants and offices. It helps businesses take action to reduce waste, paper usage, water and energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

There are some interesting things that local businesses are doing to improve both their bottom line and environmental performances.

Take Truffles Group, for example. They are the operators of a very successful catering company, Truffles Catering, as well as Canoe Brew Pub, Butterfly Gardens and five Cascadia Liquor Stores across southern Vancouver Island. Truffles Group has taken the step to have all of its businesses participate in the Vancouver Island Green Business program and in doing so, has taken a combined 225 verified actions to better their environmental and social performances.

This is an incredible feat by one of the region’s most successful food and beverage operators.

Along with environmental benefits, there are marketing, human resources and financial benefits for businesses who take action to improve their environmental performance. From an HR perspective, companies are increasingly beginning to understand that green initiatives not only benefit the environment, but also help attract and retain talent, and this forms a strong business case for the HR benefits of going green.

Businesses that take concrete steps towards improving their sustainability can market these actions to consumers and reap huge returns.

Patagonia, for example, has marketed their green practices to garner a great deal of brand loyalty. Royal Bay Bakery in Colwood is a great local example of a company that has incorporated sustainability into its brand identity. Not only is owner Dave Grove known for his tasty treats, customers come just to see his solar powered car chargers and other interesting green initiatives at Royal Bay Bakery.  Dave has invested in everything from LED lighting to high-efficiency water heaters and ovens for baking.

Perhaps the most significant benefit to going green is the positive impact on the bottom line. For example, despite being apprehensive initially, Kristy Martin and her team at Farley Martin Notaries unplugged their Keurig coffee machine for good last fall. By swapping these heavily packaged and pricey cartridges out of their office’s routine, they are saving hundreds of dollars per year (even thousands in a larger office) and reducing some of the millions of cartridges that end up in landfills. Plus, now they buy beans from their favourite local roaster, and get to drink really good coffee while they are at it.

Save money and drink better coffee, sounds good to me!  For more information on the Vancouver Island Green Business (VIGB) program visit vigbc.ca.

Craig Sorochan is program manager for the Vancouver Island Green Business Program. He can be reached at craig@vigbc.ca.