“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” — Carl Sagan

This post is the second in our Taking the Pulse of Local Business series. To gain insight into barriers the local business ecosystem experiences related to environmental sustainability, we reached out to 188 businesses in the Guelph-Wellington area between May and October 2018. We were also interested in learning what potential services or supports businesses would find helpful in responding to sustainability concerns.

Barriers Experienced

Specifically, we asked what barriers businesses experience that impact their ability to reduce heating and cooling, electricity and/or water waste. The barrier most commonly identified (by over half of survey respondents) was that the cost outweighed the benefit.

Larger companies appeared more likely to lease their space, while a few smaller companies also said they did not have control over much of their environmental footprint given that they did not own their facility. Without ownership of the facility, it appears that addressing utility costs were not a priority.

Another common reason for not taking environmental sustainability actions was a lack of information about the process or benefits. It seems, even businesses that wanted to take action were unsure about what actions would be most impactful.

Fact or fiction?
Unpacking the Business Case for Sustainability, from the Sustainability Management School states, “Many sustainability initiatives that relate to improving efficiency, saving energy or reducing waste can be implemented at a very minimal cost and show a very quick return.” They add, “In the last 24 years, DOW invested nearly $2billion to improving their resource efficiency. Comparatively, they have saved $9.8 billion with a net profit of $7billion due to their reduced energy and wastewater consumption…“

Workshops and Mentor Support

The survey asked respondents to identify the supports that would best help them take action. Of the 64 per cent of respondents interested in one or more of the suggested options, by far the largest number selected educational workshops . Sessions related to the financial benefits of environmental sustainability, and peer-to-peer business education sessions that provide examples and tips for increasing environmental sustainability, were also selected, especially by larger businesses.

Additionally, mentorship to help businesses reduce their environmental footprint, and sustainability focused networking opportunities were both seen to be valuable by those surveyed. Overall, the survey responses indicate an opportunity for businesses to develop or tap into networks for sharing environmental sustainability improvement opportunities and tactics!

More to Come

A future post in this series will examine the barriers to taking environmental sustainability actions and identify supports that businesses would find useful in transitioning to a more sustainable future. In addition, to better understand environmental sustainability in smaller businesses, a series of more applicable questions could be developed.