The Business of Good 2020: Environmental Sustainability

If PBS were a developer, that would be Concert Properties," Dave Ramslie, vice-president, sustainability, says with a laugh. But he's not really joking. Concert's tagline is "a developer with a difference," and it's hard to argue that the Vancouver-based residential and commercial builder isn't dedicated to living up to that...

Credit: Concert Properties on Twitter

Concert Properties vice-president, sustainability, Dave Ramslie thinks his company is on the forefront of sustainable development


Concert Properties

If PBS were a developer, that would be Concert Properties,” Dave Ramslie, vice-president, sustainability, says with a laugh. But he’s not really joking.

Concert’s tagline is “a developer with a difference,” and it’s hard to argue that the Vancouver-based residential and commercial builder isn’t dedicated to living up to that slogan. Having spent its first 30 years with an eye toward the environment—constructing dozens of buildings that meet LEED standards and creating a top-of-the-line waste diversion program for all of its properties—the company has committed to more rigorous standards for the next three decades.

“We’ve gone through a year of reflection on our sustainability framework, where we’ve committed to hard targets on greenhouse gas reductions—an 80-percent reduction by 2050, and that also includes growth, which is really significant,” says Ramslie, who spent almost a decade with the City of Vancouver devising green building and carbon reduction programs. “Only one other developer in Canada is committed to those reductions that we know of.”

Concert, which has 250 employees spread between Vancouver and offices in Toronto, and Brampton, Ontario, is also committed to constructing zero-carbon buildings and has pledged to report annually and publicly on its sustainability accomplishments. “It’s pretty huge for a developer to actually put out concrete goals like that. Lots of developers shy away from that kind of thing,” Ramslie maintains.

“We’ve spoken to, I think, 148 different points of engagement in terms of developing that sustainability framework,” he adds. For Ramslie, that “shows good commitment in terms of creating a shared vision around how we’re going to change our company and make it better.”

Credit: Courtesy of Genus Capital

Genus Capital partner and director of sustainable investments Mike Thiessen believes financial success and sustainability are linked


Genus Capital Management

Keeping a smaller environmental footprint cuts two ways for investment management firm Genus Capital. The first is that the company, which manages $1.5 billion in assets and prides itself on sustainable investment solutions, delivers on its mandate of combatting global warming and moving away from fossil fuels. “At the same time, we’re a for-profit business, so we need to be making money for our investors,” says Mike Thiessen, partner and director of sustainable investments. 

Then there’s the matter of the Vancouver outfit practising what it preaches. To that end, Genus subsidizes public transit for its 34 employees, gives them up to $500 a month toward buying electric vehicles, calls a LEED-certified building home and subscribes to Toronto-based green energy retailer Bullfrog Power.

We have sustainability integrated everywhere, and we’ve found that, in the future, companies that are more sustainable are going to be more stable financially,” Thiessen says. “We’ve done some research to show that’s already happened over the last five years.”

Credit: Courtesy of Modo



Before Uber and Lyft, before Car2Go and Evo, there was Modo, which has been operating only in B.C. since 1997. The car-sharing enterprise offers two-way, round-trip service in hundreds of communities. Its mission is ultimately “car shedding,” as the company believes it’s possible for many British Columbians to live car-free.

And while Selena McLachlan, director of marketing and communications, contends that Vancouver-based Modo has always had an environmental focus, the pursuit of an all-electric fleet has pushed the organization further that way in recent years.

“It’s a bit of a cart-before-the-horse scenario,” McLachlan says, admitting that even in cities like Vancouver, there aren’t enough charging stations to flip the switch, as it were. Modo currently claims that 11 percent of its 700-odd vehicles are hybrid or fully electric.

“Rather than waiting for the City to advance the infrastructure at its own pace, we’re pushing with them and working very hard for them to expedite it,” McLachlan explains. “They understand the impact that round-trip car sharing has compared to a one-way service, so they’re being quite cooperative and moving things along as quickly as possible.”

Modo, which employs about 50 people, has pledged that 30 percent of all vehicles it buys in 2020 will be zero-emission. It expects that number to keep rising each year.

Honourable Mentions

Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm

This small, family-run farm grows flowers and herbs, using them to make balms, oils, body butters and other sustainably produced, fair trade items. The Kelowna company puts an emphasis on reforestation and avoiding single-use plastics. In 2018, it became one of the first among its peers to use 100-percent biodegradable, non-plastic wood-chip containers.

Persephone Brewing Co.

If you pick up bottles and cans of Persephone’s famous Dry Irish Stout at the liquor store but have never visited the Gibsons brewery, you might not know that it runs an 11-acre farm and grows its own hops and barley, plus apples for cider.

Most breweries use an average of about four litres of water for every litre of beer they create. Persephone has cut that number in half, and treats its wastewater so it can contribute to the health of the local watershed.