If you’ve followed the Courtney posts and blogs of late, you will be aware of our interest in business with a social purpose. It’s our belief that business has a responsibility to be conscious of the impact it has on people and the planet. In this regard, many of us are encouraging each other to learn more, talk more and act more.
Perhaps that’s why I was particularly taken aback when the most successful business owners among us made space tourism their priority this past summer. I felt profoundly disappointed by these ventures. While the three entrepreneurs were delivering messages about how space exploration would have social benefits, I could only think that the significant amount of resources required to propel them into orbit would have been better directed to ensuring our planet continues to be inhabitable.
This space race took centre stage in the media while the world was fighting fires on an unprecedented scale. Western Canada, California and other parts of the US, South America, a wide band through the middle of Africa, parts of Asia, and Greece were staggering to keep up with what we no longer debate is climate change-related heat, drought, and fires. Concurrently, Germany and other countries were fighting the flood waters that poured through their cities. All the while the global population reels with a virus that has significant implications for poorer countries and their access to vaccines.
While I am disappointed in the choices of these individuals, it’s not really where the responsibility finally resides. I wonder how we ended up with a system that allowed this to happen --the amassing of exceptionable amounts of wealth with too few people who are lauded when they use that wealth for social good. The world is somehow dependent on their good will and good judgment. Is it too much to expect and too much to ask? We’re asking those who have earned and who hold large amounts of capital to make value decisions about how it’s spent.
Each of the space tourists has done some great things with their influence and affluence. Branson and his partnership with Whole Earth Water, Musk and his development of the advanced electric car (the Tesla) and Bezos Day One Fund supporting the end of homelessness and other causes. But these recent space junkets negatively affect the environment by loading carbon into the most sensitive parts of our atmosphere.
To be clear, I am not against any space ventures or even all private space ventures. In fact, I believe our communications and other systems rely on them. But - because of the resources it takes and the pollution it contributes - perhaps decisions about space tourism need to be made in the public sphere rather than by private parties -- where there can be greater attention on balancing social priorities. More regulation, more scrutiny, more transparency and more public discourse.
There has been so much concerted effort within the shipping industry and every other industry to make real movement in addressing and arresting mounting carbon in our atmosphere. It would be disheartening to have our collective efforts adversely affected by big and opposing actions.
I’d be interested to hear your perspective.
Last month, the organization and key staff successfully completed the Climate Smart training and certification program, and started on our action plan for reducing our environmental impact. We have brought out attention to our “standby” power, paper use, lights and other electrical draws.
Truth be told, our business doesn’t have a huge carbon footprint – but we vow to do what we can and help to raise consciousness among our staff, our partners, our clients and our friends.
If you follow the Courtney blog and social posts, you’ll see theme. We pledged to stop using single-use plastic. Our family made the choice of electric bikes to ferry kids and run other errands around town. And we are addressing our carbon contribution. It takes real intention and attention to be the change we want to see – and we’re excited to be doing it.
My philosophy is that the “tipping point” will come when there is a critical mass of people and businesses willing to stand up and be counted – regardless of how big or small the businesses are. The more we each put up our hands, show our commitment through action, the more chance of real and lasting change. Individually and collectively, we are the drivers.
We invite you to join us by connecting with Climate Smart Business Inc. You too can take advantage of the data collection, training, tools and technical assistance you need to establish a baseline and make changes to your business practices will make the biggest difference to your numbers.
About Climate Smart
Climate Smart is a Canadian, award winning B Corp that certifies and enables businesses to profitably reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take action on climate change. Climate Smart has helped over 1000 businesses and 40 partner cities and organizations prepare for and participate in the low-carbon economy of the future. Using a data driven approach, Climate Smart provides innovative tools and programming for “host partners” on the front lines – cities, ports, airports, and financial institutions – to build capacity towards ESG and Net-Zero goals, disrupt old economic trajectories, and invest in more efficient technologies. Visit climatesmartbusiness.com to learn more.
A message about the 215 and more
Like so many, we are reeling with the recent discovery of the unmarked grave in Kamloops and knowledge that at least 4,000 more children lost their lives at the hands of the Canadian government and the churches. We have come to understand that this evidence of centuries of mistreatment was not a recent reveal to the Indigenous people on this land we call Canada. But the physical finding of children’s remains made it impossible to remain oblivious to what happened in Canada’s residential schools.
As Courtney is making social purpose and moral courage a more central part of its message and its mission, we want to acknowledge the atrocities of past generations and what still continues for the Indigenous peoples, their communities and their land. The very nature of Courtney’s business gives us a global view. But it lacks foundation if our social purpose doesn’t start right here at home – enhancing understanding between people and improving quality of life.
To acknowledge National Indigenous Peoples Day, we have taken action in the following ways:
We are starting into a journey of learning the truth for Indigenous people here on Turtle Island, as well as for those people around the world who suffer violent oppression and the threat of cultural genocide.
We invite you to join us.
Paul Courtney and Virginia Weiler
I love bikes.
In fact I have a bit of a collection for a variety of terrains (Mountain, Gravel, Road, Commute). I use my bikes for leisure and for transportation, and – until this year – my bike was powered exclusively by me.
But a recent switch in schools for my youngest child required a commute through Vancouver that required some thoughtful reconsideration...
How long would the route take in a car on Vancouver’s roadways?
How far can she ride a bike before she’s done?
And would she have the peddle-power to make it home after a long day? And would the accompanying adult want to do four of those trips a day – there and back for a drop; there and back for the pick-up?
Was the best option to move to the other side of the city?
(The resounding “NOOOO” from the pack still rings in my ears).
And then it came to us. The only sustainable way to make sure that our commute was consistently low impact was an electric cargo bike where our child is the cargo. In fact, we have found that we don’t just use it to transport our little one to school and back but also to all her sporting ventures and well as trips to the grocery store and such. It’s great, you just bike right up and drop off.
We have done over 2000 kms in less than 6 months. This is now our preferred local mode of transportation and here are the reasons why.
The bike we purchased is – hands-down – one of the best investments we’ve made. It was a bit spendy but I believe that, when it comes to electric bikes, you get what you pay for. The good news is it will pay for itself in saved parking, insurance and fuel costs.
We move faster than the cars that are clogging the streets. It’s a great ride, and my daughter feels comfortable and secure. Vancouver is relatively bike friendly so we take bike routes almost all the time. It’s easier than a car and there’s never an issue finding a place to park. You don’t need special athletic gear – this bike is just as happy with your work clothes, play clothes, or school clothes.
You get some exercise – at the level you want
I get as much exercise as I choose and and never more than I want. You can adjust the amount of “assist” but you always have to pedal. And, as we are much more likely to take this bike than our standard bikes, we are clocking far more “pedalling” hours now. The low-impact of pedalling will accommodate this type of exercise well into our advancing years. I sometimes am challenged to build exercise into my day (lack of time, reduced options during lock-downs, or injuries) but I can always get it on my commute to and from the office or the elementary school.
Vancouver is a rainy place with one of the most temperate climates in Canada. We rarely see snow, so we don’t really have to do anything to prepare for wintery road conditions. Hello friends in Calgary (where they saw the white stuff well into the month of May this year)... you may be interested in the balloon tires that hug a snowy road. Here on the Wet Coast, I will likely invest in the new attachments they have to provide some rain coverage.
It has environmental benefits
So much better for the environment than cars, electric bikes have virtually zero emissions, and are not dependent on fossil fuels (at least not in British Columbia where hydro is the primary energy source) and they do not pollute the air. Added bonus - they’re quiet so they don’t contribute to noise pollution, save for the bell you may have to use once in a while.
Supply chain issues
COVID has increased the demand for anything related to outdoor activities and, of course, that includes all types of bikes. At the same time, COVID has disrupted supply chains causing a real lag in meeting demand. For the sake of the planet, let’s hope that the demand keeps growing for all the reasons mentioned and, as we come out of COVID, the supply issues get smoothed out. However, in the short and even medium terms, continue to expect delays in delivery of the bikes and their parts. (You knew I’d bring it back here, right?)
In an article in Car and Driver “The Ride into Our Electric Future Will Be Led by Bikes, 2019”, it was predicted that 300 million electric bikes will be out on the world's roads by 2023. I get it. It’s the way to roll.
Of course, the issue of climate change has an urgency that overshadows the issue of pollution. But I have been reading and hearing more about the peril of plastic and understand that addressing our dependence on plastic has benefits for all of it: climate change, air pollution, land, and water pollution.
A time to reflect on the impact we are having on our natural environment and – as the host of all life – how much our environment needs to be centered in our thoughts and actions.
Remember five years ago when container loads of plastic scrap from Canada was turned away by the Philippines? The container loads sat on the docks until Canada took it back. The Freight Forwarding industry was indirectly implicated in this social issue but became an active part in addressing the issue by applying new government rules and regulations to stop the practice. This really linked how the ethics of our business decisions have real world effects.
Fossil fuels are a significant component of new plastic. Fossil fuel extraction, processing and plastic production contributes to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and changes our climate.
Millions of tons a year, only less than 10% of the plastic we create is recycled.
In its material state, we have a big problem getting rid of plastic. There is a variety of reasons for this - it does not make it back to recycling facilities, or there are no buyers for the recycled materials, or (mostly likely) its components are not pure enough to recycle. We should keep recycling, of course, but ultimately the answer has to be a drastic reduction of our dependence on the stuff.
Unrecycled plastic waste becomes pollution. We have all seen pictures of the football field-sized garbage patch in the middle of the ocean and read about the microplastics found in the bodies of fish that are ending up on our plates.
Related to the ship stranded off the coast of the Philippines, we now know of the mountains of first world plastic waste many wealthy countries sent to poorer countries. It was a cheap way to meet reduce domestic landfill. For developing countries taking in the garbage, it was a significant source of income (BBC News June 2019). To address the sheer volume, some took to burning the plastic – creating toxic air pollution that causes respiratory and other diseases. Not good.
If it were not for the pollution and GHGs, I am sure we would all still love the properties and conveniences plastic offers. A topical example -- think of the necessary tons of disposable plastic coverings needed to keep sterile all the plastic paraphernalia for COVID tests and vaccinations. We do not have ways to alter all our dependencies on plastic just yet – but I am confident we will in time.
I still want to do my part.
On this Earth Day, I pledge to choose plastic-free and plastic-reduced options wherever I have the power to do so. The easiest things I can do right away are refusing single use plastics like plastic bags at grocery stores, drink bottles, coffee cups and their lids, and straws. And I will be bringing this sensibility into our workplace to influence the habits of our team.
I invite you to join me.