By Cheryl Saito
GLOBE-Net, August 8, 2012 - As the Olympics
continue to dominate the world stage in its second week, the spirit
of competition and teamwork is still very much alive around the
globe. Dedication, determination and resiliency are demonstrated at
every turn, not unlike many businesses in today's global
marketplace that are struggling to compete and show their
Within the last ten years there has been an increasing trend
within business toembed sustainability initiatives into operations
in an effort to gain both public approval and a competitive
advantage. Individuals like Ray Anderson came along and showed us
that there truly can be profit and compassion in the world of
Today more and more non-profits are also emerging with a focus
on the environment, entities like the David Suzuki
Foundation that work with government, business and individuals
to conserve and protect nature.
But what about non-profits that are not focused on the
environment, such as Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada or the Canadian Red
Cross? Although already viewed as 'doing good' for
society, should they be expected to do their part for the
environment as well?
Mindful of a world population now in excess of seven billion, it
would only seem logical and ethical that every organization,
whether for-profit or not-for-profit, share an obligation to do
what it can to alleviate the likes of greenhouse gases or
industrial waste that are playing havoc with the earth's ability to
balance and regulate our atmosphere.
With today's economical upheaval
affecting every inch of the planet, non-profits are surely feeling
its effects the same as, or possibly more, than corporate
Fundraising challenges, grant reductions, and limited staff are
just a few of the hurdles faced as they strive for the finish line.
And yet, this same dragging economy has some charities putting even
more effort into making their operations environmentally friendly -
to protect the planet and to save money.
Some are reducing waste in their operations and
reducing their energy use. Others are taking more aggressive steps
by undertaking "green" building projects. For many groups, these
initiatives align with their social agendas and have the added
benefit of creating good will with volunteers, grant makers and
One such organization is Habitat for Humanity
Canada (HFHC). In 2009 it contracted Mindscape
Innovations from Kitchener, Ontario to undertake
research to develop a strategy document that HFH affiliates could
use to determine their best approach to green building.
According to Terry Petkau, Director of Building
Services for HFH, "the main focus of this strategy document was to
capture the consistencies of all "Best in Class" green building
programs across the country and then offer HFH affiliates with some
suggestions as to how to implement these components into their
From there HFH Canada hoped affiliates would
move quickly toward actual certification to confirm through third
party testing that HFH was truly building green. In 2012 HFH Canada
again contracted Mindscape Innovations to complete follow up
research to update the Green Build Strategy and also offer some
understanding of the benefits of third party testing and
Petkau proudly points out that in 2009
approximately 50% of all HFH homes were built to a recognized green
standard and approximately 50% of these homes were actually
certified. "In 2012 it appears that up to 90% (approximately 200)
will be constructed to a recognized green standard with about 75%
of these homes (approximately 150) certified."
With missions to contribute positively to the
world, are other charitable
HFH beginning to take approaches to
become leaders and to go the extra mile?
Kathryn Cooper, President & Chief Learning Officer at the Sustainability Learning Centre in London,
Ontario offers some insight.
"Non Profits are starting to embrace sustainability. Over
the last few years organizations like Engineers
Canada, the Electrical Safety Authority and the YMCA have been
active. Organizations like Engineers Canada have created a national guideline for its membership to
incorporate sustainability and the environment into their
professional designation at the provincial level. Other
organizations are interested in how to engage employees in
sustainability and understanding their greenhouse gas
Ms. Cooper observes that every organization adopts
sustainability for different reasons, with some social NGO's
focusing on social responsibility first. Others are environmental
organizations, like the Kortright Centre that serves as a test site,
demonstration site and a learning centre and focuses on
eco-efficiencies (reductions in energy, water, waste and
"A time will come when funders of NGOs will
require sustainability programs, just as companies are now being
asked for their ESG (environmental, social and governance
declarations) as they file their annual reports."
If businesses have caught on to the fact that
customers are interested in sustainability as a general matter, it
would seem reasonable that donors to non-profits should care about
the same. Imagine the results when prospective donors
interested in a specific cause, say helping underprivileged
children, learn that an organization also cares about the
environment and the impact it has upon those children.
Perhaps going green is like going for gold.
Cheryl Saito, a freelance writer based in Toronto, is a
frequent contributor to GLOBE-Net