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Hamilton Economic Development

Focus on sustainability is good for business

When Tim Hortons wrote its first sustainability and responsibility report in 2008, just three competitors, McDonalds, Starbucks and Taco Bell/KFC parent company Yum, had reports of their own.

Just two years later, when Tim Faveri, the doughnut chain’s director of sustainability, reviewed the strategy, there were more than a dozen plans among competitors.

“There seemed to be a tipping point around that time,” said Faveri, who was the keynote speaker at Sustainable Hamilton’s boot camp event Wednesday.

He said investors, consumers and activists have pushed publicly traded companies to disclose their efforts on reducing their environmental impacts and tackling thorny issues such as the use of child labour and the treatment of animals.

The seminar featured several speakers who outlined ways businesses and organizations can design, implement and get buy-in for sustainability plans.

Sustainability runs the gamut from energy efficiency and waste reduction to community involvement and employee satisfaction.

“The people who are here really understand the possibilities offered by sustainability, that it helps them do the right thing and be better businesses,” said Sandi Stride, president and CEO of Sustainable Hamilton. “But they don’t know where to begin.”

The group is a year old and aims to convince Hamilton businesses to adopt sustainability as a strategy for greater prosperity.

The Tim Hortons plan is based on the three pillars of individuals (includes offering healthy options, responding to customer inquiries, food safety endeavours, employee advancement), communities (Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation, investment in community sports, partnerships with coffee growers) and the planet (reduction of packaging and energy use, waste diversion, build more LEED-certified restaurants).

Faveri acknowledged that the individual and planet aspects are works in progress, although the chain is the only one to offer china mugs and has been offering discounts for coffee in refillable travel mugs for years. The company has rolled out recycling bins to more than 800 of its 4,000-plus stores and focused on making its fleet more efficient.

It has also begun pursuing LEED certification for new stores. The first one was opened in Hamilton in late 2010 and the goal is to have 30 more certified in 2012.

“The community focus has been a baked in part of our brand and what we do as a company since the beginning. Our aim is to have the planet and individual pillars become that too.”

Faveri said all company stakeholders — franchise owners, employees, consumers, suppliers — and all divisions of the company had input into the plan. It includes data on energy use, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It is now published in the company’s annual report, alongside its financial results.

“The key things are that you need to make sure sustainability strategies meet the company’s overall goals. If you can’t make a robust business case for what you want to do, you will get pushback.”

Boot camp presenter David Arkell, president of energy consultancy 360 Energy, urged organizations to stop looking at their energy bills as a fixed cost rather than something that can be reduced by as much as 25 per cent without huge capital investments.

“Energy costs were cheap for a long time, so no one looked at them.”

They are typically buried in operational numbers on an income statement but can make up a huge portion of expenses, says Arkell.

Article courtesy The Hamilton Spectator.

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