Brent Kopperson knows firsthand how difficult it is to engage businesses on the topic of sustainability. Before becoming an environmental leader in 1998, he founded and served as an executive with multiple companies, including an entertainment merchandising company that worked with such artists as Madonna, U2 and Bruce Springsteen.
However, his experience in businesses also taught him how data can overcome that.
“Research shows that sustainability can seriously benefit businesses in many ways,” Brent said. “They just want to see that. Good, smart businesses like to measure things.”
For that reason, Brent’s environmental organization, the Windfall Ecology Centre, set out to find some data on local business emissions. He had been working on creating healthy communities in York for years, but had no idea what the carbon footprint was for the region, much less for businesses in the region.
“We had information at the national and provincial levels, but there it ended,” Brent said. “And we knew that if we wanted to really make improvements, we needed this baseline.”
Brent explored different models for data collection and analysis. All of them required data from all of the region’s individual businesses. That was much more resource intensive than needed. He just wanted to know the starting point - total local emissions - and the best way for companies to reduce that. Brent then found the Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP), and decided to commission one for York.
“This method took far less money, touched on far fewer privacy issues and required far less involvement from different stakeholders," Brent said. "And we got actual info that we could use."
The BEEP uses available data to calculate area emissions by geography. It then taps years of industry-specific emissions data, collected by Climate Smart through its business emissions reduction program, to break those totals down by sector and even activity.
The York results have gone beyond allowing Brent to inspire businesses to act. They’ve also drawn the interest of municipalities, which want the aggregate data for their individual energy plans - and to engage businesses on implementing them.
“Municipalities want to make progress, and they know that the private sector is critical in that,” said Mike Morrice, Executive Director of Sustainability CoLab. “However, if they want to do that, they need to show businesses where to focus their time.”
The environmental leaders have brought municipalities and businesses together to see how they can support each other in their reduction efforts. For example, the BEEP gives businesses in each sector the highest-impact actions they can take. Municipalities can then support businesses in enrolling in a program, like that offered by Climate Smart, to help them track their progress over time.
"Businesses like to see how they fit into something bigger than themselves," Mike said. "We are all looking for that - to understand how our contribution relates."
“That alone is insufficient though,” he said. “It’s only when that’s paired with something to help them take action that they have something they can really grab onto.”