Not so long ago, the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce surveyed members on all sorts of things and found more than 50 per cent said climate change was a concern for their business.
They also learned that about 75 per cent did not have a formal climate action plan in place for their business.
That sort of reality framed the process that saw the chamber team up with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to produce a Climate Action Toolkit for Manitoba Business that was released this week. It offers practical guidance and resources that will help the 39,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) — 98 per cent of all the businesses in the province — prepare for the effects of climate change.
The toolkit includes links to existing resources, case studies of successful approaches to climate change that some businesses have undertaken and a check list that can help businesses stick to whatever plan they decide on.
Chuck Davidson, president of the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, said, "With an issue as broad and complex as climate change, you throw it out there and people don’t know what to do. This provides a little information about what is happening, it points to scientific resources, like the Prairie Climate Centre that looks at some of the impacts that are going on, and policy influences as well."
Manitobans sometimes like to think we’re above the fray when it comes to other global challenges. But as Philip Gass, senior policy analyst at IISD said, "Manitoba is experiencing frequent severe weather events, rising temperatures, unpredictable rain patterns and other challenges resulting from climate change."
The hope is that with more people having good information on hand, the chances increase that positive steps can be taken.
Some might question the usefulness of such an initiative, thinking it is unlikely one small company could have any impact on what is a global phenomenon.
Darren Swanson, an associate at the IISD who helped produce the toolkit, said individual action really does matter.
"They start to add up," he said. "If one business starts to do something interesting and has good success on reducing carbon emissions that raises the bar and expectations for other businesses. It also provides a nice road map of experience for others to build on."
The toolkit includes a few case studies of Manitoba companies who have taken steps to reduce their emissions like the Brandon company, Greenstone Building Products, that has developed something called insulated composite envelope panels that are significantly lighter and stronger than traditional options and exceed energy efficiency standards.
Another is Falcon Trails, an eco-resort on Falcon Lake that offers a luxury, off-the-grid experience.
Caleigh Christie, the general manager of Falcon Trails — built by her parents about 20 years ago — said environmental sensitivity wasn’t just an afterthought for them.
"An environmental mandate has been front and centre for us since we started the resort 23 years ago," she said.
The resort just finished installing a major solar power array, adding on to a collection of smaller existing solar power installations. As well, cabins include features like compostable toilets and gravity-fed water systems.
A key element of the Falcon Trails example is that it has been a successful business for many years.
"We have increased our occupancy rates every year and in the past 10 years they have doubled," she said.
The toolkit is rich in information and back-up resources and the checklist is separated into two categories — the home game and the away game.
"We have tried to simplify the process," Davidson said. "The home game addresses actions a business can take within its own facilities, like the building and vehicle fleet for instance. The away game is about understandings clients and the supply chain."
As part of the process putting together the toolkit, IISD and chamber staff met with businesses across the province gaining valuable grassroots input that shaped the project.
Swanson said, "The forums were fabulous in all parts of the province. At every stop there were instances of businesses doing something interesting. There are lots of examples. It was quite encouraging in that way. Many also spoke about the barriers they experienced. It is important to talk about those as well."
The Climate Action Toolkit for Manitoba Business can be found online at www.bit.ly/Climate-Action-Toolkit.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at 1:10 AM CDT: Adds photo