Green Your Business FAQ

General Sustainability Questions

Does my business have impact?

Your business is one of 20,000 local Ottawa businesses. The estimated carbon impact of Ottawa businesses alone is over 2M tonnes of CO2 every year. Carbon emissions are cumulative and yes, your business matters.

Why is sustainability important?

Sustainability keeps our world healthy and stable and able to support our society and feed our families well into the future. We are trying to avoid catastrophic global warming, the kind of warming that could result in mass species loss, mass flooding, mass crop failures other consequences that could threaten our survival. This means keeping warming under 1.5 degrees Celcius, and that means cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050, with most of that reduction happening by 2040.

How does sustainability help my business?

Moving toward sustainability can reduce costs, improve business processes, bolster your business reputation, build up your network, improve employee satisfaction and retention and reduce risks. Implementing sustainability measures can also open up new markets for your business and improve your business resiliency. Looking for stats? check out the Business Case.

Can you give me a few examples?

Yes!

Are other businesses doing this?

Yes. Here are a couple of examples from Green Economy Canada:

Could I do this on my own?

Yes. If you are committed to taking action on climate, willing to take the time, do the research and purchase the tools, you can certainly go it alone. To help you on your way, we have put together the Green Business Toolkit. That said, most businesses do not have the time to commit to becoming their own sustainability expert, the resources to commit to purchasing a carbon accounting tool or paying someone on staff to lead sustainability initiatives, or the will to navigate all this alone. That’s why Carbon 613 exists. We point the way and provide the tools and expertise so you don’t have to go it alone.

Does the size of my business matter?

Yes and no. The hub model works for all sizes of business. But that depends a bit on your goals. For example, costs savings from sustainability measures tend to be higher for larger businesses (economies of scale, essentially), and of course some businesses already have very small environmental footprints. But no matter how small or large your business, your emissions and environmental footprint matter, and there are important measures you can take to reduce yoru impact. Membership fees are adjusted to business size, so no matter what size you are, you will get your money’s worth and more from the membership.

Will this save me money?

Again, that depends on what you decide to do. Many energy efficiency measures result in cost savings as well as energy and emissions reductions, and there are incentives available to make your bottom line even better. Process efficiencies (improvements that come from knowing your carbon footprint and understanding where and how to reduce consumption) generally save money as well. On average, businesses practicing carbon accounting save around $397/tonne of C02 reduced. Of course, it’s also possible to lose money while reducing carbon (think purchasing expensive new systems with long pay-back periods), and while some businesses choose to do so because they value reducing their impact so highly, most businesses want to maintain or improve their bottom line. Carbon 613 will work with you to make a plan that results in maximum emissions reduction with minimum cost.

What is the difference between Carbon 613 and a sustainability consultant?

  • We’re a non-profit organization, which means we can keep our fees relatively low and accommodate businesses with a wide range of budgets.
  • We encourage members to take ownership of their sustainability planning and action.
  • We will provide advice, tools, education and much more, but you will also do some of the work.
  • We facilitate a local network of businesses to support and encourage each other, so you get extra value.
  • We’re in for the long haul. Where sustainability consultants generally create a plan for your organization and then leave you to bring it into action, we stick around to give you advice throughout the process. Our mandate is to support business sustainability, so we are invested in your long-term success.

The Carbon Focus

Why the focus on carbon?

Carbon 613 recognizes and includes all environmental impacts (like waste, for example), but we focus on carbon because at this point in history the single biggest thing your business can do to reduce your environmental impact is reduce your carbon emissions. Also, carbon is probably the least well understood environmental impact among local businesses. It takes some effort and understanding to get a grasp on carbon emissions and how to reduce them, and we know businesses need help with that. So that’s what we do.

Does the program also look at other things?

Yes. We emphasize carbon emissions reduction first and foremost, but the program has tools to address waste management and reduction, procurement, resilience and other aspects of sustainability

Can I set my own goals?

Yes. We encourage all members to assess their carbon footprint, measure impact, set a target and track their progress each year, and we ask all members to commit to moving toward net-zero emissions by 2050. See the Carbon 613 Pledge. But we recognize that businesses move at different paces and have different priorities. We work with you to develop goals that fit your context.

Does your program look at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general?

No. The Green Economy Hub model focuses on environmental impact and in particular carbon emissions. However, there are tools available in our program to help businesses address SDGs in general. Ask the program coordinator for more details.

Measuring Impact

How do I measure my business impact?

In simple terms, you measure your impact by measuring all the energy you use in your business operations and multiplying that energy use by the emissions factor associated with the energy source. For example, a high-carbon emitting energy source like coal-powered energy will have a higher emissions factor than a low-carbon energy source like wind power. Multiplying by the emissions factor tells you how much carbon results from your business’s energy consumption.

Do I need your help?

Probably. Carbon accounting and impact tracking is not super simple. If you want an accurate, reliable picture on which to base your planning and assess your progress, you will need some kind of carbon accounting tool, and the expertise to use it. You can certainly buy a tool and learn the process, but many businesses find it easier, cheaper, and more efficient to get help.

What is carbon accounting?

Carbon Accounting translates your carbon emissions into a clear number that you can use to assess your impact, plan reductions, and track your progress. Like any other business tool, carbon accounting measure, tracks, and records, so you are working with solid numbers rather than vague estimates. In simple terms, carbon accounting tracks the energy you use in your business operations, using data from your utility bills, fuel costs and/or other inputs. Your consumption is then multiplied by the emissions factor associated with the energy source. For example, a high-carbon emitting energy source like coal-powered energy will have a higher emissions factor than a low-carbon energy source like wind power. Multiplying by the emissions factor tells you how much carbon results from your business’s energy consumption on an annual basis.

What tool do you use?

We use Green Economy Canada’s Impact Tracking Tool, a tool developed specifically for Canadian businesses like yours. This tool includes both carbon accounting features and features to measure other types of environmental impact.

Does your tool follow the GHG Protocol?

Yes.

Why does carbon accounting matter?

Carbon accounting makes emissions into a something measurable, something that can be tracked, and it uses a standardized process that ensures everyone is counting their emissions using the same rules. This turns something invisible into something that can be counted, and allow businesses and countries to compare data and track progress. Without carbon accounting, we’re just guessing when it comes to our sustainability initiatives.

Setting a Target

Why set a target?

Businesses that set targets achieve their goals more effectively. This is true in finance, sales, and also in carbon accounting. Setting a target dovetails perfectly with day-to-day, monthly, and annual business processes as well and long-term planning, so sustainability planning can integrate smoothly with business operations. And businesses who set targets are easily able to measure their sucess against their goal. Target setting is simply good business.

Do I get to choose my target?

Yes. Businesses generally set an emissions target of at least 10% below their baseline year, and of course we encourage ambitious targets, given the pace of emissions reductions required for effective climate action. But in the end, you decide the target for your business.

What is all this about net-zero by 2050?

The current international, federal and local emissions reductions targets are all aligned in aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. This is to avoid the worst effects of climate change and keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celcius. It means that by 2050 we should either be emitting zero carbon or be capturing and absorbing as much carbon as we emit so that no new carbon is released into the atmosphere. In actual fact, to stay within the scientifically accepted ‘safe’ range for climate warming, we need to reduce our global emissions by around 70% by 2030. This means some serious action on emissions reduction now.

What if I don’t reach my target?

If you don’t reach your target, then we work with you to keep trying. If something exceptional has happened during your business year and your context has changed, you may need to adjust your target. But frequently target setting members actually reach and even surpass their original targets well before their target end date. We will support you to reach your goals.

What if I’m not ready to set a target?

We encourage members to set a target within one year of joining the program. This is to encourage climate action, of course, but it is also to ensure member businesses are getting the most out of the program. Members who collect data, count carbon, set targets and report make better progress toward their sustainability goals, and receive a higher level of program support. But if your business doesn’t make it to target setting in year one, or finds data collection and establishing a baseline too much for your current business model, we’ll support you where you are. And there will still be lots to gain from your membership and program resources.

Do I have to set a target to make progress?

Technically no. A business can take on emissions reduction initiatives at any time and start reducing its impact, but without a target based on concrete data, the business has no way of knowing if, or how much effect its initiatives are having. Target setting aligns perfectly with business processes, and provides clear, data-based accountability, which supports strong climate action and simple reporting.

What are some example targets for a business like mine?

A 30% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from operations by 2030, based on a 2020 baseline year.

A 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per $ of revenue by 2027, based on a 2017 baseline year.

Taking Action

What is a sustainability plan?

A sustainability plan takes into account your business and sustainability goals and your current context and plots out a clear path to achieving your goals, with concrete actions, milestones, and targets. A sustainability plan can span a few months or multiple years, but it usually works best aligned with your regular business planning cycles.

Will Carbon 613 help me write one?

Yes. This is part of the Carbon 613 process. We will provide guidance, advice, templates and tools to inform and develop a plan that suits your business.

What if I change my mind?

If you change your mind, you change your plan. Like other business planning tools (budgets, business plans, strategic plans), a sustainability plan sets your goals, milestones and targets and guides your path to meeting them over a fixed period of time. But also like other plans, if your business reality changes, the plan can adjust. It’s your plan. We encourage, support and celebrate, but in the end, your business plan is your business plan.

How will I know I’m succeeding?

Once your sustainability plan is in place and you have set targets, Carbon 613 will help you track your data and will create an annual report highlighting your progress, your initiatives and your success stories from the year. The beauty of carbon accounting is that you will have concrete, measurable data to support your progress toward sustainability. It’s that simple.

Will Carbon 613 promote my success?

Absolutely. We will sing it from the hilltops. Promoting member successes is part of our core program. We will promote your success stories through social media, events, case studies, blogs, newsletters, speaking opportunities and more. And we will give you tips on how to promote yourself and build your own reputation. Promoting success in climate action is a key part of encouraging broader action in the business community. We will work with you to make this happen.

Will Carbon 613 call me out if I do not succeed?

No. It is true that target-setting allows for public accountability, and this is part of why the Hub model works, but this is intended to incent action. We will only celebrate what you have actually achieved, but we will not call you out for missing your goals. Instead, we will work even harder with you to help you reach them, or revise your strategies and engage further.

What are some examples of sustainability initiatives? 

  • Replacing an ageing heating system with more efficient electrical heating and cooling.
  • Implementing a travel policy that limits the number of flights staff can take for work in a year, along with improving virtual meeting capability.
  • Installing power bars with timers to reduce electricity consumption during off-hours.
  • Completing a waste audit to identify opportunities for diverting more from landfills.

The Carbon 613 Network

Who are the members?

All our members are Ottawa businesses, located right her in town. Our members range from owner-operator local businesses, to businesses with upwards of 17,000 employees. You can check out our member list here. You can check out hub members across Canada here.

What is the network

Carbon 613 is part of the Green Economy Canada network of Green Economy Hubs. There are 7 hubs across Ontario, made up of over 275 member businesses. Two new hubs are in development in Nova Scotia and Edmonton. By joining Carbon 613 you join both a local network of business committed to climate action right here in town and a national network of Green Economy Leaders.

How do I engage with the network?

Events, member discounts, facility tours, workshops, webinars, conferences, awards, member meetings and more. You will have opportunities to engage with network members as much or as little as you choose.

Will this network expand across Canada?

Yes. Green Economy Canada is currently working with communities in Nova Scotia and Edmonton to grow Green Economy Hubs in those locations, and many other communities have expressed interest. Green Economy thrives when a critical mass of businesses get on board, so it is our goal to grow our capacity to support Green Economy Leaders across the country.

Is there a better network out there?

There are other networks, but there is no other comparable network here in Canada, serving Canadian businesses. The Green Economy Canada network of Hubs combines a comprehensive, evidence-based emissions reduction tool and process with local networks that work within the specific business context of their region to support sustainable business. The model is based on years of research, development and on-the-ground experience. We think it’s the best model around.

Type of Business

I rent my space. Does that matter?

No. We welcome renting and leasing businesses as members. We will work with you to develop a sustainability plan that maximizes your positive impact within the constraints of your business model. We recognize that a large section of local businesses fall into this category, and we know your impact matters.

I don’t pay my utility bills, or know my consumption. Does that matter?

Yes and no. If you don’t pay your utility bills or know your energy consumption, that makes it harder to collect accurate emissions data for your business. But don’t lose heart! You’re not the first to encounter this particular issue, and we have developed solutions to estimate consumption and work with businesses like yours to reduce consumption even in circumstances with relatively little operational control. We will work with you to set goals and targets and establish a tracking system that reflects your actual consumptions as closely as possible.

Learning opportunities

How will I and my employees learn?

Carbon 613 provides training and distributes news and information in a variety of formats. From formal training sessions with our Impact Tracking Tool, to weekly e-Tips, to workplace challenges or network-wide webinars, you and your staff will have the opportunity to learn and grow at the pace you choose.

What are some examples of employee engagement tools?

Workshops (Green Team Development), weekly tips, the annual workplace challenge, monthly e-pods, events, newsletters, updates, workplace badges and more…

Can we have special tools created just for us?

If you have something particular in mind, as us. We are always looking for creative ways to engage businesses and employees

Program Requirements

Do I have to become a member?

Yes. To gain access to the full Carbon 613 program, you must become a member. Memberships are annual, pro-rated to the calendar year. But if you just want to learn and chart your own course, we encourage you to visit our Green Business Toolkit page for free resources, to sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or even come out to an event

Do I have to set a target?

We ask all our members to commit to moving toward net-zero by 2050 (see the Carbon 613 Pledge) and we ask all members to set a target, ideally within the first year. Members receive maximum gains from the program through the full target-setting process, but if you’re not there yet, we’ll work with you to move toward sustainability at your own pace.

Do I have to create a sustainability plan?

Strictly speaking, no, but why wouldn’t you? We will work with you and your goals to create a plan tailored to your business, leveraging our tools, experience, templates and passion. If you already have a sustainability plan, we’ll work with you to support the plan and maximize your gains.

Do I have to report every year?

We ask all members to report every year. Reporting includes data and carbon accounting for target-setting members, but it also means stories, case studies, information about sustainability initiatives and whatever you have been working on over the year. We want to hear what you’re doing so we can celebrate it with the network and the community.

How much time does this take?

It varies. You can participate as much or as little as you choose. We estimate that the bare minimum time commitment falls around 12 hrs/year, but from there you can go as far as you like. If you leverage all program activities you could receive as much as 50+ hrs per year of sustainability support.

Practical Details

How much does it cost?

Membership fees are according to business size, ranging from $550 up to $4500+ Find details here.

What do I get?

Check out our list of services and supports here.

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