Provide financial advantages to small businesses to become more sustainable
I've had the opportunity this week to interview several businesses in the Strathcona area who are already taking moderate to extreme action toward decreasing their own footprints. They buy and manufacture their products locally, they build green roofs, they go to Climate Smart to learn how to track and reduce their footprint, they participate in by-product synergy exchanges, they provide incentives to their employees to ride bikes to work, etc. These businesses are making these changes because it is the "right thing to do", and because they are preparing for what they anticipate the realities of business to be in the near future. Many of these actions do not save money for the business owners, and in some cases, can actually increase their costs.
However, for each of these forward-thinking businesses, there are dozens more who will not or cannot afford to make these types of changes because it's the right thing to do. These are the businesses that we must motivate to make changes through the provision of multiple incentives.
For example, many businesses would like to put in green roofs, but they don't have the capital required to upgrade the infrastructure of their roofs to make this possible. If the City can provide grants for these upgrades, we will see a lot more green roofs in the Strathcona area.
If we can make it easier and more rewarding for businesses to take actions toward sustainability, they would be able to sell their goods and services at prices comparable to those of unsustainable products, creating a huge spike in demand for sustainable goods and services.
The draft Greenest City Action Plan includes recommendations for greening existing businesses include recommendations to support work of organizations currently working in this area (e.g. Climate Smart)
Sophie Agbonkhese commented
Yes, I'm actually taking advantage of that subsidy right now, and am enrolled in the current Climate Smart training. However, the problem I see businesses facing is that beyond the quick wins of reducing electricity use, transportation, and waste, there is not much incentive to take on the longer term, investment-heavy projects that are required for Vancouver to become the greenest city. For example, most businesses can't afford to turn their parking lots or roofs into green space, install solar panels, or take advantage of a heat exchange, even if they are personally motivated to do so. At the same time, those businesses who are going the extra mile and taking on initiatives that increase their costs relative to their competitors, are actually at a disadvantage as a result of their greening efforts. The incentives are just not in place to convince the critical mass of businesses to take serious action.
Juvarya Warsi commented
City of Vancouver is currently subsidizing rates for the Climate Smart program and covering one third of the fees (Metro Vancouver is paying the other third, so small businesses only have to pay $500 for the program). This is one way the City is helping small businesses learn how to green their operations and improve resource efficiency.