Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Chantel Watkins, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 18, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Pacific Blue Cross was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2021):
- Pacific Blue Cross has partnered with Winnipeg-based Alvéole in the installation of two urban rooftop beehives that are home to 10,000 honey bees -- the hives are tended by an employee beekeeper who manages lunch and learns, along with sharing the honey harvest with employees
- Pacific Blue Cross works with ClimateSmart in finding ways to reduce carbon emissions, from LED lighting retrofits and other electricity saving initiatives to decreasing paper consumption and increased recycling to natural gas reductions -- the company has been recognized by the City of Burnaby in the category of Business Stewardship for reducing its environmental and carbon footprint
Lessons from a pandemic at Pacific Blue Cross
While few people would wish for a repeat of the past year-plus, the green team at Burnaby, B.C.-based Pacific Blue Cross can count at least one major silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic: a drastically reduced emissions output in 2020 compared to 2019.
“One of our key drivers that year was staff commuting,” explains building facilities manager Dustin Cashmore. “Once the pandemic hit, we noticed a drop in our biggest emissions output, which was huge for us. So we’re thinking maybe we can use this to our advantage and make some further reductions.”
The green team – a grassroots committee of staff and leadership – is only one of the many company initiatives of the past 15 years to reduce its environmental footprint and raise consciousness among employees about environmental responsibility, not just at work but at home and in the community.
For the past six years, Pacific Blue Cross has taken part in Climate Smart, a program that helps small and medium-sized businesses create a greenhouse gas inventory followed by an emissions reduction plan.
“We look at everything that is contributing to our footprint, from paper usage and waste to business trips and travel,” says senior vice-president and chief operating officer Leza Muir. “I think the pandemic is showing businesses of all types a new way forward, that we can have a totally different environmental footprint than what we have had in the past.”
Over the past several years, Pacific Blue Cross has made significant changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As part of a major building renovation in 2017, the company installed light sensors in all meeting rooms and offices and moved almost entirely from incandescent to LED lighting, among other things.
Garbage bins were removed in all offices, and central recycling and waste areas were set up on every floor – though Cashmore concedes there are so many options for recycling that it required a great deal of internal communication.
Still, he adds, employees are excited about it and up for learning what goes where. “You see staff helping each other, and it’s great,” Cashmore says. “Who doesn’t want to save the world?”
One of the most impressive reductions at Pacific Blue Cross has come as a result of a digitization initiative that has been under way for several years. Now, 88 per cent of members’ claims and 93 per cent of claims from healthcare providers are submitted electronically.
“What does that really mean?” Muir asks. “We’ve been able to reduce output by over four million pages in one year, which is amazing.” That’s 500 trees and about 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent waste saved that year alone, just by reducing paper. “It’s so absolutely huge,” she adds. “I am really proud of that.”
In the near future, when Pacific Blue Cross settles into the new normal, Muir imagines that while face-to-face business will resume, working from home will continue to some extent.
And that will mean extending the company’s energy reduction plan beyond the office walls, continuing to reduce the footprint at work as well as helping staff to do the same in their own homes and working with local groups that are improving health and well-being in their communities. “I call it our triple bottom line,” says Muir.