One-on-one support combined with group dynamics removes barriers for small businesses to execute sustainability actions.
There are 60 000 small businesses that are members of Business Improvement Associations across Ontario and many more businesses that are members of less formal groups. The Ontario BIA Association was set to roll out programming to its members, supported by the provincial government, this July, which has recently been cancelled. There is an opportunity to fill the void left by this cancellation of programming and include informal businesses groups in one geographic location.
This program will provide one-on-one sustainability and business services that use behavioural change tools and available programming will enable business owners to better understand the opportunities available to them and tailor solutions appropriately. As the Gate Report states, the majority of small businesses are taking actions without cost savings being the primary driver, so the discussions will be less about why and more about what changes to make and how to make them. These discussions will address sustainability opportunities for business owners that are also the property owner, property owners and employees.
Focusing on one geographic location at a time has a number of benefits:
Businesses can learn from people they already know and build group momentum
Successes can be celebrated and marketed as a group
Group purchasing can reduce costs
Grouping of similar trade requests, such as energy audits or fixture replacement, can reduce costs
Existing BIAs are already geographically-defined and are municipally funded
Behavioural change tools focus on people and their actions and are useful in business and sustainability programming. There are many methods for achieving a change in behaviour that are simple, effective and non-confrontational. These tools include the removal of barriers, securing buy in from leadership, clear definition of the action and follow up.
How do you know that your solution is desirable to SMEs, and will reduce GHG emissions?
The end users are the main street shop and restaurant owners and businesses that have up to 25 employees within these main streets. For this pilot, businesses in the east end of Toronto are targeted, particularly those in the Kingston Road Village area. Business participation will be confirmed over the next few weeks.
Sustainability funds and incentives for small businesses requires the business owner seek them out, creating the first barrier - knowing what is available. This program will provide a one-on service to answer questions and provide actions for the following:
Incentives available to the business, determined by business type, size, location and building type
Behavioural change opportunities for reducing energy and water use, reducing waste production as well as for business strategy
The focus of the program will be to reduce Scope 1 emissions from natural gas heating and Scope 3 emissions from other business activities. Scope 3 emissions from waste production, water use and other business-specific activities. Aggregated results will show the benefits of working collaboratively.
What actions do you propose?
This program will provide one-on-one services to:
Connect businesses with existing sustainability programming, like Toronto Hydro’s lighting audit
Review their business practices and identify opportunities to reduce utility consumption, disposables consumption like beverage straws and switch to more sustainable products
Host an employee meeting that engages the team creatively to work towards location specific solutions and business opportunities
Create easy to follow tools to assist with program implementation and follow through.
Calculate each businesses GHG reduction and applicable utility or product consumption
For participating businesses, there will be three in-person group meetings over the course of the program: kick-off, in-term and follow group meeting to build a sense of team and share ideas. These meetings will be hosted using creative and behaviourally-focused tools.There will also be a hosted employee meeting.
A final report will be created that calculates GHG reduction, waste reduction, increase in business (where measurable), overall experience.
Who will take these actions?
Teresa Miller - I live in the east end of Toronto, ON. I have chosen to focus my program on my local high street, where I have knowledge of area, its businesses and relationships with many of their owners.
Ashley Smith of Fundamental Inc. - Ashley will provide support and direction for GHG calculations
I will be responsible for securing participating small businesses, connecting with local business groups/BIAs to develop business specific approaches to reducing GHGs and supporting selection a business goal.This will include:
Group presentation to business area or BIA
Individual meetings with business owners, property owners and employees
Identification of a business goal to be supported through behaviour change tools
Gathering of energy use metrics and goal-specific business metrics
Attend three group meetings
Meeting individually to discuss sustainability goals and business goals
Organize and attend employee meeting to creatively discuss opportunities
Follow up and implement determined strategies
Provide data to determine effectiveness
Provide feedback on plan and experience
Participate in employee meeting
Follow actions of the plan appropriate for their roll
Make suggestions/provide feedback on program
Where will these actions be taken?
The program will be rolled out in the east end of Toronto, specifically in the Kingston Road Village neighbourhood. Interested business owners will be confirmed with possible addition of other local BIAs and/or individual businesses in the east end before the August deadline. The goal is to have at least 5-10 businesses in a single business district to maximize group dynamics and simplify implementation.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
Once the solution is built and implemented describe a path forward for it to scale to other users/companies.
By working with a group of local businesses and/or BIA, the outcomes and lessons learned will be applicable to other business areas and BIAs. There are 83 BIAs in Toronto and 222 across Ontario and many more informal business groups.
How will your solution lead to change on a larger scale over time (i.e. 3 to 5 years out)? How many businesses can potentially be affected by your solution?
The program will continue after the first implementation. Supporting these businesses through the new phases of subsidies, changes in business needs and staged implementation of sustainability planning will keep the discussion and actions moving. The program will also welcome new businesses to the program and expand to different areas.
Partnering with other BIAs across Ontario will allow for positive change over time and leverage an existing, familiar framework. The OBIAA is a network of BIAs, which reflects over 60 000 businesses across the province.
What business and funding model have you considered for your solution to become sustainable?
What impact will the proposed actions have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
What are other key benefits?
Building a community of small businesses to collectively approach climate change will increase each individual businesses capacity to execute and build a team aspect, currently not shared. Providing business support for achieving business goals they have defined makes this service offering different than other sustainability-only focused programs. This is far more likely to get traction with business owners and hold their attention moving forward.
About the Authors
Teresa Miller is an active community leader and was a founding member of a renewable energy co-operative in her neighbourhood. She is a recent graduate of the Interdisciplinary Design Strategies MA program from the Institute of Art Design and Technology in Dublin, Ireland and holds an MSc in Molecular Toxicology and BSc in Biochemistry. She is a sustianability professional with over 10 years experience that includes three LEED EB certifications and the creation of behaviour-based sustainability programming. She has training in both sustainability behaviour change and digital behaviour change. Teresa finds the combination of hard science and design fascinating, which leads to her main interest of behavioural-focused approaches solving complex problems. She volunteers for local greening projects and has an innate passion for people and the planet.
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