BC Housing is a B.C. crown agency responsible for delivering social housing. Leadership in sustainability is a key corporate strategic priority. For BC Housing this means effective delivery on its social mandate from ensuring durability of the housing stock, to reduction of negative environmental impacts, to building healthier communities. Its sustainability plan includes three strategic priorities, two of which explicitly involve engaging employees in sustainability decisions and behaviours:
- Integrated Decisions – integration of financial, social and environmental considerations in decision-making
- Change Agent – guiding and supporting others in taking actions towards sustainability
Within its Change Agent priority is a commitment to empower employees to make good sustainability choices in the workplace, at home and in the community. The company has set a long-term (2020/2021) target to ensure that 75% of employees feel supported by the organization to make good sustainability choices at work and at home. It invests resources and effort in employee engagement to advance the organizational culture towards a sustainability mindset, the efforts of which contribute to the organization’s high employee engagement ranking – BC Housing has been recognized as one of the province’s Top 55 Employers (since 2009) and has also been named one of Canada’s 50 Most Engaged Workplaces for the last three years. The company’s annual employee engagement survey of its 657 employees reveals high overall engagement (74%) and strong ratings (78%) of organizational support in enabling employees to make good sustainability choices in the workplace and at home – exceeding the long-term target in this area.
The livegreen Employee Council – BC Housing’s ‘green team’ – is one of the key success factors in achieving such high levels of engagement. The Council focuses its efforts in four areas: travel (business and commuting), home, workplace and food.
The Council runs annual employee engagement campaigns that result in high levels of employee participation and sustainability results. Office paper use is a continued focus. In 2013, the organization achieved a 58% reduction of absolute greenhouse gas emissions from office paper use, and 67% reduction of emissions per employee (both compared to a 2005 baseline). This effort led to annual savings of almost 500 trees.
BC Housing has also realized significant gains in employee commuting, as a result of its ongoing engagement activities, with 50% of employees using transit, bikes, car sharing or walking to work (significantly higher than the regional average of 32% and reaching the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 target of 50%). Also, 20% of employees participate in BC Housing’s Telework program that involves typically working one or two days per week at home.
The Council also educates staff on sustainable products for the home. This includes, for example, coordinating the sale of green cleaning products at low-cost for staff.
Through the Community Connections employer supported volunteerism program, staff donated 1,220 hours to charities such as food banks and others, including about 350 hours to the local food sharing farm. The farm experience provides an opportunity for team building while learning about growing local, organic food, and contributing to local food banks.
Each year the Council creates a strategic plan for the year ahead and tracks the impact of its initiatives through the annual Employee Sustainability Survey. The 2013 survey revealed the organization made significant progress over the past four years in influencing behaviour in many areas including: sustainable modes of commuting and work-related travel, composting, gardening, reusing and recycling, sustainable food choices, using green cleaning products, consuming less meat and reducing paper, and energy use.
The organization has begun including Council activities as part of performance objectives and annual performance plans and appraisals for members signaling a shift to considering sustainability engagement as a learning and development opportunity for staff.
Have diverse, equitable, thriving, participatory workforces where employees are champions of sustainability at work, at home and in the broader community.