Three years after launching its 360° Green Program, Compass Group Canada wins F&H’s Green Leadership Award
Compass Group Canada’s Laurie Brager was appointed as the company’s first director of Sustainability in October 2007. Working closely with Eli Bamfo, Compass’ Environmental Health and Safety Specialist, Brager is helping lead the massive contract-catering giant into a new, green era. F&H caught up with her to talk about the new programs in place and why they are important as the company moves forward.
F&H: What’s the mandate of your sustainability program?
LB: Our first step was to adopt our global Sustainability brand, Compass 360°, in Canada. It’s based on the idea of sustainability as a complete circle — “putting back” whatever you “take out.” In 2009, we re-launched the Sustainability brand as “Our 360°.” This new brand emphasizes and strengthens the idea that it’s our mutual responsibility to commit to provide and implement socially and financially environmentally responsible products, programs and services into our client facilities and our corporate culture.
F&H: How does the program work?
LB: Our Sustainability framework covers four key areas: Environment, Purchasing, Compass in the Community and Nutrition & Wellness (programs that foster healthful, productive workplaces). Our framework is symbolized by these four areas coming together to make a circle, which reiterates the concept of sustainability as an ongoing cycle as well as the inter-connected nature of the focus areas. For example, responsible and sustainable purchasing has a positive impact on the health and well-being of our communities and it plays a role in reducing the environmental footprint of our operations. Our corporate and individual charitable activities complete the circle, by demonstrating our commitment to social responsibility and community involvement.
F&H: What’s been your biggest challenge in implementing the new programs?
LB: Our biggest challenge is the size and diversity of our company. We have eight diverse operating divisions and there are differences between each, as well as within each operating division and client facility. For example, when it comes to waste output, implementing the most environmentally preferable solutions in all locations is difficult. Every location has a different waste hauler with varying waste sorting practices. As such, we have to take a site-specific approach to evaluating the best solution for each location.
F&H: How far does Compass want to go with these initiatives and how long do you think will it take to get there?
LB: We believe in seeking sound scientific understanding as we develop new environmental programs and best practices. This approach further assures the credibility of our programs and avoids “green washing.” We provide customer-focused communications and marketing materials that promote awareness and education behind our initiatives. We want to forge ahead at a pace that allows us the opportunity to implement credible and sound decision making. Ultimately, we believe sustainability is an ongoing journey — a way of doing things — rather than a destination.
F&H: What’s the most significant sustainability initiative you’ve been involved with to date?
LB: Our national sustainable seafood initiative stands out. Through our sheer size and the volume of seafood purchased, we are able to have a significant impact on rebuilding depleted stocks and maintaining the ocean’s ecological balance. Our partner in this initiative, Vancouver-based Ocean Wise, provides us with sound science-based decisions. We have eliminated more than 200,000 pounds of unsustainable Atlantic cod annually, and more than 37,000 pounds of unsustainable farmed Atlantic salmon.
F&H: How have you managed to achieve staff buy-in?
LB: We gain the most momentum and encouragement from our staff associates when we engage them through awareness campaigns that emphasize their personal responsibility to, and stewardship of, the planet. The green champions in our regional offices across Canada — the “Green Lanterns” as we call them — are pivotal to achieving staff buy-in by leading and communicating campaigns to raise awareness and encourage daily environmental and cost-saving practices.
We’re also strong believers in sharing best practices. For example, our “3,600 Acts of Green” campaign is a great example of how we give our associates, clients and customers an opportunity to share their simple daily practices to reduce environmental impacts through a dedicated email site.
F&H: In terms of integrating the various components of this program (energy efficiency, air and water quality, water conservation, waste minimization, environmental purchasing), how do you ensure successful outcomes?
LB: Showing and communicating the environmental and cost savings associated with our programs and initiatives are important steps to getting buy-in from various stakeholders. Developing programs and initiatives that can be easily incorporated into the daily activities of our operations is also important to ensuring full-scale implementation. Given the size and diversity of our operations, we can create significant positive change through product changes in our national and local purchasing contracts.
F&H: What has been the economic impact and cost savings associated with your green practices, in addition to the environmental results and benefits realized?
LB: Using the “triple-bottom-line” approach, our objective is to identify synergies between environmental, economic and social values and achieve mutually shared savings and benefits. That said, there are varying economic impacts associated with our sustainability programs and initiatives. The cost savings vary depending on the level of implementation we have achieved in our operations.
Of course, there are other economic impacts that are even more difficult to measure. For example, Compass Canada’s heightened reputation as a preferred employer — as the recipient of Foodservice and Hospitality’s Green Leadership Award and being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for the second-consecutive year — has a huge impact on employee recruitment and retention.
F&H: How do you see this program evolving in the future?
LB: We work every day toward acheiving foodservice and facility management activities that go beyond adopting sustainability practices to simply being sustainable. Sustainability is as integral to the foodservice operations as food itself, where every decision and program balances environmental, social and financial values. We believe this vision will be well-aligned with our changing and increasingly savvy customer base.
With the foodservice industry being the most energy-intensive commercial activity in Canada, we are also eagerly exploring and identifying initiatives and programs for energy conservation. We believe facility investments and behaviour training — which engages and empowers front-line staff associates to reduce their own environmental footprint through small behavioural practices in their daily activities — present significant opportunities for environmental reductions that not only benefit our operations and client sites, but also the planet.
F&H: In 2007, Compass was cited with an environmental infraction for waste water treatment reporting at one of your remote sites in Alberta. Can you explain what happened? What measures did you take to ensure this wouldn’t occur again?
LB: In 2005, ESS (a division of Compass) subcontracted the operation of a waste water treatment plant in northern Alberta, which was owned by one of our clients, to a company specializing in waste water treatment. This contractor falsified laboratory results, which court documents showed Compass was not aware of.
A proactive measure was taken immediately, resulting in significant changes to our procedures for hiring contractors (i.e., our Contractor HSE Program — procedures for contractors working for ESS) to prevent future occurrences of similar incidents. This document is part of the North American Health, Safety and Environment Management System for Compass Group and ESS North America. We also released policy and procedures to ensure a structured review process for addressing any, and, all requests, notices and orders from environmental regulatory agencies. The policy procedures were endorsed by our CEO, Jack C. MacDonald.