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BIV MAGAZINE

SUSTAINABILITY THE

JULY 2020

TOWERING TIMBER B.C. A LEADER IN TALL TIMBER TOWERS

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ISSUE

SMART SEAFOOD SUSTAINABILITY FROM SEA TO FARM

TAMER MOHAMED FROM SCIENTIST TO ENTREPRENEUR

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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

CONTENTS

BIV MAGAZINE

SUSTAINABILITY THE

10

JULY 2020

TOWERING TIMBER B.C. A LEADER IN TALL TIMBER TOWERS

ISSUE

SMART SEAFOOD SUSTAINABILITY FROM SEA TO FARM

TAMER MOHAMED FROM SCIENTIST TO ENTREPRENEUR

PRESIDENT: Alvin Brouwer PUBLISHER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER; VICE-PRESIDENT, GLACIER MEDIA: Kirk LaPointe EDITOR: Hayley Woodin DESIGN: Petra Kaksonen PRODUCTION: Rob Benac CONTRIBUTORS: Nelson Bennett, Chuck Chiang, Glen Korstrom, Tyler Orton, Hayley Woodin RESEARCHERS: Anna Liczmanska, Arthur Xie DIRECTOR, SALES AND MARKETING: Pia Huynh SALES MANAGER: Laura Torrance ADVERTISING SALES: Betty Jin, Blair Johnston, Margaret Garrison, Corinne Tkachuk, Chris Wilson ADMINISTRATOR: Katherine Butler BIV Magazine: The Sustainability Issue is published by BIV Magazines, a division of BIV Media Group, 303 Fifth Avenue West, Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1J6, 604-688-2398, fax 604-688-1963, biv.com.

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Copyright 2020 Business in Vancouver Magazines. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or incorporated into any information retrieval system without permission of BIV Magazines. The publishers are not responsible in whole or in part for any errors or omissions in this publication. ISSN 1205-5662 Publications Mail Agreement No.: 40069240. Registration No.: 8876. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to Circulation Department: 303 Fifth Avenue West, Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1J6 Email: subscribe@biv.com Cover: zlikovec/Shutterstock

FEATURES 6 TOWERING TIMBER B.C. a world leader in mass timber construction 10 HOW SUSTAINABLE IS BC SEAFOOD? It’s not solely a wild-versus-farmed issue 17 SUSTAINABLE CITIES More progress to be made at municipal level 18 DUEL OVER WETLANDS Ecosystem concerns create development doubt

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20 AWARDING SUSTAINABLE WINE New certification program advances green goals

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BIV MAGAZINE 14 BIV PROFILE: Tamer Mohamed 18 INFOGRAPHIC: Sustainability 22 5 QUESTIONS: Melissa Mills 23 ASK THE 40

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SPONSORED CONTENT

No cost lights recycling service for businesses

M

any different types of lights exist and your business is most likely using a range of them. Some light bulbs contain small amounts of hazardous material that people aren’t aware of. For example, compact fluorescent lights, fluorescent tubes and high intensity discharge lights (HIDs) all have mercury in them. The amount of mercury in these lights may seem small, but it’s enough to negatively impact the environment—possibly contaminating our soil and water sources—if not managed responsibly. While other types of lights may not contain hazardous material, they should still be recycled to avoid creating unneeded waste. Fortunately, Product Care Recycling offers a free and convenient service for businesses and organizations to drop off many types of used lights, fixtures and ballasts at no cost, and there are more than 160 commercial volumes locations across B.C. Larger volume producers may even qualify for free direct pick up. “We make it easy for you to safely

recycle your used lighting products by providing free drop-off or pickup,” says Wayne Chisholm, Product Care Recycling’s service and logistics manager for BC Lights. As a not-for-profit organization that provides post-consumer recycling services across Canada, Product Care encourages individuals and businesses to reduce their waste, reusing and recycling items whenever possible. Also known as LightRecycle, Product Care’s light recycling program was established in 2010, in response to B.C.’s Recycling Regulation. Since then, over 40 million light bulbs have been diverted from landfills and recycled. Recycling light bulbs, tubes, and fixtures ensures that any hazardous materials they contain are managed responsibly, while the glass and metal components are recycled and used again, thereby conserving resources and diverting landfill waste. “Recycling used lights demonstrates your organization’s commitment to environmental sustainability and can also reduce your waste disposal fees—so it’s a

win-win!” Chisholm says. By using Product Care’s recycling locator tool (productcare.org/recyclinglocator/), companies are able to find the commercial drop off location closest to them, where they can bring any quantity of bulbs and tubes up to one pallet. If you have one pallet or more of whole light bulbs (not crushed), you may be eligible for free pick up. Lighting products commonly accepted for recycling include fluorescent bulbs and tubes, LED, incandescent, halogen, and UV bulbs, high intensity discharge, high-pressure sodium, metal halide bulbs and so much more. “We really want B.C. businesses and organizations to know just how easy it is to recycle their used lighting products and encourage everyone to take advantage of our environmentally-friendly service,” says Chisholm. To see if you qualify for Product Care’s free pick up service, contact 1-888-811-6234 or bcdispatchlights@productcare.org, or visit productcare.org/BIV to learn more about the program.

Large quantities of used lights? Recycle them at no cost Recycling light bulbs and tubes ensures that recyclable components (like glass and metal) are reused and hazardous materials are kept out ˢ˙ˢ˨˥˟˔ˡ˗Ё˟˟˦ʟ˦ˢ˜˟ʟ˔ˡ˗˪˔˧˘˥˪˔ˬ˦ʡ

If you have one bulb to under a pallet, drop them off for free at more than 160 locations across BC Large quantities (over a pallet) may qualify for free pickup. To see if you’re eligible, call 1–888–811–6234 or email bcdispatchlights@productcare.org

Visit productcare.org/BIV for more information on improving your company’s environmental footprint.

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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR

REFLECTING ON A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC RESTART As we look forward to and plan for a global economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the path we ought to take is the “high road to a sustainable world,� argues Peter Thomson, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. Thomson sees in our post-pandemic recovery the opportunity for a blue-green future – one that prioritizes the planet alongside economic development and job creation. BIV Magazine: The Sustainability Issue comes at a time when British Columbian consumers, employees and companies continue to stare down uncertainty. How many jobs will ultimately be lost and businesses closed remains unclear. But provincial leaders have made clear they will not neglect B.C.’s recovery once the public health crisis concludes. They have been equally clear that clean technology and the green economy will be key to the broader economy’s success not just in recovery, but in the decades to come. A recent report from the province’s Emerging Economy Task Force – which

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maps out a vision for a sustainable and inclusive British Columbia – backs this up, noting one of B.C.’s existing economic strengths lies in sustainability. This edition of BIV Magazine supports this. Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, a new sustainability certification for B.C.’s wine industry expects to certify its first company this year. Ongoing efforts are being made by non-profit and private sector actors to ensure the sustainability of B.C. seafood. The province continues to build its reputation as a North American leader in mass timber construction. Embracing sustainability in beautiful British Columbia is certainly not without challenge. One of our articles notes that cities have some work to do on how they contribute to broader climate change goals; another points out how environmental concerns can grind development to a halt. Our recurring Q&A with a local business leader sees the founder of a plantbased foods company tackle how and why businesses of all sizes should be

addressing sustainability in their operations. And in a nod to the concept of social sustainability, BIV Forty under 40 winners share how they prioritize wellness. Finally, our profile this month highlights an entrepreneur whose work has awe-inspiring implications for the sustainability of our health, and our bodies. You can read about Tamer Mohamed, the scientist behind Aspect Biosystems Ltd., on p. 14. At this stage, it appears that the world’s path to recovery will not lead us back to where we were. There is a new normal on the horizon. As this pandemic prompts us to think differently about our health and our interactions, perhaps the restart provides us an opportunity to start thinking more deeply about our lives, communities and businesses through the lens of sustainability.

Hayley Woodin Editor, BIV Magazine hwoodin@biv.com

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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

TOWERING TIMBER B.C. is a world leader in sustainable, high-rise, mass timber construction and manufacturing

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FRANK O’BRIEN

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n a May 27 unanimous vote, Vancouver city council approved a staff recommendation to allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys for residential and commercial uses, doubling the current height limit of six floors. The city joins 13 other B.C. municipalities that now endorse taller wood buildings more than a year after the BC Building Code was modified to allow taller wood buildings. The change meant a modification of the Vancouver Building By-law. “Accepting taller mass timber construction with the building bylaw will make it easier to build with low carbon materials, support future housing affordability and represents an important first step in reducing our carbon pollution from construction,” says the city staff report, noting the manufacture, use and disposal of construction materials represent 11% of global carbon pollution. Mass timber is made of smaller pieces of lumber, which are laminated together to form engineered structural components for floors, walls, columns and beams. The timber is significantly more fire resistant than light wood construction, because the wood is covered by one or more layers of gypsum board to meet the minimum amount of fire protection required by building codes. Studies of mass timber projects have shown a reduction of carbon pollution by 25% to 45% or more during construction. The buildings are also more energy efficient, with wood serving as a natural insulator.

Construction of buildings using heavy timber is not new to Vancouver, with some of the city’s oldest large buildings built with the sturdier lumber. For example, 361 Water Street – now known as The Landing – was built in 1907 and features solid 18-inch by 18-inch timbers at its base. More recently, mass timber projects have been approved or are being built at 1250 West Hastings Street and 2150 Keith Drive, home of the new Nature’s Path Foods head office, designed by Dialog architects. The University of British Columbia’s main campus, which does not fall under city council’s jurisdiction, is home to one of the tallest mass timber buildings in the world: the 18-storey Tallwood House at Brock Commons. A West Hastings luxury condo project, called Terrace House, will see seven storeys of mass timber built on top of 12 storeys of concrete. Kelowna, which approved tall timber construction last year, expects to see a 12-storey mass timber hotel, the Ramada by Wyndman Hotel, go up next year.

OPPSOTITE PAGE:

Nature’s Path Foods’

new head office – under construction near Clark Drive and Great Northern Way in Vancouver – will include mass timber in its construction materials • DIALOG

ABOVE:

Crews from Adera

Development complete a six-storey mass-timber and cross-laminated timber condominium project at the University of British Columbia • ADERA DEVELOPMENT CORP.

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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

TOWERING TIMBER

Terrace House by Porte Living in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour area includes six floors of mass-timber above a 12-storey concrete base. It is designed by Japan star architect Shigeru Ban and is expected to complete this year • PORTE LIVING

STUDIES OF MASS TIMBER PROJECTS HAVE SHOWN A REDUCTION OF CARBON POLLUTION BY 25% TO 45% OR MORE DURING CONSTRUCTION. THE BUILDINGS ARE ALSO MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT

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The leading B.C. developer for cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction is Vancouver-based Adera Development Corp., which uses its proprietary Smartwood CLT system exclusively. Adera recently completed a six-storey wood project in Coquitlam and has a second nearing completion in North Vancouver, which is among the B.C. cities that endorses 12-storey wood towers. Adera has 500 homes under construction using Smartwood, according to Eric Andreasen, the company’s senior vice-president and senior operational manager. Smartwood has a cleaner carbon footprint, with air components to sequester carbon, Andreasen explains. He claims it matches the strength and durability of concrete and steel, but with lower cost and weight. It doesn’t need to be covered with drywall gypsum for fire resistance either. In addition, CLT is carbon negative and exclusively uses wood from sustainably managed B.C. forests, he adds. Mass timber also creates a warmer, quieter

structure than light wood, he says, adding that it is simply more beautiful than concrete, which makes it an increasingly popular choice for new home buyers. Adera’s support of mass timber construction has led to B.C. becoming a leader in its manufacturing. Back in 2008 Adera was an original investor in Penticton’s 60-year-old Structurlam Mass Timber Corp., which is now booked solid with orders as the largest mass-timber maker in North America. Structurlam, in fact, recently published the first U.S. guide for building with mass timber and is currently completing a US$90 million, 280,000-squarefoot manufacturing plant in Conway, Arkansas, which opens in June 2021. Structurlam also recently signed a contract with Walmart to build the retail giant’s new Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters – a campus of up to a dozen buildings, all built with mass timber and CLT, and covering more than 2.5 million square feet, says Structurlam CEO Hardy Wentzel. The 130 workers at Structurlam’s first U.S. plant will be Americans, “but they will all be trained by our B.C. staff,” Wentzel says. É

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Eric Andreasen of Adera Developments on site at Adera’s six-storey Crest condo project in North Vancouver: Mass-timber is more sustainable, quieter and simply more beautiful than light-wood or concrete construction, he says • ROB KRUYT

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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

HOW SUSTAINABLE IS BC SEAFOOD? Sustainability not solely a wild-versus-farmed equation NELSON BENNETT

A

s most British Columbians are probably aware, wild salmon stocks in B.C. have been in trouble for some time.

So much so, that the Marine Stewardship Council has suspended B.C.’s wild salmon certification, due to concerns about stock abundance. The program is currently in limbo. Last year’s return was the lowest on record for Fraser River sockeye. If you bought wild sockeye last year, it almost certainly came from Alaska, maybe even Russia – which means it had a bigger carbon footprint than it would have had it been caught locally. British Columbians may also have an aversion to wild salmon’s alternative – farmed Atlantic salmon – which has been branded by anti-fish farm activists as a threat to wild stocks. So what are environmentally conscientious British Columbians to think? Is the seafood produced in B.C. sustainably managed? Can you buy and eat it with a clear conscience? The answer is ‘yes,’ says Sophika Kostyniuk, manager of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program. “We are fortunate to live in Canada, from a management perspective, where we are considered as having oceans, rivers, lakes, fisheries that are very well managed,” Kostyniuk says. British Columbians can rest assured that, if a stock suffers from low abundance in a given year, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will shut commercial fisheries down. Murdoch McAllister, associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, enumerates a long list of innovations and management practices in place in B.C. that address stock management issues. They include cameras on board longline fishing boats to monitor bycatch and quotas for some species. To address declining rock fish stocks, the DFO has set aside 30% of rock fish habitat, making it off-limits to fishing. And sport fishers who accidentally catch a rock fish that is listed as endangered – Yelloweye, for example – are now required to attach descending devices when releasing the fish, since these deep-dwelling fish have swim bladders that expand when brought to the surface, and prevent them from submerging. Fish farmers, too, have introduced innovations to address sustainability issues, including mechanical “hydrolicers”

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that reduce the need for pesticides in treating sea lice, and relocating farms to bays with higher energy flows, which provide better flushing. Some fish farms are also experimenting with hybrid systems that combine elements of open net pens and landbased recirculating aquaculture systems. Mowi ASA, for example, is investigating a hybrid system that would create a physical barrier between the ocean and net pens to prevent the exposure of wild fish to fish farms. Despite such innovations, Ocean Wise still doesn’t recommend farmed salmon reared in open net pens, although the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program does: it rates B.C. net-pen Atlantic salmon as a “good alternative” to wild Atlantic salmon. “That industry has actually shown tremendous improvement in the last 20 to 25 years around the world,” Kostyniuk says. “They’ve reduced their food conversion ratio, so they’re using less wild capture forage fish to feed their fish. Antibiotic use is lowered. There have been some relocations of farms so that they’re not in these highest impact zones. “But it still does not meet our bar. They’re getting closer, but they’re not there yet.” That’s why chef Ned Bell – new co-owner of the Naramata Inn on Lake Okanagan – still doesn’t put B.C. farmed Atlantic salmon on his menus, despite being a vocal supporter of fish farming. “If it’s not Ocean Wise, I will not serve it,” says Bell, who is one of Ocean Wise’s chef ambassadors. “That being said, I am a huge supporter of the aquaculture industry.” A number of organizations, from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to the United Nations (UN), promote aquaculture, which now provides roughly half of the world’s seafood. It is seen as a way to reduce pressure on wild capture fisheries, while feeding an ever-growing world population, with a smaller carbon footprint to boot. About one-third of the world’s capture fisheries are fished at unsustainable levels, according to the UN. The oceans’ ability to produce wild fish is finite, so many species are already harvested at the maximum sustainable level. The oceans simply can’t produce enough fish to feed the world’s current population, much less a growing one, which

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ABOVE:

Skipper Otto works with 18 B.C. families who provide their catch to

consumers through a subscription service • @SKIPPEROTTO/INSTAGRAM

RIGHT:

Subscribers to Skipper Otto, co-founded by Sonia Strobel, know the

seafood they buy is harvested locally and sustainably • ROB KRUYT

is why aquaculture is being promoted by groups such as the WWF and UN as one of the most sustainable forms of protein production. It has a much lower environmental footprint than beef, pork or chicken, and a smaller carbon footprint than industrial fishing. In 2016, carbon dioxide emissions from the global industrial fishing sector totalled 159 million tonnes, compared with just 39 million tonnes in 1950, according to a study by UBC’s The Sea Around Us research initiative. Certain sectors are simply harder to decarbonize than others, and commercial fishing is one of them. Carbon emissions are also associated with the transportation of fish – by air cargo and truck – when imported from other countries or regions. The biggest influence, in terms of reducing the industry’s carbon footprint and taking pressure off of certain wild stocks, lies not just with governments and regulators, but with the consumer as well. Consumers can use their buying power to eat less imported seafood and more locally caught or farmed seafood. “Eating local, you’re already eliminating the need to air-cargo something from another part of the world, so that’s a huge thing,” says Krista Greer, who co-authored the Sea Around Us study. “And eating what’s in season – you’re avoiding things having to be held in freezer containers and refrigerators.”

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One innovation that addresses sustainability issues both for fish and fishers is marketing locally harvested seafood directly to consumers. Vancouver’s Skipper Otto works with 18 “fisher families” in B.C. who provide their catch to consumers through a subscription service. Subscribers buy allotments of seafood upfront, and get a share of that year’s catch of salmon, halibut, tuna, lingcod and shellfish. Subscribers know that the seafood they buy is locally caught, and provides a stable income for small, independent boat owners. “There’s a massive carbon contribution from global seafood that comes from all over the world and gets flown here, and then it changes hands dozens of times, so you’ve got dozens of people taking a margin on that fish,” says Skipper Otto co-founder and CEO Sonia Strobel. “That means that, necessarily, we’re pushing down the price paid to producers.” É

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SUSTAINABILITY Founded in 2012, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established a universal set of goals around urgent environmental, political and economic issues. Our infographic this month focuses in part on the extent to which companies around the world have embraced SDGs. We also look at sustainability reporting trends among Canadian reporting companies.

GLOBAL GREEN REPORTING PwC analyzed the reports of more than 1,100 companies – including 81 companies in Canada – to assess how businesses engaged with SDGs in 2019.

72

52

21

14

%

of companies mentioned SDGs in their reporting

%

of CEO or chair remarks reference SDGs

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%

included them in their public business strategy

%

of companies mention specific SDG targets

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REPORTING CHANGE IN CANADA

According to a 2019 report from Stakeholder Research Associates Canada Inc., sustainability reporting among Canada companies has evolved considerably over the last three decades.

75%

of Canadian reporting companies include sustainability in annual reports

68%

of Canadian reporting companies reference international standards or frameworks

58%

of Canadian reporting companies report against specific goals

Over a six-year period, more Canadian TSX Composite Index companies have started reporting sustainability information 2019

71%

2016

65%

2014

42%

Sources: Advancing Sustainability Reporting in Canada: 2019 Report on Progress, Stakeholder Research Associates Canada Inc.; PwC SDG Challenge 2019 NABODIN/SHUTTERSTOCK

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BIV PROFILE

TAMER MOHAMED CEO, ASPECT BIOSYSTEMS LTD.

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NO SPACE FOR THIN SKIN

Competitive spirit has driven Tamer Mohamed’s success with Aspect Biosystems

TYLER ORTON

A

s a kid, it was never Tamer Mohamed’s grades that irked his parents come report-card time.

It was the comments from his physical education teachers: “‘He’s just overly competitive to the point of getting insane and being mad when [he doesn’t] win,’” recalls the CEO and co-founder of Aspect Biosystems Ltd., whose company is best known for its 3D-printed human tissue technology. Those report cards make Mohamed chuckle now, but he admits his childhood competitive streak hasn’t eased off. “I’ve had to tone it down a bit,” the Vancouver-born scientist says, adding he’s since learned to use it in a more productive way, although his passion for soccer hasn’t diminished. “That obviously has to be channelled in the right way.” A few other of his childhood habits may have also pushed his parents’ buttons but, in retrospect, portended to his career leading a B.C. company that sits at the intersection between technology and biology. “I would often be the one who breaks things apart, whether that was a computer, or toys or even game consoles, and try to put things back together,” says Mohamed, now the father of a daughter just shy of two years old. “I also really took a lot of pleasure in building teams, so I was always involved in trying to build a recreational team or a competitive soccer team. I really liked to take that ownership.” Aspect Biosystems specializes in developing complex tissues better suited for drug testing than cells in a Petri dish. The University of British Columbia (UBC) spinoff has created a 3D bio-printing platform known as Lab-on-aPrinter, which enables the rapid creation of functional living tissues. In 2018, it nabbed $1 million in repayable funding from

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Genome BC’s Industry Innovation program, aimed at boosting companies in the early stages of commercialization. The year before, it partnered with U.S. medical-device and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to produce meniscus tissue for knees. Aspect Biosystems generates revenue from selling its bio-printers to researchers, and selling human tissue products. It’s also selling rights to the tissues that those researchers develop, providing future revenue streams on any products that become commercialized. The market remains aggressive in the early stages of commercialization, so Mohamed’s competitive side has been put to use in the corporate world as well. “Competition doesn’t mean you’re trying to obsess about what others are doing. You’re aware but you want to compete against yourself,” he says. “Especially in an industry like ours, at the end of the day, we are in a race to help people. I want to win that race. I want that to be Aspect. But if, for whatever reason, we can’t win a part of the race … I would love for somebody else to get patients and help. That’s the unique part of our industry: we’re not just trying to do well for ourselves, we’re also trying to do good in the world.” His eventual journey to leading a biotech firm was filled with some zigzags, starting with his time studying electrical and computer engineering at UBC. “My personality and my development has always been closely tied to engineering,” says the CEO, who originally co-founded Aspect as its chief technology officer. But near the end of his undergraduate studies, his

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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

TAMER MOHAMED

attention started to turn frequently to biology, and he pursued a sub-specialization in the biomedical program. “It really became clear to me that … we were going to start applying engineering to biology to create biological systems. So instead of using resistors and capacitors to build electrical systems, or instead of using ones and zeros to build computer systems, or metal to build mechanical systems, we could actually now use biological components to build biological systems,” Mohamed says. “I felt that was just a natural extension of engineering.” While completing his master’s degree at UBC, he began to question how these concepts could ultimately impact regular people. The master’s program saw him take business courses on everything from economics to intellectual property, and Mohamed soon found his way into the entrepreneurship@UBC program, which offers skills development and mentorship networks for aspiring businesspeople. “Things really started to pick up for my overall evolution of a scientist/engineer-turned-entrepreneur,” he recalls. Perhaps, most importantly, Mohamed realized the importance of getting out of the lab to begin meeting with potential customers and partners to figure out what their needs were. “I know that there are some people that say, ‘Under-promise and over-deliver.’ I completely disagree with that notion,” he says. “You always have to set a high bar and even if you were to fail, your failure is a success relative to others.” While the pandemic is proving challenging for everyone, Mohamed says it’s reaffirmed his decision to pursue a career in biotech. “We’re in a time where people are realizing, at the end of the day, this is about health,” he says. “As a biotech industry, we’ll be able to get through this and come out even stronger.” Mohamed says now is the right time to go on the offensive by keeping his team safe, while maintaining critical manufacturing and research and development. “There’s a danger of just trying to contract everything to make it seem like you’re doing something,” Mohamed says. “But if you have the luxury of having a strong balance sheet, which Aspect does, then I think we’re able to make long-term decisions.” Meanwhile, he’s missing those spontaneous discussions with colleagues at the whiteboard, and walks near the company’s Fraser River-adjacent headquarters in which they’d brainstorm creative solutions to problems they might be encountering. Outside of work, family visits mean Mohamed, his wife and his daughter only get to see his parents peeking through the window of the latter’s home. “But it’s all for the good of our communities and for everybody,” he says. “I would do this times 10 if it means doing our responsibility and really preserving the health of folks.” There are some added benefits for the family, too. After travelling about 150,000 kilometres on business last year, Mohamed missed some of his young daughter’s key milestones. But he now gets to be at home in Richmond each day with the toddler. “She’s enjoying spending more time with me for sure,” Mohamed says. He’s also been biding his time with deep dives into podcasts,

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PREVIOUS PAGE; ABOVE:

Aspect Biosystems CEO Tamer Mohamed

says applying engineering to biology felt like a natural extension of engineering • CHUNG CHOW

such as BBC’s ‘13 Minutes to the Moon’, and books, including Ben Horowitz’s What You Do Is Who You Are. Mohamed says the venture capitalist’s book emphasizes the importance of people’s daily actions, not necessarily the values they may simply proclaim to uphold. It’s a principle Mohamed wishes to maintain as part of his management style, acknowledging leading can be challenging due to the responsibilities he has both to his team and shareholders. “My way of trying to accomplish that is really just surrounding myself with really smart people and doing whatever I can to support the teams to make decisions,” he says. “That’s a lesson I learned super early on, really from my father. If there was any lesson that he gave me growing up, the one that he kept harping on was just the importance of being humble.… Even if you don’t agree philosophically, statistically there is always somebody smarter than you. The trick is: how do attract those people?” His answer to that is to think globally, with Aspect’s team of a few dozen boasting workers from more than 15 countries. So while comments from physical education teachers may have displeased Mohamed’s parents, he took his father’s advice seriously enough to apply it beyond sports and into corporate team building. “To be honest, winning a soccer game is not that much different than trying to win as a company. Everybody has their own position [and] you have a goal.” É

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CITY SUSTAINABILITY

B.C. municipalities doing many things right – but more is needed CHUCK CHIANG

J

ust how sustainable are B.C. cities and communities? Are Metro Vancouver’s municipalities as green and forward-thinking as the province’s reputation would have people believe?

The answer, experts say, is mixed. By many metrics – such as high transit ridership (prior to COVID-19) and strong municipal buy-in on climate change policies – the region performs undoubtedly well. But analysts add that some of the most important metrics could use a boost – and that requires a combination of government coordination and outside-the-box thinking. “There’s the talk, and then there’s the walk,” says Andy Yan, director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University (SFU), which was recently named by Times Higher Education the world’s top university for impact on sustainable cities. “Some of the tougher things may still be in front of us.” Yan believes Metro Vancouver needs to take the next step by looking at how zoning and land use can create “complete communities,” which allow as many residents as possible to meet their needs locally, thereby minimizing commutes and the need to travel by car. An integral part of that is industrial land availability in an urban area – something Vancouver is sorely lacking. Another trend that the Metro Vancouver region should adopt, Yan notes, is the shift away from condominium blocks driven by lot assemblies. Such developments dominate neighbourhoods but don’t improve affordability. They also displace existing community services that residents may need to replace by travelling elsewhere. “Those assembly developments will still occur, but if it comes at the expense of industrial space, it’s a pretty pyrrhic victory,” he says. Sherry Yano, renewable energy transition manager at the David Suzuki Foundation, says that the will from the community and municipal leaders to address sustainability is strong – especially when it comes to the issue of climate change. Examples include the 2007 B.C. Climate Action Charter, which has garnered signatures from 187 of 190 provincial municipalities, and the more recent Climate Caucus. “It’s not unreasonable to hope B.C. communities lead the way,” Yano says when it comes to fighting climate change through urban sustainability. “Both the elected officials and public polling of people’s attitudes show that B.C. is in a position to lead the country on how it’s done.” The challenge is coordinating everyone involved, which requires funding from higher levels of government. Without it, municipalities are left to their own devices and are often unclear about the targets they are trying to hit. Yano notes the province’s CleanBC plan calls for a 40%

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Vancouver and other B.C. communities have made progress on matters of sustainability – but experts say work remains • RUSS HEINL/ SHUTTERSTOCK

reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, and an 80% reduction by 2050. Those targets are already out of step with projections from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is calling for a 45% reduction by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050. “There’s almost no point for setting targets because they are so easily missed,” Yano says. “Broader research shows municipalities have jurisdiction over 50% of our emissions. And yet if they are responsible for reductions but not funded for them, then you are putting them almost in an impossible place.” The grassroots will of the public can help influence how sustainable B.C. municipalities are. Votes and messages to government can help advance the need for clarity and funds. “People need to push for it,” Yano says. “Elected leaders can never act without the support of the electorate.” É

2020-06-23 2:37 PM


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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

DUEL OVER WETLANDS

Environmental professionals, hired by real estate developers, find their findings challenged by a new wave of city hall planners FRANK O’BRIEN

T

he preservation of wetlands is a key issue affecting B.C.’s biggest industry: real estate, which accounted for 18% of provincial gross domestic product last year, compared with a 5.6% contribution from the province’s once-dominant resource sector, according to Statistics Canada.

All substantial real estate projects in B.C. are subject to an environmental audit conducted by qualified environmental professionals (QEPs), scientists all, before a development permit is issued by city hall. But QEPs and developers say that the expensive, extensive – and mandatory – environmental studies are often overturned by a new breed of younger and more environmentally concerned city hall planners, which can result in huge real estate losses. This is frustrating but also understandable, says biologist Harm Gross, president of Next Environmental Inc. of Burnaby and a QEP who has been conducting environmental studies for years. Gross notes that B.C.’s Contaminated Sites Regulation now covers more than 10,000 pages in scores of volumes, and there are 38 other bits of provincial and federal legislation that relate to wetland conservation. This includes B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act, which was introduced in 2016 and has been continually modified ever since, with the latest amendments made in December of 2019. Other wetlands regulations include the Agricultural Land Commission Act, the Transportation Act and the federal Fisheries Act. The two-decades old federal government’s No Net Loss Policy can also apply to the protection of certain fish, migratory birds and federally listed species at risk. “It’s easy to see that there is a lot of legalese to draw on when a municipal authority argues the QEP is wrong,” Gross says.

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Yet, despite all the legislation meant to contain it, the loss of B.C. wetlands has been unremitting, according to the Wetland Stewardship Partnership (WSP), whose members include the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the BC Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, B.C.’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and the Union of B.C. Municipalities. “Wetlands cover almost 7% of B.C.’s land area, but are being destroyed and damaged at an alarming rate,” according to the WSP. The partnership claims that losses include 70% of the original wetlands in the Fraser River Delta, 70% of wetlands in the Victoria region and 85% of natural wetlands in the South Okanagan. “Today the province is losing wetlands primarily to draining and filling for new [residential] subdivisions and industrial development,” according to the WSP. The issue is further complicated due to the modern complexity and scale of mixed-use development, much of which is being done from sites that require rezoning, such as from farming to industrial, or industrial to residential, Gross adds. For real estate developers, the stakes are enormous. A civic ruling that a drainage ditch is actually a potential fish-bearing stream can carve a meandering 60-metre wide no-go zone through the centre of an acreage, making it impossible to develop. Both developers and QEPs say that a younger generation of city planners are much more zealous when it comes to environmental interpretations than those they replaced.

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“The pendulum appears to have swung from one extreme – mass wetland destruction – to the other: preservation of all land that can be wetted. It is easy to understand why developers feel slighted when a city regulator rejects an expert’s opinion, seemingly out of hand,” Gross says. None of the real estate developers contacted by BIV Magazine would go on record with their concerns. “I have a permit application in process and I don’t want it to go to the bottom of the list,” explains one Fraser Valley residential developer in what was typical response. A major developer told of a 2018 conflict over a drainage ditch that City of Surrey planners designated as part of a wetland, in direct conflict with the findings of the developer’s QEP, whose decision had been endorsed by the province. “It cost us an 18-month delay and a huge amount of money before it got resolved,” the developer says. Other developers say they have run into similar conflicts in the Township of Langley, Delta and Squamish. The issue has become so contentious that the Urban Development Institute (UDI) emailed its developer members in April asking if they had been affected. A UDI staffer, who asked not to be named, says they have received a substantial response. Surrey, B.C.’s fastest-growing city, is in the process of setting up re-zoning and density development for the proposed SkyTrain extension corridor along the Fraser Highway towards Langley, and is aware of the conflicts. Representing Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum on a panel of Fraser Valley mayors convened by the UDI in Langley this year, Surrey Councillor Linda Annis said the city wants to bring “clarity” to the development process. She acknowledged that the strict enforcement of setbacks for water – normally at least 30 metres on each side of a watercourse – may cause issues for landowners and developers, limiting the amount they can build, or impact a project’s financing. “But as developers are negotiating the purchases of these properties, that’s something that they should be taking into consideration,” she said. “Where it gets muddied is if we’re not clear what the environmental setbacks need to be, and I think Surrey now is doing a pretty good job of that.” On April 30, the City of Surrey announced it was exploring ways to help large-scale real estate developments in the city, including “expediting the review and processing of environmental development and erosion sediment control permits.” Joe Varing, a Fraser Valley real estate agent who specializes in land transactions, voices some sympathy for city planners. He notes that strict environmental measures in Metro Vancouver have helped lead “to some of the best real estate developments in the country.” “They are just doing their job,” the president of Varing Marketing Group says. “It is just part of the process that we all have to work with.” É

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ABOVE:

Realtor Joe Varing of

Varing Marketing Group: “It is just part of the process that we all have to work with” • SUBMITTED

LEFT:

B.C.’s Contaminated

Sites Regulation, including the Water Sustainability Act, now covers more than 10,000 pages in scores of volumes, yet wetlands are still being lost at “an alarming rate,” environmentalists say • NEXT ENVIRONMENTAL INC.

2020-06-24 12:54 PM


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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

AWARDING SUSTAINABLE WINE

Sustainability efforts in the industry continue to evolve over time

GLEN KORSTROM

B

.C. winery owners could soon achieve a new certification to prove to themselves, and consumers, that their operations are “sustainable” – a fuzzy term that has meant many things through the decades.

Some longtime winery owners, however, believe themselves to be ahead on the sustainability curve, and are unsure that they will even apply to take part in the BC Wine Grape Council’s Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia (SWBC) program, which is set to start a certification process for B.C. wineries this fall. Exactly what it means to be sustainable has long been a matter of dispute, and the new program is unlikely to change that. What makes SWBC’s program distinct is that it links paying attention to social, environmental and financial factors to a made-in-B.C. points system that its creators have devised specifically for the wine sector. SWBC’s program itself has been around for several years, and nearly 40 winery owners have taken self-assessments, Karen Gillis, chair of the SWBC project, tells BIV Magazine. Gillis had intended certification to start this spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into those plans. Winery owners who want to be certified under the new program must first go through a process of assessing their own operations in areas such as energy consumption, water management and human resources. Gillis’ organization intends to hire auditors to start inspecting wineries’ paperwork and physical operations this fall, and then grant points for success. She hesitates to give a timeline for when the first winery will be certified, but Gillis hopes that it will be in 2021. By then, the organization will likely have created a logo that certified wineries’ owners could put on their wine bottle labels, or on decals that are placed on doors to tasting rooms. The points system will be complicated, with requirements varying for different wineries. Water consumption limits, for example, will be different depending on soil types, Gillis says. “We’re not looking to be proscriptive, but looking for people to monitor their water use year over year, and understand how their plants are being affected,” she explains. “If you are using overhead irrigation now, and you convert to

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drip irrigation next year just to cut out your overheads, your plants are going to die. So it’s a step-by-step process.” The crowning achievement of SWBC’s certification program may be that as more winery owners go through the self-assessment process, they will learn to create documentation on how they operate. “That’s why we’re talking about certification,” Gillis says. “If you don’t have documentation in place, there’s nothing to audit and check on. That is the first step.” SWBC’s new program is the latest to join a continuum of programs aimed at encouraging more sustainable winemaking. Decades ago, sustainability tended to primarily convey that winery principals had a heightened concern for the environment, and were skipping synthetic pesticides in favour of using organic fertilizers on grapes. In November 1994, B.C. was the first province to legislate an organic food certification program, and wineries were finally able to certify that their grapes were organic. To do that, they had to prove that they had gone three years without using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. Before 1994, B.C. winery owners who wanted to claim that their grapes were organic were free to do so, and there was no legal liability if they made false claims. The flip side of the situation was that winery principals, such as Summerhill Pyramid Winery co-founders Stephen and Wendy Cipes, had no designation to prove that their grapes were indeed organic. The program that the Cipeses navigated in the mid-1990s, and is still in place today, is one where local organic associations work under the Certified Organic Associations of BC umbrella. Local associations are empowered to inspect paperwork and vineyards to certify that a winery does in fact grow organic grapes. Summerhill was one of the first wineries to be certified as having organic grapes, says the Cipeses’ son – and the winery’s

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CEO – Ezra Cipes. “Federal regulations and the federal organic standard wasn’t released until 2007,” he tells BIV Magazine. That new standard, administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, certifies that a winery’s entire winemaking process is organic. For the first time, it enabled owners to genuinely call their wineries organic. “I will be interested to see how the SWBC program develops, and hope that there’s value in it,” Cipes says. “I would be open to joining it perhaps, although my read is that it was not developed with organic vineyards in mind, but as an alternative to organics that allows participants to use synthetic fungicides, pesticides and fertilizers in a more conscientious way, integrating them with biological practices rather than just totally relying on them.” Kalala Organic Estate Winery owner Karnail Singh Sidhu agrees. “It’s a nice start for the wine industry, but I don’t know [about applying to join the SWBC program,]” he says. “Being an organic winery, I think I’m a little ahead of that.” Sidhu’s vineyards have been what he considers to be organic since he acquired the winery in 2001, and his grapes have been certified organic since 2010, he says. Both Summerhill and Kalala are also already Certified B Corporation members, according to Cipes and Sidhu. That global program, which launched in 2007, is not specifically for the wine industry, but, like the SWBC program, it has a points system and aims to convey that its members are acting sustainably. It also includes social elements in its definition of sustainability. Cipes tells BIV Magazine that being part of the B Corp. program reminded him of the importance of reaching out to underrepresented groups when hiring. He then contacted the Okanagan Indian Band as part of his summer recruitment drive in an effort to ensure his staff reflects the diversity of the population. É

BIV_Sustainability2020_24R.indd 21

TOP:

Summerhill Pyramid Winery has not used synthetic pesticides on its

vineyards since it was founded in the late 1980s, according to CEO Ezra Cipes • EZRA CIPES

ABOVE:

Karnail Singh Sidhu says his Kalala Organic Estate Winery has had

certified organic grapes since 2010 • SUBMITTED

2020-06-23 2:38 PM


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BIV MAGAZINE: THE SUSTAINABILITY ISSUE 2020 PUBLISHED BY BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER

5 QUESTIONS ON SUSTAINABILITY

WITH MELISSA MILLS, CEO, SPREAD’EM KITCHEN CO. Melissa Mills has gone from stocking shelves at Whole Foods to producing products that get placed on them. She is the founder and CEO of Spread’Em Kitchen Co. – a local company in the $57 billion global plant-based food and beverage industry. Here she shares how she keeps her company sustainable.

1. HOW DOES SPREAD’EM KITCHEN INCORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY INTO ITS BUSINESS PRACTICES? Sustainability has always been my passion, but starting my business gave me the power to make a change. Sustainability is at the core of Spread’Em Kitchen: all ingredients used in our plant-based products are ethical and traceable. Cashews serve as our base ingredient as they only require rainwater to grow. We offset any paper used by donating a portion of profits to Tree Canada, and we have partnerships with our suppliers to ensure ingredients are delivered in minimal packaging. We’re a certified member of Climate Smart, which regularly audits our carbon footprint. And we’re always looking to improve: we recently found the perfect plant plastic that safely composts

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and keeps our products fresh, which will be implemented within the next few months. 2. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES TO HAVE A SUSTAINABILITY PLAN IN PLACE? We see a lot of promises from big businesses that are changing their stance on sustainability, but businesses of all sizes can commit to making a difference. Your small business’s practices are just as important as those of the big corporations: change starts at the grassroots level. That’s why I’m proud that our team is leading by example and showing businesses of all sizes the importance of having a plan in place, and ensuring accountability as you execute. 

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ASK THE 40 ONE OF THE BIGGEST MYTHS I’VE HEARD IS THAT ONLY BIG BUSINESSES CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, BECAUSE ONLY THEY CAN AFFORD TO. SUSTAINABILITY IS A KEY ELEMENT OF ANY BUSINESS j Melissa Mills CEO, Spread’Em Kitchen Co.

In considering sustainability from a social perspective, we asked Forty under 40 winners for insight into how they practice or promote wellness in their daily lives.

I turn ‘coffee meetings’ into a walk, run or ride Travis Stevenson President, JTS Consulting

Webnames reimburses each staff person for sports equipment, memberships and team activities Cybele Negris Co-founder and CEO Webnames.ca

3. WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS TO FORMULATING SUCH A PLAN? It can be overwhelming to eliminate waste and be sustainable in every element of the business from the beginning. Start out small, give yourself just one or two goals you’re most passionate about a year. This will feel less overwhelming and ensure you meet your goals. Once you see how easy it is to make your business more sustainable, you’ll find more ways to make a difference. 4. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MYTHS YOU HEAR AROUND BUSINESS AND SUSTAINABILITY? One of the biggest myths I’ve heard is that only big businesses can make a difference, because only they can afford to. Sustainability is a key element of any business and something consumers are increasingly conscious of. Implementing strong sustainability practices and being open about them with your customers will help small businesses build a dedicated and brand-loyal customer base. 

Launching challenges at work, from monthly step count competitions to sustainable weight loss tests

I’ve always felt passionate about sustainability. My husband is a journalist who has covered Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, so I would join him at events around the city. What really spoke to me was watching Michael Ableman and Will Allen speak on their passion for supporting at-risk people, and finding a way for them to have access to real, whole foods, rather than heavily processed food. Other resources I recommend for anyone who wants to learn more about sustainability are Fresh, a documentary by Ana Sofia Joanes, and The Good Food Revolution by Charles Wilson and Will Allen. É

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Greg Malpass Founder and CEO Traction on Demand

We renamed “sick days” to “personal days” and encourage our team to take wellness time for themselves and loved ones Jeff Ward CEO, Animikii

Unlimited vacation policy

Ted Reid, President

Jeff Duncan

Paladin Technologies

President and CEO MeetingMax

I start my day with 45 minutes of yoga and meditation and make sure I get proper tech-free breaks throughout the day

I strive for a plant-based diet during the week: it helps to keep my mood and energy consistent Jessica Hollander Torres

Steve Rio

Director, marketing and

Founder and CEO

communications

Briteweb

Carruthers & Humphrey

Flexible hours to reduce the stress of childcare and lifestyle needs

I‘ve implemented a daily mental health checkin board – a built-in moment for mindfulness

Kylie McMullan Principal

Chelsea Ganam

Finch Media

Western Canada regional

I actively schedule downtime and selfdevelopment – and protect it

CBI Health Group

5. WHO OR WHAT HAS SIGNIFICANTLY SHAPED HOW YOU THINK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY?

I remind people that work and life need to operate in harmony. Drop boundaries, live one set of values

director of operations

Robert Coard Partner, assurance PwC

I make a point to always have a full breakfast, gather my thoughts and have a plan for the day Robin Dhir, President Twin Brook Developments Ltd.

By taking sleep seriously Andrea MacLeod Manager, environmental programs Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

Living congruently and authentically is the best way to stay well Renee Merrifield, CEO Troika Management Corp.

2020-06-23 2:38 PM


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2020-06-23 2:38 PM

Profile for Business in Vancouver Media Group

Sustainability 2020  

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