Evidence of meeting #60 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was holcim.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Greg Zilberbrant  Manager, Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility, Holcim Canada Inc.
Mary Jane Patterson  Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call our meeting to order. This is meeting number 60 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

We're meeting today pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) for a study of the role of the private sector in Canada in showing leadership by partnering with not-for-profit organizations to undertake local environmental initiatives.

Appearing today by video conference from Mississauga, Ontario, is Mr. Greg Zilberbrant, manager, environment and corporate social responsibility, Holcim Canada. By video conference from Waterloo, Ontario, we have Mary Jane Patterson, executive director, REEP Green Solutions.

We're happy to have both of you here by video. We'll begin with Mr. Greg Zilberbrant from Holcim and his 10-minute opening statement, followed by Mary Jane Patterson with her 10-minute statement. Then we'll proceed to questions from members.

Welcome, Mr. Zilberbrant.

June 9th, 2015 / 8:45 a.m.

Greg Zilberbrant Manager, Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility, Holcim Canada Inc.

Thank you.

Good morning. Thank you to the committee for inviting me to speak to you today on behalf of Holcim Canada.

To provide some context, I want to share briefly with you what Holcim Canada is. Holcim Canada Inc. is one of the country's largest vertically integrated building materials and construction companies. With 3,000 employees, we manufacture cement, aggregates, and ready-mix concrete and provide construction services to many of Canada's largest infrastructure projects. Our business divisions include Dufferin Aggregates, Dufferin Concrete, and Dufferin Construction in Ontario, and the Demix brand, offering concrete, aggregates, and construction services in Quebec.

In short, we build the materials that build the world around us. Concrete, one of the key products of our vertically integrated value chain, is the second most used material in the world, second only to water. We are proud of the materials we make and the solutions we provide and of how they're able to build the foundations of society.

The manufacturing of our materials is an important contribution to the social, economic, and environmental values that our company provides to Canadians. This is an important context for today's discussion about the opportunity for private enterprises to be leaders in collaboration with not-for-profit organizations and to create value through local environmental initiatives.

As a materials company, we have an undoubted environmental impact with the production of materials. We support the role of government in holding our industry accountable via compliance mechanisms. They play a vital role in ensuring that there is a level playing field among the competitors in our industry.

We produce materials by taking the most sustainable and economically feasible approach possible. We pride ourselves in being an environmental leader in our industry and in general across the manufacturing sector. This has much to do with the way in which we manufacture our materials and how, for example, we're able to reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources through the use of secondary materials such as blast-furnace slag, a byproduct of the steel industry, to produce a cement substitute; to improve our energy efficiency through the reuse of heat generated from our process to dry our incoming materials; and to reduce our carbon footprint overall through a reduction of non-renewable resources and increased energy efficiency, but also in the substitution of coal for non-recyclable residues from other industries as fuel in our cement kilns.

That is the manufacturing element of our business. However, we are able to create an impact and provide solutions beyond our own perimeter. By this, I refer to the opportunity for our materials to be used in pervious parking lots to improve stormwater management, an increased use of concrete in structures to improve the building envelope, and inflexible roadways made of concrete to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles. This complementary view of direct and indirect impact is a core part of our business strategy and a measure of the true value of a leader in sustainable development.

There is much more we can do, as we have done, beyond our core business as a member of the communities in which we operate. We take pride in our role as a good corporate neighbour and a leader in sustainable development. Holcim Canada has built a solid reputation for its commitment to the communities where we are located, to the people, the economy, and the natural environment. We proactively look for opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment and seek partnerships with trusted local NGOs where our organizations can add value and amplify each other's efforts for the net gain of our natural environment and our communities.

I would like to share with this committee a few examples of such partnerships and how they've come to be, and the net gain that was achieved for those involved.

The first such example is a very simple one, a park. A park was being built by the municipality less than a few hundred metres from our cement facility in Mississauga. We decided to get engaged, as it was a facility that our community and our employees would use for many years to come. Our involvement was to provide materials for the facility.

The material we wanted to provide was innovative in its design. The material is a porous concrete that allows rainwater to penetrate the surface and return to the ground rather than being diverted to the storm sewer, a great innovation that reduces the need for stormwater infrastructure and surges of water being moved to a large body while the groundwater remains unreplenished.

However, there were very few installations of this material in the region. We, along with the park architects and the municipality's project team, saw this as an opportunity rather than a setback. We hosted education events for the municipal roadwork staff; visited a site where the material had been installed in order to discuss best practices; engaged industry associations to provide training to the construction crews on installation techniques; and invited numerous stakeholders to witness the installation to better understand the material.

Holcim also designed an educational interactive outdoor display that shows how this material works and what benefits it provides for the environment. This collaboration has created a unique demonstration of materials and design innovation in a setting that can be assessed by our stakeholders, including our customers and members of the community, to learn more about the material and, most importantly, see it in action.

This feature is now a destination for the local conservation authority as part of its low-impact development tour that is attended by architects, engineers, and developers in the region. As such, it provides us with a business opportunity to promote a product that our company is able to deliver with high quality, as can be seen by the interest of our potential customers during this visit. Most importantly, it demonstrates that both the municipality and the conservation authority have trust in our abilities as an organization to deliver innovative environmental solutions.

The second example is that of the Holcim Waterfront Estate, a facility where member of Parliament Stella Ambler, who is on this committee, announced the funding that Holcim Canada and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority will be receiving for another project, which I will come back to in a moment as my third example.

The Holcim Waterfront Estate was again a collaboration between Holcim and the City of Mississauga. I will not delve into the details of this facility, aside from saying that it's a beautifully restored manor and a key piece of local heritage and history that has been revitalized using modern-day sustainable practices, for the enjoyment of generations to come. We are happy to be part of it.

The collaboration in this project demonstrated a level of trust that was built as a result of a previous park construction experience. Recycled aggregate was a primary source of stone for the project in using crushed recycled concrete rather than mined virgin aggregate. Low CO2 cement mixes were used for smaller features. A mix using recycled water and manufactured sand was used in some of the concrete designs, both offsetting the equivalent in natural quantities of material needed.

This example highlights the potential of adopting innovative environmental solutions in projects so that other stakeholders can understand the potential for such features within their own projects. Innovation, however, is not at the expense of quality and safety. All the features mentioned still appear and function in the same manner as designed.

What these projects have provided is an exceptional collaborative environment between Holcim and our non-private partners. This has led to continuous conversation with and support of one another by Holcim, the municipality, and the conservation authority. We provide access to conservation authority personnel to monitor birds, bats, fish, and shoreline conditions around our properties. These activities are part of larger studies; however, because of our open dialogue and our environmental commitments and the seriousness with which we take them, and based on the success of previous collaboration, Holcim was willing to grant access to have our properties included in these studies.

We also benefited when an opportunity for funding became available through the Government of Canada, as the information collected and, more importantly, the established collaborative relationship between Holcim and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority facilitated their support for Holcim to have nine acres of waterfront land enhanced to create a stopover and feeding area for migratory species at risk. This project clearly benefits these species, the mandate of the conservation authority, and the national conservation plan, but it also allows Holcim to further solidify our environmental leadership position with a project that independently would not be within our scope of knowledge or financial resources to complete.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to present to this committee and for the support the Government of Canada has provided for the natural enhancement project I just mentioned, on nine acres of land of our property on the shoreline of Lake Ontario, as a model of natural restoration and environmental leadership.

In summary, the collaborative nature of relationships between Holcim and our not-for-profit or public partners, in combination with our sustainability-minded business approach, has allowed us to take a leadership role in the private sector. All the examples provided have been realized within 500 metres of our Mississauga cement plant. These are local projects with local stakeholders that have a local and global impact.

We also appreciate the value we're able to bring to the table when discussing such collaboration. When there are innovative, creative organizations sitting at the table with us that are able to provide expertise in their area, the reputational value of their organizations, and an understanding of business needs, as well as the potential for funding to bridge economic gaps, then sustainable development opportunities are bound to find light.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Zilberbrant. That was very informative.

We'll move now to Mary Jane Patterson from Waterloo.

Mary Jane, please proceed.

8:55 a.m.

Mary Jane Patterson Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Good morning, committee members, staff, and Mr. Zilberbrant. Greetings from Waterloo region.

I am honoured to be part of this discussion today and am very interested in this topic. Our observation as a non-profit is that the private sector is ready and willing to partner and to show leadership, not only by sometimes sponsoring our work but many times by participating in it as well.

I work for REEP Green Solutions, an environmental non-profit organization that serves the Waterloo region. We focus on energy and water sustainability. In particular, we've delivered the EnerGuide for houses home energy evaluations for 16 years. We've now been in 14,000 homes in Waterloo region and participants in our program are collectively saving 21,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually through their home energy upgrades.

Some of the work we're doing is cutting edge and actually similar to what you described, Mr. Zilberbrant, such as climate change adaptation to prevent flooding and to protect our streams and rivers. When a business gets involved in one of our programs as a participant or a delivery partner, they're showing leadership because together we're helping to establish a new norm of behaviour in our community. The strongest most effective programs we've seen have government policy and incentives as their foundation. In other words, you have two legs of the stool in the description of this study: the private sector and non-profit organizations. I propose that we add a third leg, and that is government policy and incentives.

I want to give you examples from our stormwater program and our energy efficiency work to make three points. First is that private sector partners strengthen our impact. Second, government policy and incentives are an essential foundation for this work, and third, these programs are good for the economy.

Let me give you a recent example involving a bank as a partner and a property management company as a participant in our RAIN program. RAIN is an ecological approach to stormwater management. We had the pleasure last week of receiving a cheque for $5,000 from RBC to support a rain garden party at a six-plex residential building in Kitchener. Rain gardens are a creative and beautiful way to reduce flood risk and protect our streams and rivers by soaking up and slowing down stormwater. Although they're not new technology, they are cutting edge in terms of public adoption.

The private sector leadership in this case is twofold. One is the property owner doing something new and different to solve a flooding problem on his property, and the other is RBC showing their private sector leadership by helping our organization turn this single action into a living classroom in the community so that neighbours can come to our training session and a work party.

RBC receives positive recognition and the staff feel part of making their community better. I can say that this was really clear when we went to get the cheque. All the staff had blue T-shirts on and there were giant blue raindrops suspended from the ceiling with tips on how to conserve water. They were really proud of what their company was doing for the community.

What really made this project possible was the third leg of this stool: government funding and an incentive. Our work in stormwater management began with funding from the Province of Ontario and it continues now under contract with the municipalities. The local government also provided an incentive of $4,000 to the property owner to encourage uptake of this kind of project so that it can become a public demonstration of innovative stormwater management practices.

The third leg in the stool is really the first one. The government's role is very important in these partnerships to steer us to the future we want for our country and for our communities. We need good public policy based in evidence to provide a framework for private and non-sector action, and incentives to help put these policies into practice.

At REEP we often work with small and medium-sized businesses. If I look at it from their perspective, I see that they want to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the community. They want to increase their sales. They want to be responsible corporations, and sometimes, they also want to solve a problem on their property that we can help them with. In all of these cases, they're looking for ways that their goals intersect with the public good.

We want the public good to be well defined. Otherwise, we risk public sector investment going to activities that look good for public relations reasons but don't contribute to the end results we want for our country and our community.

One of the best examples I've seen of the private sector, the non-profit sector, and the government working together has been the ecoENERGY home energy efficiency program. The federal government provided the financial incentive to homeowners to spur them to action. They based it on a third party audit to benchmark and verify the results. REEP was one of the many service providers for that audit. A number of them were non-profit also. Renovation contractors were essential additional private sector actors providing the retrofits for these homes.

We worked closely with renovation contractors during that time. All of us were really proud to be part of a government-led initiative that we brought our local strength to. The contractors were key partners who helped spread the word about the program and spur uptake. They also benefited economically. We think somewhere in the neighbourhood of $41 million would have been spent in our community to implement those retrofits over the years. We really cannot underestimate the economic value of these programs and the jobs they create and sustain.

The ecoENERGY incentive ended in 2011, and there hasn't been anywhere near the retrofit activity in our community there was before. At REEP we used to do 100 energy evaluations a month. Now we barely do that in a year. It doesn't mean there aren't home energy retrofits happening, but there really isn't anything to spur homeowners who are putting it off to do it now, or to move it up higher in their priority list, or to access those people who aren't planning to do it already.

We've really looked for ways ourselves to encourage home energy retrofits in the absence of the incentive. For example, we've talked to our electric and natural gas utilities about working together, and in some ways, we are. But what we've heard from them is that they're really focusing on the commercial sector rather than the residential sector, because that's where they have the easiest gains and the greatest impact.

Some homeowner-targeted programs continue in some areas, but they're not able to have the impact the federal incentive was able to have. This demonstrates to me the importance of the federal government being at the table to provide a framework that makes sure key sectors or issues are not left out because they're harder to address. If you look at the residential sector, it accounts for 50% of our natural gas consumption in the Waterloo region and 30% of our electricity consumption. That's a really significant sector that we want to address.

I'll give you one more example of private sector leadership, in this case spurred by a Natural Resources Canada call for proposals. REEP is partnering with two businesses in the Waterloo region, Mindscape Innovations and Scaled Purpose, for a proposal to NRCan to encourage home energy retrofits by providing both a retrofit coach to help people through the process and innovative community-based financing to help address the capital cost.

We are proud to partner with these two local businesses, and very pleased that we may have the support of the federal government to provide this pilot, but I know that each gain and every retrofit will be hard won, because there really isn't anything like a federal incentive to motivate action by homeowners. If this approach had the support of a federal incentive to build on, then it could really fly. I feel sometimes like we're trying to build something in mid-air. We really need a foundation for the residential sector from the federal level to make things happen.

My conclusion is that the third leg of the stool is really critical. The private sector is ready and willing to partner, and their input really makes the impact much stronger. We can make that generosity and corporate innovation count most when there's a solid public policy foundation based in evidence that steers us forward together. Then we as non-profits and our private sector partners have something to build on. We're part of something bigger than ourselves, working together not only for our community but for our country, for our country's climate action plan. It becomes an economic stimulus and an environment benefit rolled into one powerful package.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. I'm looking forward to the discussion.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Ms. Patterson.

Again, thanks to both of you for your good remarks and for keeping well within your time.

We're going to move now to our committee members for an opening round of seven minutes each. We'll begin with Mr. Woodworth, please.

Mr. Woodworth.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome to the witnesses.

I'm sorry you can't be here with us in person, but I'm glad that you both had an opportunity to present your point of view and get some things on the record federally.

I especially welcome Ms. Patterson. I hope you don't mind if I call you Mary Jane. I'm very, very glad to have had the opportunity in this study to bring you here to talk about how non-profits partner with the private sector. You know that I'm a big fan of the work that you do and I'm really glad to get a chance to put some of this on the record federally.

I'd like to begin by asking you to describe the REEP House for sustainable living. First of all, describe what it is and its purposes, and also then tell us what role the private sector had in helping you to arrange that demonstration house.

Ms. Patterson, please.

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Mary Jane Patterson

Well, I'd be glad to and I did have that in the text of my remarks but I cut it out, because I knew I had to speak more slowly for the translators. So thank you for asking.

The REEP House for Sustainable Living is a 100-year-old house in the heart of Kitchener that has been renovated to reduce its energy consumption by 86%. It's one of very few renovated homes that are LEED platinum certified in Canada. It is part of our efforts to continue to encourage home owners to retrofit their homes by showing them in practice some of the things that we recommend in our home energy evaluations.

One of the things that's the most popular is the insulation room. We have a whole wall with different kinds of insulation displayed with the drywall removed so you can see each different type. We explain the R-value and the cost and the impact, and some of the environmental implications of each type.

As you pointed out, Stephen, there is a really neat combination of people who came together to make the REEP House possible, starting with the federal government grant during the stimulus funding time, and matched with provincial grants and local government, and then many private sector partners came together with us to do this.

I can mention, for example, Reitzel Insulation, a company in Kitchener that we had often worked with in the ecoENERGY program. They insulated the whole house for a value of about $16,000 as an in-kind contribution to the project. There are a number of other contractors who either provided lower prices for us or things at cost, or even outright contributions, to make that project happen.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Have you disseminated this technology and this information to building contractors in the Waterloo region area, and how has that effort been going?

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Mary Jane Patterson

We do get contractors coming in. Our focus is more on helping home owners understand how to choose between different types of insulation they encounter, but we continue to work with contractors, and sometimes they send their customers to the house so they can see the different options.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Very good.

I think the idea is to demonstrate to the building industry and to residential consumers that the kinds of technology, not just insulation but other kinds of technology, in the demonstration house will in fact pay back many times over, over time. Is that correct?

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Mary Jane Patterson

Yes, that's one of the important parts of the demonstration. The title of it is: “What do you want your annual heating bill to be?” We show under each type of insulation and also with a bare or wall—which is how we found the house—what the heating costs are, what it costs to upgrade with each type, and what the payback would be.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

I would like you to also tell us what support the NRC is offering in the program for which you put in a response to the call for proposals. What is that NRC program about?

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Mary Jane Patterson

It was a request for proposals for multi-sectoral partnerships that would further home energy retrofits using the EnerGuide for houses software as part of the package and Energy Star for new homes. So in our partnership, we've partnered with Mindscape Innovations, which offers home ratings for new homes. We're combining the work we do for existing homes with their work for new homes to respond to this proposal. The third partner is coming in to work on community financing.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

What is NRC's contribution?

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Mary Jane Patterson

If we are successful in our application, it would be about $120,000, which we're matching with in-kind and local money. That will help us hire a retrofit coach to help people through the process and to provide contractor training as well.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Very good. EnerGuide and the other program you mentioned, was it On Star? I'm sorry, I lost that name, but EnerGuide—

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you.

Are those federal programs or not—federal developed instruments, yes?

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Mary Jane Patterson

Yes, they are. Yes, certainly, EnerGuide for houses is. I think Energy Star is too.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Very good, thank you.

I wonder if you could tell us if there is any obstacle that you've encountered in getting businesses to work with you to make sustainability the norm for them.

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions

Mary Jane Patterson

I would say that what we need is the support to do the work. For example, right now we're hired by the municipalities on the stormwater side to engage with businesses, to show them how to divert and soak up stormwater on their property rather than sending it all to the stormwater system.

What we need is support to be hired to do the work, but once we do that, then we go out and make the contacts and it's up to us to engage businesses in it. They've been really interested. We've had probably three dozen businesses working with us this past year, whereas the year before I don't think any of them would have ever heard of any of this work. So they're very interested.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

I'm afraid I'm out of time, but thank you very much.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Woodworth, and Ms. Patterson.

Our next question will be by Ms. LeBlanc. Welcome to our committee.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would also like to thank the witnesses for their presentations and for the extremely important initiatives they discussed with us.

Ms. Patterson, you said that a partner was missing for all of these initiatives, that they were often of rather short duration, and that there were no long-term incentives.

Mr. Zilberbrant, you gave the example of a park in which you used a rather innovative type of concrete, if I understood correctly.

Do you think that in the long term, the federal government could see to it that the population and entrepreneurs are made more aware of these materials that are particularly adapted to climate change, since they contribute to reducing greenhouse gases?

Do you think the federal government could do something in that respect?

9:15 a.m.

Manager, Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility, Holcim Canada Inc.

Greg Zilberbrant

Thank you very much for the question.

The material that was used in this park is a porous concrete. In very basic terms, it's a concrete with lots of holes in it that allow water to penetrate back in the ground and replenish the ground water.

This is an example of the sustainable technology or a technology that can be used in different applications—not in all applications, but for parking lots. As Ms. Patterson mentioned, it can be used to deal with rainwater and rainwater run-off, especially in impervious areas or in parking lots or sidewalks.

The largest thing the federal government can play a role in is really the policy and the adoption of these technologies beyond their demonstration. I think Ms. Patterson alluded to that regarding the ecoENERGY guides or in Energy Star—not necessarily as much for certification as for education and highlighting which technologies do what and what their purpose is in our built environment. I believe there's an opportunity to provide that sort of educational information, and then eventually incentivizing the builders to do it.