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Case study

Agency for Co-operative Housing

GHG Impact:

  • 26% reduction overall
  • 26% reduction per FTE
  • 83% reduction in emissions from paper use

Operational Solutions:

  • Videoconferencing; avoiding unnecessary travel
  • Going paperless; purchasing paper with recycled content

Engaging Value Chain:

  • Developed “Greener Co-Op Microgrant” program
  • From 2016-17, funding 33 co-op projects across Canada

A federally incorporated co-operative, the Agency for Co-operative Housing administers the operating agreements of federal-program housing co-operatives in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and PEI on CMHC’s behalf. Through its risk-based, data-driven and client-focused approach, the Agency ensures that public funds committed for co-operative housing programs are used as intended and properly accounted for, while safeguarding the public’s investment in good-quality, fairly priced co-operative housing.

The Agency began measuring its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint with Climate Smart in 2008, and since then, has achieved an impressive 26% reduction in GHG emissions, as well as an intensity reduction of 26% per full time-equivalent employee.

Business Travel
Early on, the Agency realized that business travel was by far its largest emissions source. In 2016, business travel was responsible for 53% of the organization’s entire carbon footprint. The Agency took a variety of actions, including:

  • Installing the infrastructure to allow video-conferencing and promoting its use to staff.
  • Implementing an Agency-wide policy to discourage unnecessary travel.
  • Educating staff on time and carbon footprint savings associated with rail versus flight travel.
  • Providing an incentive to staff who choose rail (when it’s a viable alternative) over air travel.

Altogether, these efforts have led to a 5% reduction in emissions associated with air travel.

Since its baseline year, the Agency has made huge strides towards reducing its footprint associated with paper use. It has migrated to a Microsoft SharePoint system that allows electronic file storage and sharing. Adopting this technology has helped transition the Agency to being a ‘paper-free’ office. Though a small amount of printing still occurs, the vast majority of printing has been cut out. There is also a move towards purchasing paper with recycled content. These actions have led to a 10tCO2e/81% reduction in emissions associated with paper use.

While not captured as part of its emissions baseline, Agency efforts have also resulted in a significant reduction in paper use by its co-operative clients. This has been achieved primarily through the development of a custom information system that electronically captures all data collected from housing co-ops in the Agency’s portfolio. Co-operative financial filings, reports and key correspondence are delivered through this information system. The result has been an elimination of thousands of letters, faxes and reports that would have otherwise been sent by paper, as well as the emissions associated with the transportation of mail.

Leveraging Influence
To tackle emissions remaining after taking actions to reduce its footprint, the Agency considered purchasing offsets and renewable energy certificates (RECs). Eventually, a suggestion came from the organization’s sustainability committee to consider creating an immediate impact by promoting environmental improvements to the community of housing co-operatives. In 2016, in partnership with the Co-operative Housing Federation (CHF) of Canada, the Agency created the “Greener Co-Op Microgrant” program. The program provides grants to co-ops to implement projects that have a positive impact on the environment. Projects have included: lighting retrofits, dual flush toilets, e-bike charging stations and drip-irrigation systems. Bringing in partners CHF BC, the Housing Services Corporation, and Co-op Cost Cutters, the grants have provided $100 000 in funding in 2016 and 2017. Agency staff have been very engaged and instrumental in creating this program.

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