By Karen Tam Wu and Julia Balabanowicz

The Catalyst Business Alliance supports a resilient recovery. Photo: Stephen Hui

Across Canada and elsewhere, B.C. garnered kudos for how it tackled the COVID-19 pandemic early on. Now, B.C. has another opportunity to demonstrate its leadership — by harnessing its recovery efforts to build a resilient, clean economy.

Businesses, large and small, have been affected by the crisis. Many have scaled down, suspended, or closed operations. Nevertheless, in the face of adversity, many B.C. companies have demonstrated resilience, innovation, and a strong commitment to community. Businesses have retooled, refocused, and given back in response to the COVID-19 challenge. Their experiences offer important lessons for companies as we move into the low-carbon future.

For examples of B.C. businesses that have demonstrated nimbleness while supporting the community and working for the common good, look at the member companies of the Catalyst Business Alliance.

The Arc’teryx factory in New Westminster, which normally manufactures high-performance outdoor apparel, started pumping out protective gowns for hospital workers. While Modo was forced to put much of its fleet in storage as people stayed close to home, the car-sharing co-op offered the exclusive use of dozens of its vehicles to essential workers at cost.

With food-service industry orders in flux, Salt Spring Coffee donated 1,500 pounds of coffee to hospitals and health-care facilities. When Earnest Ice Cream re-opened for online orders, it contributed to the Vancouver Food and Beverage Community Fund to support restaurant workers struggling because of the crisis. Innergex Renewable Energy gave $83,500 to food banks, women’s shelters, hospital foundations, and Indigenous health authorities and friendship centres that serve the B.C. communities where the company’s facilities and offices are located.

During these difficult times, Catalyst members have continued to champion climate action and the clean economy. That’s because climate leadership is a value shared by their staff, clients, and customers; they see business opportunities in promoting and creating goods and services in a low-carbon economy; and/or their businesses rely on and thrive in a stable climate.

This aligns with what Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James have clearly stated: CleanBC, the province’s climate plan, is core to B.C.’s economic recovery.

Catalyst members believe economic stimulus should help support, enhance, and accelerate progress on the vision and goals of CleanBC; improve health and well-being; and create meaningful work for people affected by the crisis. Our top priorities for economic-stimulus spending include:

  • Expediting and expanding projects that build resiliency to flooding, wildfires, and other climate risks and enhance the province’s capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change and support ecosystem restoration 
  • Upgrading homes and buildings (particularly schools, care facilities, community centres, and workplaces) to be energy-efficient and resilient to extreme weather, and use low or zero-carbon fuels for heating
  • Making clean electricity the obvious business choice as energy-intensive areas of B.C.’s economy rebound, by establishing favourable rates and removing barriers (such as cost, timelines, and infrastructure)
  • Growing the supply chain for biofuels from agricultural and forest waste, which will support rural communities and reduce the carbon intensity of fossil fuels
  • Ensuring continuity of adequate and affordable transit service in B.C. communities, and that zero-emissions bus procurements and infrastructure are not postponed
  • Expanding active-transportation infrastructure to maintain the notable increase in walking and cycling

This is an opportunity, not simply for a one-time injection, but to make a down payment on a prosperous, sustainable future for British Columbians. Continued political will and public investment will be needed in the coming years to realize this vision. A clear vision and a long-term commitment to a low-carbon economy gives businesses the certainty they need to invest in clean jobs and innovation.

As B.C. businesses know, the choices we make today will determine how strong we are tomorrow. Let’s make sure we focus B.C.’s recovery investments on building a resilient, clean economy and a sustainable future for all British Columbians.

Karen Tam Wu and Julia Balabanowicz are the co-chairs of the Catalyst Business Alliance, a network of Canadian businesses championing strong climate and energy policy and the creation of a resilient economy. Learn more: catalystbc.org

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