Elmira-based Enviro-Stewards is the best of the best in the world — and they have the award to prove it.
Enviro-Stewards is one of approximately 1,000 corporations in the world that has attained B Corporation status, a relatively new standard that is applied to corporations that have a decidedly different ethic than what is commonly seen in the corporate world.
To become a B Corporation, companies need to complete an online evaluation form that looks at, among other things, the company's commitment to a sustainable economy, the environment, social responsibility, as well as how fair it is to its employees, comparing the salary of the CEO with the lowest-paid employee.
To even become a B Corporation is hard. To gain this status, a company has to earn a score of 80 or higher on the evaluation; Enviro-Stewards has a score of 138, which is why it has been recognized as part of the "B Corp Best for the World" list, which honours the top 10 per cent of B Corporations in the entire world, the ones that are "creating the most impact for a better world."
Enviro-Stewards received its award at a special ceremony in Kitchener last week. ChangeIt, another local B Corporation member, was also honoured, among 92 other businesses worldwide.
Bruce Taylor, president of Enviro-Stewards, is passionate about the work that his organization does.
Enviro-Stewards works with corporations in Canada that are trying to reduce their environmental footprint. Through engineering design, Enviro-Stewards has helped clients as varied as Tim Hortons and United Space Alliance develop new ways of doing things, to reduce water and energy consumption.
But the work at Enviro-Stewards goes further than that. That's because Taylor founded the company with the desire to be able to spend at least part of his year helping out in developing nations, pursuing his passions while still working in his field.
So, on a regular basis, Taylor visits South Sudan, where a sustainable water filter project continues to grow. Every year, new communities sign on to form their own businesses selling these low-tech water filters that purify the water that residents drink, using a model that helps them develop a sustainable economy for their community.
And, the North American companies that Taylor works with often sponsor the purchase of these water filters to receive sustainability credits that are beneficial to their own businesses.
It's a win-win-win approach, one that underlines the success of Enviro-Stewards.
"We get very good engagement (on this) with our clients," said Taylor, who has visited South Sudan with representatives of Pepsi Co, in relation to his work with the company. Another trip is being planned for this coming November, to establish the project in new areas of South Sudan.
Taylor said one of the major benefits of seeing the water filters become more popular in South Sudan is that it actually helps prevent deforestation.
"They cut down the trees to provide the fuel that is used to boil the water," said Taylor. "This avoids that deforestation."
While in South Sudan, Taylor will be teaching a social venture business course, helping the people in that African nation learn more about how to sustain their businesses, once established.
Taylor said they don't often run into technical difficulties in the building of the water filters, but the businesses often run into problems because of the difficulty the participants have in planning ahead.
"How do you plan ahead? How much do you have to sell to break even?" said Taylor. "These are the questions they need to answer."
Through the course, as well as a board game that Taylor has devised that mirrors the business model for the water filters, it helps prepare the participants for the rigours of running a business. It also gives them the tools they need to sell their water filters, which are sold at a cost ranging from $60 to $85.
Taylor tells them that "one cholera needle costs as much as a water filter," which can last for decades.
It's a point that is well taken, given the outbreaks of cholera that occur when South Sudan residents are forced to drink contaminated water.
The business model varies from community to community, with some setting up areas where they can sell the clean water to local residents, while others sell the filters themselves.
It's all part of the B Corporation philosophy that guides Enviro-Stewards.
Taylor said there is something meaningful about being able to belong to a group of businesses that have presidents and CEOs that think the same way he does, wanting to make a positive difference in the world.
He points to a recent B Corporation conference held in Boulder, Colorado, shortly after major flooding. Organizers asked for help for one of the businesses that makes solar panels, who needed help "mucking out" his business.
"Seventy people got up and left the meeting," recalled Taylor. And, a little later in the day, when someone announced that help was needed with a road that was washed out, "another 50 people got up to help.
"It's really nice to be a B Corporation," said Taylor.
Enviro-Stewards has, in the past year, also changed its compensation model, in which it now gets paid based on performance. The new model is working for Enviro-Stewards, which in the past ended up on the losing end of bidding wars, simply because the environmental reviews it offered companies weren't necessarily cheaper, even though they were almost inevitably more thorough.
Taylor said he expects that Enviro-Stewards will soon be able to expand, hiring additional staff to go with the 10 people who work out of their office on Union Street. Enviro-Stewards is also looking at expanding its water filtration projects, with several additional communities hoping to join up with Enviro-Stewards in the coming year.
For more information about Enviro-Stewards, visit www.enviro-stewards.com.