15 Minutes on Environmental Impact

Episode Transcript

Lama Alsafi: 00:01 Hello and welcome to 15 minutes to change the world, where in 15 minutes, you can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it.

My name is Lama Alsafi standing in for Kasia Souchen as host of this podcast. Earth Day is April 22nd and the issue of environmental protection has never been more top of mind for many Canadians. Last year, the world’s leading climate scientists warned world that about a decade remains before global temperatures reach the point of no return. The consequences of the globe warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels means an increased risk of floods, drought, major storms, extreme heat and poverty for millions of people around the world.

Today I am joined by Ted Ferguson, president of the Delphi Group, which provides strategic consulting services and innovative solutions to corporations and public sector organizations in the areas of climate change and corporate sustainability. Over the last two years, Delphi has generously donated consulting expertise to care Canada, helping us become a more environmentally conscious organization and to lower our environmental impact here in Ottawa. Welcome Ted, and thank you for joining us. We’re really excited to talk today about how we can all work towards reducing our environmental impact.

Ted Ferguson: 01:44 Thank you very much.

Lama Alsafi: 01:45 Can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your organization?

Ted Ferguson: 01:49 Certainly. So, uh, as you noted, my name is Ted Ferguson live here in Ottawa, Canada. I grew up in Toronto and spent a lot of years out in beautiful British Columbia. Uh, our company, the Delphi Group, we’ve been around for 30 years, approximately in Canada, but we have worked, uh, globally as well in South America and in India. Uh, for now though, we have offices in Toronto and Calgary, Victoria as well, and focus our work on sustainability issues.

Lama Alsafi: 02:19 Very good. And Ted, I hear you’re quite the environmentalist. What first got you interested in environmental causes?

Ted Ferguson: 02:25 For me, uh, I would say several things that have really driven that passion for, uh, for my life. So my love of nature, but just being outdoors and getting that sense of wonder and adventure. You know there’s a lot of science behind this fact, but you can also just feel it is a, the realization of a healthy environment is so important to the human psyche, your health, your sense of well-being. And for me that really is quite visceral I’d say as you get into your professional world. It’s affected me or influenced me because I became aware of the connections between a healthy environment, a stable society, a healthy society, and a strong economy and they’re all linked and it’s quite complex, but they are definitely linked and so that’s really driven my professional life.

Lama Alsafi: 03:14 Speaking of your professional life, can you tell us a bit more about your work with the Delphi Group and the work that the group is doing here in Canada on climate change and sustainability?

Ted Ferguson: 03:23 Yeah, absolutely. So our vision as a company is to create a sustainable, prosperous and socially just future in a generation. And somebody might say or is that an environmental group? Well, no, we’re a for-profit company and we are proud of that and we’re also proud of the really cool things we get to do with our profit. Delphi specifically has a mission and that is to have fun while we transform the way leading organizations generate value to make our world better. We work with, for example, over the last few years, 30 of Canada’s 100 largest companies across the economy, different sectors and we work with them on sustainability strategies, climate change plans, embracing clean tech and innovation and then also green economy strategies. We’re what’s called a B Corp, which is stands for benefit corporation and that means we put as much priority into our environmental and social commitment as we do our economic. And so we get 1% of gross revenues to charity and we encourage staff and different team members to do neat volunteer projects like we did here with CARE. So we were, we’re really proud to be able to do those kinds of things as an organization.

Lama Alsafi: 04:32 So Ted, we’re increasingly hearing more about the devastating impacts of plastic pollution. I see this a lot on social media. What is it exactly and how can the average person make a difference when it comes to plastic pollution?

Ted Ferguson: 04:44 You’ll notice that the items are things we all relate to. It’s a plastic bag, it’s a bottle of water, you know the things that we’ve all chosen to purchase or chosen to use. And so do you think about it? Individual choice is so critical. Even on this massive global scale, you can relate to almost every item that you see when you’re looking at plastic pollution. And then there’s another part of it which is far more complicated and it’s the system of waste management and problem is, and a lot of places you put your garbage or recycling in a container and it doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go and it’s corruption, it’s mismanagement. People are supposed to dump it and put it away properly, people are supposed to have it recycled, it’s cheaper to dump it illegally. And then you have a lack of controls and systems and things like that. So it’s an individual thing and it’s a system wide problem. Yeah. I think we as individuals have a lot of opportunity to take control of our own decisions and look for alternatives in particular to single use plastics. And then you have to think about, okay, it’s okay to use it, but how do we make sure people put it away, you know, recycle it properly. But the systems aren’t set up to do it very well right now.

Lama Alsafi: 05:54 Ted I don’t know if you saw, but last month, thousands of students around the world walked out of their classes to protest the inaction of governments on climate change. So why do you think that people have become more aware of the impact they’re having on the environment?

Ted Ferguson: 06:07 Yeah, so first of all, I think it’s fantastic that kids are getting riled up on this issue. They, you know, the worst thing on these issues that we care about uh, his, his silence, human voices matter. And I think it’s just so amazing that, uh, kids are getting angry and upset and they’re telling politicians and business leaders, they got to do something about it. I think it’s been easier for kids and people of all ages to grapple with this very complex issue. And that is to say the science is better uh, we know the impacts more clearly and the timelines, quite frankly, are scarier. Up till now this issue has just been buried in really complicated economics and science and messaging and the lack of clarity and uh, but it’s also the solutions are way more obvious, way more accessible by everyone, for everyone and, and they’ve got these, uh, very compelling co-benefits, a couple to list.

Energy efficiency, it’s a bit boring. It’s changing light bulbs. It’s improving heating and cooling, but it saves an organization, lots of money. Renewable energy, so you’re reducing pollution and the pollution costs on, on humans from a human health point of view are dramatic. You know, it’s the number it’s now the number one killer in the globe and smoking used to be, but now it’s air pollution. So you go to renewable energy, you get a co-benefit of improving human health and now it’s actually cheaper, the technology is cheaper. Electric vehicles, uh, they are, uh, up front, a little bit more expensive, but they cost a fifth to a tenth less to operate because electricity is cheaper than gas. Uh, ecosystem, so, you know, restoring them makes a place more, more resilient to climate change. But then you also get all these other benefits, absorbing carbon from the air, pure water, all those things, and then the impacts of climate change are reduced because you don’t have like soil, uh, erosion during a massive rainstorm event gets reduced if an ecosystem is, has been restored. Last two things I just want to touch on quickly that are very hot topics in business but clean tech and innovation because you can put clean tech and existing heavier emitting kind of industries like oil, gas or mining in heavy industry. They need clean tech so that they don’t admit as much when they produce some goods and then it also means you’re, you’re combining IT and software and a lot of knowledge worker type jobs with things that help to solve really significant problems.

There’s some amazing data right now which really shows that if you care about environment, social issues, your returns are actually better. For years it was, you should just do it just to be a good human and now a company that manages it’s environmental issues, risks and manages its social assets, it’s social capital, all it’s people, it’s customers as communities and takes care of good care of them. They actually do better as a company.

Lama Alsafi: 09:06 So we see that nowadays humanitarian assistance and emergency relief, they’re increasingly tied to climate change and its impacts. And we see that experts are drawing a direct link between climate change and extreme weather events. So for example, we see Cyclone Idai, which, uh, just hit Southern Africa. These storms are having a devastating impact on those countries that are least responsible for climate change and are least equipped to handle the strain of the disasters. Um, so you know, when we think about this, we think of policy makers and you know, the kind of advice that we give them. So what message do you have to policy makers on this growing threat?

Ted Ferguson: 09:45 This has been a concern for years and as somebody who’s been working on this issue for two decades, this linkage is not new, but people’s awareness of the linkage is, is much higher than it used to be. You are seeing the impacts that people were predicting and you can’t say that storm, climate change, but you can say statistically the strength of that storm was completely off the charts and had never would have never occurred before of hundreds and thousands of years of data and how it hits, you know, a developing country. Well if you’re just in subsistence living and you don’t have the opportunities for, uh, say the good infrastructure storms like that, just devastate the landscape and it’s generations of people that get affected by one storm like that one in Mozambique.

Like it’s, it, it, you know, ruins productive agricultural land, it ruins transportation. Whereas, let’s say in Canada we’ve got robust companies, we’ve got governments, that, that have plans in place for extreme events. The policymakers, uh, so they have new tools at their disposal now to one of the quote unquote good things about more people paying attention to this issue then in the past as the science of actually figuring out where impacts are more likely to occur, where, which areas are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate, is much improved and policymakers need to put more emphasis on those tools. And that as you say, people like in a in a less developed country, they’ve contributed less to the climate change issue and yet they’re the most vulnerable to it. So at the very least, policymakers need to put the resources behind those efforts so that people universally can access the tools that would help them mitigate the worst effects.

Lama Alsafi: 11:38 So Ted with Earth Day just around the corner. What are some things someone listening right now can do to start reducing their environmental impact and how they can become more active in the fight against climate change?

Ted Ferguson: 11:49 To me, like quality of life, health, health is being healthy is fun. You know, like it drives me bananas, this, this notion that, you know, caring about these issues has to be all dour and down and sacrifice, its sacrifice. It’s the opposite, it’s celebrating and enjoy just truly think about your impact and find a better path that you’re taking care and, and you’re still able to really get on just fine. So, uh, Earth Day, it’s a great time of the year to begin enjoying being outside just the air on your skin, it feels good. So, uh, my bias is towards biking. I love to be on a bicycle. And so I say, you know, get on your bike and if you don’t like to bike, go for a walk.

And then I would suggest, uh, on Earth Day that folks, you know, let’s say you’ve been out for a little while, let’s take a break and grab your smartphone and just quickly send three texts or three emails to politicians that you can vote for and tell them that you can vote for them and tell them you care about the environment. So us, we’re in a democracy. Let’s, uh, let’s act on our ability to influence outcomes. So bike, send a message to somebody, tell them you care.

And the third thing is, um, look at your own life and think about what can I do differently? If your engaged on these issues, there’s always new things to consider. So I say local food I would list you use less energy to transport it, less greenhouse gases and typically less waste, you know, plastic packaging, less waste. So that helps. I would list a, I love beer, so I have to list that, look out for some great microbrewery movement and what I love about that craft brewery is that there’s also a social and an environmental ethic and ethos associated with a lot of that, that industry, they feel like their community and the environment really matters to what they produce. So make it, you know, make it fun for yourself, oriented towards things that you, you feel good about. My biases are things like, you know, biking and beer. Everybody has things that they’re really interested in, so it can be, you can get really creative.

Another option, uh, saves you dollars is, uh, is light bulbs. So LEDs, light emitting diodes, they’re basically available all over the place now, use 80% less energy than a typical light bulb. They also last about 20 years. If people look around and look at the energy they use, I mean we have so many resources and wealth at our disposal compared to the rest of the world and, and we have so many opportunities in our consumer marketplace. Uh, you know, when people are out shopping all the time and a simple light bulb is a huge difference to reduce our energy use per person.

Lama Alsafi: 14:36 Yeah. And with these practical tips that you’ve given us, uh, they can be, you know, they can be employed in, in the workplace and as well as at home, your local food, less waste, a delicious organic beer, biking to work, you know, and also replacing the light bulbs. These are simple little things that we could do, but they can make a big impact. Ted, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.

Ted Ferguson: 14:59 You’re absolutely welcome. It’s been my pleasure and I hope some people learn a few things and take on new exciting challenges as it relates to sustainability.

Lama Alsafi: 15:08 Thank you so much and thank you to all our listeners for tuning in. As always, you can stay up to date on our newest episode of 15 minutes to change the world on Spotify and iTunes.