The magic formula of sustainability: corporate executives and environmentalists working together

Sometimes mountains do move as Nicole Rycroft and her team of environmentalists at
Canopy discovered when they set their sights on the newspaper industry.

Canopy’s work to introduce sustainable practices to the industry has been a slow transformation that started seven years ago and Rycroft recently presented the results during Newspapers Canada’s INK+BEYOND newspaper conference on May 3 in Ottawa.

In 2000, no major newspaper in the world met the environmental standards Canopy set as an industry benchmark. Today, over 400 newspapers operating all over the world meets them. The main key to their success was discovering allies within the corporate newspaper world like Transcontinental’s Julia Kamula and John Cruickshank from the Toronto Star. “Corporate executives are some of the most powerful advocates for environmental change and people like Julia and John are proof of that,” said Rycroft.

Both Cruickshank and Kamula head up environmental policy development iniatives and are working towards creating sustainable corporate culture in their respective organizations.

“It’s more than easing our own conscious – it’s about actually change how business is done,” said Cruickshank. “There is this feeling that you better be socially responsible.”
He added that a newsroom mutiny is also a real consideration. “For us, to not be sustainable, we would be the worst sort of hypocrites and you don’t want to take on the green reporters.”

TorStar and Transcontinental have a lot of weight to throw around. They could shift industry practices – they know it and they’ve already started. Both organizations have active environmental policies integrated into their daily operations and work with Canopy among others to develop sustainable strategies. “You have two choices; you can resist and not be a participant or you can engage and use their expertise to help you,” said Kamula.

Environmental policies, such as those at Trancontinental, are an opportunity to hold CEOs and management accountable to tangible standards and breeds new behaviour.
“At some point it becomes practice. It becomes part of the culture; it becomes engrained,” said Kamula.

It also helps them attract the sort of employees they want, explained Cruickshank. “People come to join us because they like to be behaving ethically.”

The bottom line reflects the benefits as well. “When we’re greener in our operations, we’re cheaper,” he added.

“Environmentalists aren’t evil people. We should see them as partners,” said Kamula.
For Cruickshank, the sharing of resources and a wide breadth of experiences are key factors in the continued growth of sustainable newsrooms.

“It you don’t get a broad enough group, the good guys die because they’re not competitive enough and then you make it worst with the best intentions.”