Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP) aims to make Vancouver the Greenest City in the world by 2020 and to secure Vancouver’s international reputation as a mecca of green enterprise.
A new report on Vancouver’s green economy by the Vancouver Economic Commission, finds that there has been a 19 percent increase in the number of green and local food jobs in the City of Vancouver since 2010, growing from 16,700 to 20,000 over a three-year period. This progress is largely due to the extraordinary growth in the local food, green building, and clean tech sectors, which is driven by market demand and public policy at the City of Vancouver. In order to carry on this momentum, the report calls for a concerted effort to create more policy and programs that inspire innovative practices.
“The Green and Local Food Jobs 2014 Update Report, released today by the VEC, finds that Vancouver’s green economy grew at an annual rate of 6.1 percent, which is over four times the national average. However we must continue to raise the bar, as these sectors will need to grow at a 7.7 percent CAGR each year from 2014 to 2020 to reach our target. To achieve this, sustained and unparalleled efforts need to be made to create a positive climate for growth for green businesses, and address current and anticipated green workforce development gaps,” says Ian McKay, CEO of the VEC.
“The rapid growth in Vancouver’s green economy demonstrates how our Greenest City Action Plan is creating new jobs in our city, and building a diverse, more innovative economy,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Board Chairman of the VEC. “Vancouver businesses are leading the way in making investments that make sense environmentally and for their bottom line. The City is proud to do what we can to enable their work, whether it’s through our green building policies, local food strategy or efforts to reduce waste, all of which are creating good-paying green jobs in Vancouver.”
There have been many green business and jobs success stories in recent years. For one, Omicron is a Vancouver founded, vertically-integrated Design and Construction company. From its inception in 1998, it has sought to be a city leader in green building practices and provide a better experience for its clients. Omicron has grown to over 200 employees and includes over 40 LEED-accredited professionals. The City of Vancouver’s own National Avenue Operations Centre was an Omicron project and received LEED-Silver certification. Omicron Principal and Director of Architecture, Kevin Hanvey, said “the real estate conditions, avid client demand, and City support has allowed our firm to grow, learn, and become an industry leader in innovative green building practices.”
Forage Restaurant is an example of a successful local food business that has excelled in Vancouver’s green economy. Head Chef of Forage, Chris Whittaker, explains the significance of Forage in Vancouver’s local food sector: “To me,forage means that we no longer seek out excess… It is about being stewards of our land and true conservationists, as we conduct our business and live our lives.”
One Vancouver company, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, is changing the way cities manage the nutrients in treated wastewater streams. Ostara’s technology is used by wastewater treatment plants around the world to remove polluting nutrients from wastewater streams and transform them into a slow-release, eco-friendly fertilizer known as Crystal Green®. The fertilizer is currently being trialled on a number of Vancouver municipal parks and golf courses, with the aim of expanding the program to include all public green spaces. President & CEO of Ostara, Phillip Abrary, says, “Removing nutrients from where they shouldn’t be – in our waterways – and using them to create a new generation of eco-friendly fertilizer is the smart thing to do economically and the right thing to do environmentally.”
The VEC developed a working definition of green jobs based on the framework provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This definition focuses on activities that restore or preserve environmental quality, reduce energy, materials and water consumption, decarbonize the economy, and minimize and/or completely avoid waste and pollution. Local food jobs have also been defined in consultation with industry experts and refer to all food production, retailing or processing in Vancouver that originated in British Columbia. The VEC appointed Ernst & Young (E+Y) to review the VEC’s 2010 methodology and assist with creating a replicable model. Formal green economy data is neither widely available nor regularly collected by most government agencies, making the VEC’s work unprecedented as other municipalities have yet to develop comprehensive mechanisms for measuring green jobs.
“This report is further evidence that going green and economic growth are not just compatible, but strongly aligned. We have demonstrated that, over the past three years, job growth in the green economy has outpaced the broader economy. The citizens of Vancouver are demanding greener products, the City of Vancouver has set stringent regulatory standards, and the businesses in our city have delivered,” says Ian McKay, CEO of the VEC.