Environmental Sustainability in Canada and the Role of the EP

Chantel Sciore, Professional Services | October-31-11


Environmental sustainability and EPs in Canada

As environmental sustainability continues to be a prevalent issue in the sector, ECO Canada highlights the work Environmental Professionals (EPs) are doing to contribute. Check out an interview with Stantec Consulting's Laura Franceschini below.

As a Sustainability Coordinator with Stantec Consulting, Laura Franceschini, B.Sc., B.A., EPt, has made immense contributions to enhancing Stantec’s sustainability profile and reputation. She initially launched Stantec’s corporate sustainability program in 2006 and since then has developed, implemented, and coordinated a variety of initiatives to make operational policies, procedures, and practices more environmentally and socially responsible, resulting in several awards for the organization.

An Environmental Professional in Training (EPt) and instructor both for MacEwan University and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Franceschini teaches an introductory course on corporate social responsibility, and co-instructs a course on Green Events.

Prior to joining Stantec, Franceschini worked for various organizations in the non-profit, higher education, and government sectors. With a diverse and interdisciplinary academic background, Franceschini was pulled into the corporate sector by her belief that businesses have incredible potential to drive sustainability forward in society. In this month’s newsletter, she offers her insight on environmental sustainability in Canada and the role of certified EPs.


What is the role of environmental professionals in Canadian Environmental Sustainability?

Environmental professionals play an integral role in environmental sustainability in Canada. We are the ones monitoring, managing, and remediating the environment.


How would you describe the role of EP certification in Environmental Sustainability?

I hold several professional certifications. I am an Environmental Professional in Training (EPt), a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) accredited professional, and a Leadership in Environment and Development (LEAD) Fellow. I decided to pursue the EP certification because it was important to me to connect with the wider network of environmental professionals in Canada and I found this to be the most relevant certification available.

The global sustainability challenge is great, and overcoming it will require us to work together across organizations, industries, and borders. It is thus perhaps more important in this field than in any other to build up a strong cross-disciplinary network of allies. One of the strengths of the EP certification is that it is broad enough to be applicable to anyone who touches the environmental industry, but the specializations enable people to identify their particular field of interest within the wider industry, allowing us to build up a large, comprehensive network of environmental professionals in Canada.


How would you describe Canada's position on Environmental Sustainability?

In the 80s, Canada was known as a global leader in environmental sustainability. Since then, however, we have been very slow to adapt and unfortunately, many of our environmental policies and regulations are now woefully out of date. In a 2010 report which compared the environmental record of 25 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) industrialized countries, Canada ranked second last, demonstrating that we are now very much a global laggard in this area.

This is very unfortunate, as Canadians have traditionally been strong advocates for the environment and opinion polls consistently show that our population wants to see more action to protect our environment. One contributing issue is that many Canadians are unaware that our comparative environmental performance is quite poor, in part due to the large size of our county which shields us from many of the negative effects of environmental pollution. We are fortunate that we have an incredible amount of natural resources in Canada, but we need to start becoming much better stewards of our land.

If you ask me this question in another decade, I hope I will be able to say that Canada is a leader in environmental sustainability. Before we can get there, we have a lot of work to do and we need strong commitment from all parties. We have an incredible opportunity before us to embrace the values of our people and once again become a global environmental leader.


What are your views on the standards of sustainability in Canada and internationally?

Recent years have shown a rapid increase in the number of sustainability standards available both in Canada and internationally. Third-party standards such as FSC and EcoLogo are useful for consumers as they help to verify the environmental claims of products and services. However, as the number of such standards has continued to grow, the resulting potpourri of standards has become more overwhelming and confusing for the average consumer and it can be difficult even for experienced consumers to understand the sometimes subtle differences between standards.


What important professional bodies or resources do you look to for information or resources on Canadian Environmental Sustainability?

There are many good resources for information on environmental sustainability in Canada. ECO Canada is of course an excellent resource. Some other good resources are environmental non-profit organizations and environmental research centres in Canada’s top universities.


If you could offer one piece of advice to someone looking to begin a career in this field what would it be?

If you are interested in working in the corporate sustainability field, it is imperative to have a good understanding of both environmental and business topics. In the past few years, many of Canada’s top-tier universities have started incorporating courses and program options which enable students to combine studies in environment and business. This would be the ideal academic background for work in this field.


Do you have any advice or thoughts to share on corporate sustainability?