The City of Surrey was recognized as one of Canada’s 100 greenest employers for 2023 by Canada’s Greenest Employers, an editorial competition recognizing employers leading the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness in their organizations.
Winners were announced on April 18th in a magazine co-published with The Globe and Mail. This is the fourth year in a row the city has received the award for its efforts and innovations toward environmental sustainability and employee involvement in these projects.
“This year’s winners are leaders in their fields, creating unique and practical green initiatives that engage employees and address the very human desire to be good stewards of our environment,” said Richard Yerema, executive editor of the competition in a press release.
The criteria for the competition included a demonstration of unique environmental initiatives, employee involvement in these programs, linkage to the organization’s public identity, and reduction in the organization’s own environmental footprint.
The city’s recognition for 2023 highlights their continued implementation of the city’s Sustainability Charter 2.0, and their Climate Change Action Strategy, which is set to be approved by city council this year.
Jason Owen is manager of the sustainability and energy services division for the City of Surrey’s engineering department, and is overseeing these initiatives.
“I think it’s great. It is a reflection of the programs, policies, and projects that the city supports. So I’m happy to hear that we are being recognized,” he says.
Since the city declared a climate emergency in 2019, Owen says the department is moving from the broad spectrum approach of the Sustainability Charter 2.0 to more focused initiatives like the Climate Change Action Strategy.
“We have been developing a very robust plan that has a whole series of actions across all departments of the city that is intended to meet our objective, which is a net zero greenhouse gas resilient city by 2050,” Owen says.
“The Climate Action Strategy, which is more action-oriented, more focused on the measures, [and has] more accountability mechanisms built in. So we are trying to get more specific and really define the path to zero emissions and resilience through actions.”
Owen says one initiative already in place is a unique organic biofuel processing facility that creates renewable natural gas which helps power 100 per cent of the city’s waste disposal truck fleet.
“It is the same chemical makeup as the natural gas that’s in the natural gas network, so [it] can be compressed and inserted into the natural gas network [which] offsets the fossil natural gas,” Owen says.
The biofuel processing facility has also helped the city divert waste away from the landfill.
“The target for waste diversion of 70 per cent has been achieved, which means 70 per cent of all the organic waste in the city goes to this facility as opposed to the landfill.”
Citizens can sign up for the department’s newsletter to stay up to date on the Climate Change Action Strategy set to go to city council later this year.
“[It is] a really monumental plan. [It is] addressing greenhouse gas emissions and new building standards, … various transportation related objectives from electric vehicle uptake to building out more active transportation networks.” Owen says.
“There’s various aspects around protecting, restoring and expanding biodiversity conservation areas throughout the city.”