Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


EcoBusiness Network’s Impact Initiative will provide carbon reduction support for small- and medium-sized businesses in Durham Region.



Global carbon emissions continue to rise at a rate of 2ppm/year [1], contributing to global warming while also impacting human health. In order to slow down climate change on a global scale, it is critical to focus mitigation and reduction efforts on some of the province's most significant polluters: small- and medium-sized businesses. Over the past year, EcoBusiness Network supported businesses through our carbon reduction pilot program. The pilot included the launch of a carbon reduction framework and a carbon tracking service, through which 16 carbon inventories been completed to date. The goals of the pilot were to educate businesses about their carbon output, help them set attainable reduction targets, generate the necessary action plan to achieve these reductions, and identify opportunities for cost savings for businesses.

The pilot provided EBN with the opportunity to assess the capacity and public interest necessary to successfully launch a carbon reduction program titled Impact Initiative. Based on the success experienced by participants of the pilot and demonstrated interest from the business community, we propose an expansion of the pilot into a full carbon reduction program to support businesses in Durham Region. The Impact Initiative will build upon the efforts of the pilot by expanding the range of services offered by EBN to support businesses in reducing their carbon emissions. These services will include support in setting carbon reduction targets, a carbon tracking service, action planning support, and access to our materials exchange tool. The materials exchange tool will be a novel addition to the program: a place where businesses can post their waste materials online for an exchange opportunity. This tool will offer a waste diversion option to member/non-member businesses in an effort to reduce the polluting effects of landfills.  The tool simultaneously reduces costs for participants, who save on waste removal and the purchase of raw materials.


How do you know that your solution is desirable to SMEs, and will reduce GHG emissions?

In 2016, EBN (formerly Durham Sustain Ability) conducted the Durham Community Energy Study, which revealed that businesses in Durham, without factoring in emissions from commercial transportation, produce over 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) annually. This represents over 34% of total CO2e released into the atmosphere by Durham Region each year.

Although Durham Region has a climate mitigation strategy to reduce greenhouse gases, this plan primarily focuses on residents which leaves businesses stranded without support. EBN recognized the importance of filling this service gap and we launched our carbon reduction pilot in 2017. The pilot program engaged businesses from our existing member base and garnered the interest from several others in the community, due to our unique service offering. In addition to helping businesses understand their carbon output and identify opportunities for improvement, this program also presents businesses with cost-savings opportunities. The cost of energy is constantly rising and continues to be a significant burden for small businesses. As such, the ability to identify potential cost savings in concert with reducing environmental impact is particularly attractive.

The Impact Initiative directly reduces emissions by challenging businesses to set reduction targets and create action plans to reach their reduction goals. An additional method to reduce emissions is through the materials exchange component of the program. In Ontario, waste diversion failed to surpass 25% over the past decade, with the IC&I sector dwindling behind at around 19% diversion [2]. Currently, only 15% of Ontario’s waste stream is addressed by diversion programs, leaving many commercial entities out of this scheme.  Accordingly, many businesses utilize private haulers for waste management, which incurs significant costs and decentralizes waste collection in the province [3]. The need for support to address waste diversion in the IC&I sector has been expressed by many of EcoBusiness Network’s members. EBN’s materials exchange program will address these concerns and more. Offering a waste exchange opportunity to businesses will help cut waste haulage fees while providing raw materials for another business, free of cost. Simultaneously, the program will reduce the burden of commercial waste on landfills and decrease the production of landfill byproducts like methane and leachate, which contaminate our natural environment. The materials exchange program is EBN’s answer to the concerns from businesses members across Durham. 


What actions do you propose?

Impact Initiative Components

  1. A carbon tracking service to help businesses understand their carbon emissions.
  2. Support services to help businesses set a carbon reduction target and create an action plan to achieve this goal.
  3. A materials exchange tool to create partnerships between businesses, reduce waste, and support the circular economy in Durham.

Logistics of the Carbon Tracking and Reduction Support Services
With the 2017 pilot under our belt, EBN is now experienced in our approach to carbon reduction and this methodology has been refined. Carbon tracking is completed by a dedicated staff member, who calculates scope 1 and scope 2 emissions as well as the annual cost of these emission of each business. This process is repeated annually to track changes in emissions. Following the initial inventory, EBN works with participants to set an emissions reduction target that is challenging yet still attainable (X% in X years). Next, EBN guides participants in creating and implementing an action plan to reach their reduction goal. In this capacity, EBN can propose projects to increase energy efficiency, identify financial incentives to help support these projects, and/or provide guidance on how to incorporate sustainability into their business model, among other things. EBN is a member of Green Economy Canada, who provide guidance and support to EBN and six other target-based sustainability programs across Ontario. Our membership with Green Economy Canada helps ensure our success in implementing these programs and supporting local businesses.

Logistics of the Materials Exchange Tool
EBN has identified iWasteNot as a suitable service with which to facilitate our materials exchange tool. iWasteNot has worked with communities across North America to successfully implement materials exchange tools and has agreed to work with us in an ongoing consulting capacity to ensure our program is successful. The program tracks the mass of materials in each exchange as well as the CO2e diverted as a result of the exchange.

Overall Goals of the Impact Initiative

  1. Provide consolidated and consistent emissions reporting across all participants.
  2. Reduce carbon emissions by facilitating carbon tracking, reduction target-setting, and action planning.
  3. Reduce GHG emissions by diverting waste from landfills through our materials exchange tool.
  4. Increase opportunities and platforms for resource recovery practices.
  5. Foster the growth of the circular economy in Durham through resource recovery practices.
  6. Help businesses reduce costs on energy and waste management.
  7. Educate the business community in Durham about the benefits of carbon reduction, resource recovery, and waste reduction.
  8. Protect and conserve our natural environment, including soils, waterways, and wildlife by reducing pollution.


Who will take these actions?

EBN member businesses and non-member businesses will be participants in the Impact Initiative. EBN is a sustainability leader in Durham Region and has operated in various capacities in the community for many years. We are one of seven Green Economy Canada hubs across Ontario who are engaging businesses in sustainable practices. With nearly 40 business members in Durham Region, EBN is looking forward to expanding our reach through the Impact Initiative.

Where will these actions be taken?

The program will be utilized by businesses in Durham Region, which spans eight municipalities. However, the program model is applicable for businesses across the country.

What are the proposal’s projected costs?

Program manager salary: $50,100
Materials exchange tool development and maintenance: $7,500
Carbon accounting tool license: $6,000
Marketing: $2,000


Once the solution is built and implemented describe a path forward for it to scale to other users/companies.

EBN’s deep roots in Durham Region mean the program can be easily rolled out with existing member and non-member businesses. Financial support from Climate CoLab will give EBN to offer the program to a greater number of businesses in our community. However, since small- and medium-sized businesses exist in every community, the Impact Initiative can realistically be replicated in any geographical area. The largest risks in establishing the program in new areas are: a) the generation of interested businesses in new areas, and b) procuring the labour necessary to maintain the program. Because carbon tracking, target setting, and action planning are all performed manually, financial stability will be key in maintaining the program.   

How will your solution lead to change on a larger scale over time (i.e. 3 to 5 years out)? How many businesses can potentially be affected by your solution?

At least 20 new businesses are estimated to join the Impact Initiative each year, with a minimum carbon reduction target of 20%. Durham Region is a bustling community with a thriving economy, which constantly generates new opportunities for recruitment into the Impact Initiative. These targets will be tracked in our carbon accounting tool annually by EBN inputting utilities bills and costs. The results will be reviewed with member businesses and EBN staff on an annual basis. As targets are being met businesses will be encouraged to set new, more aggressive targets.

What business and funding model have you considered for your solution to become sustainable?

EBN is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization wherein organizations contribute an annual fee for access to access our programming and services. Annual fees vary depending on the size of the business, and non-member businesses can access individual services for a fee.

In addition to member fees and sponsorships, growth funding is required to expand services and resources in order to grow the organization and the environmental impact of its network.  As new members are added, the member income will also grow to eventually replace the seed funding for new resources.


What impact will the proposed actions have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

The Impact Initiative will help businesses in Durham recognize their environmental impact and commit to decreasing carbon emissions. Through setting reduction targets and generating action plans, small- and medium-sized businesses will be empowered to create change in their organization for the benefit of our shared environment as well as their bottom line. To date, six participants in the carbon reduction pilot program have set reduction targets. EBN’s goal in the first year of the program is to motivate 20 new businesses to set a reduction target, committing to a reduction of 150 tonnes of GHGs within 10 years. In the first year of the program, EBN aims to divert 50 tonnes of waste through our materials exchange tool. Waste diversion further reduces GHG emissions by decreasing methane and carbon dioxide produced by landfills and incinerators.

What are other key benefits?

In addition to reducing pollution, the Impact Initiative will benefit our community. EBN members have realized the business case for sustainability and we are working to further disseminate this message throughout Durham. Participants in EBN’s carbon reduction pilot have already begun reaping the benefits of reducing carbon emissions. Multiple participants chose to pursue retrofitting projects as part of their action plan, which led to increased energy efficiency and cost savings in the past year. Increased transparency in business’ sustainability efforts has proven to be attractive to both customers and employees.  Participants also found that incorporating sustainability into their business helped boost team morale and helped connect them to other like-minded businesses. The materials exchange tool will help foster these existing connections and create new ones by partnering businesses together to reduce waste and save on costs.

About the Authors

EcoBusiness Network is a social enterprise that supports a growing network of businesses and institutions committed to environmentally responsible best practices. EBN delivers programming that helps businesses reduce energy consumption, divert waste, reduce resource costs, uncover new business opportunities, and address everyday operational challenges. Our services include education, carbon monitoring, seminars and workshops, green team enablement services, community engagement opportunities and, most importantly, celebration of our members’ successes. Our goal is to help to position Durham Region as a thriving, low carbon community where businesses can and will take actions to reduce their own carbon emissions and are involved in combating harmful climate change in the region and beyond with the added benefit of overall increased profitability.

Our Mission: To support organizations driving the shift to a lower carbon, sustainable future.

Our Vision: A dynamic network of organizations integrating environmental sustainability into all aspects of their operations.

For more information, visit

Related Proposals (optional)


In-text References 

  1. Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Earth System Research Laboratory, Global Monitoring Division. Accessed July 1st.
  2. Waste Free Ontario Act. Government of Ontario. Accessed June 10th.
  3. IC&I Waste Reduction Advisory Committee. Recycling Council of Ontario. Accessed June 10th.

Additional Resources 

  1. EBN member case studies: Durham Condo Corp. 120, Canada Rubber Group, City of Pickering (pilot program participants)
  2. More information on EcoBusiness Network's work