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Cadillac Fairview has committed to achieving net-zero emissions in its real estate portfolio by 2050.Provided

As one of the first Canadians to hold a full-time sustainability role, Karen Jalon is a pioneer in establishing green building standards in North America. When she was hired by Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd. (CF) in 2008, Jalon recalls it was a time when there weren’t any industry best practices.

“My initial role was interpreting what sustainability meant in the commercial real estate space and how CF could be an industry leader,” says Jalon, vice-president, sustainability, energy and smart technology. “We quickly learned to have clear targets and standards for our properties as well as leading technologies and capital investments, but what really catapulted us ahead was integrating sustainability into our culture and empowering our people to make a real difference.

“We built Canada’s first operationally focused sustainability program, called Green at Work, that really supported all the green teams at the property level in achieving real results. It’s been a very award-winning journey.”

CF’s Green at Work program focuses on three key pillars: first, wellness; second, climate action, involving emissions and climate resilience, including mitigating the company’s impacts on the environment and adapting to a changing climate; and third, resource protection, such as water and waste management.

“It’s a very holistic program, encompassing very material aspects of sustainability across the board and thinking about how to integrate and operate on a daily basis in the most efficient way,” says Jalon. “It’s what has led us to a 56-per-cent reduction in emissions since 2008.

“CF has gone through a long journey where we no longer have low hanging fruit,” she says. “As a result, we’re innovating and even looking at artificial intelligence for select properties, such as how we heat and cool our buildings. We’re extremely committed and really trying to push the boundaries.”

Cadillac Fairview has committed to achieving net-zero emissions in its real estate portfolio by 2050 and recently announced its Zero Carbon Building Performance Standard certification for seven buildings in its Vancouver office portfolio.

As general manager of CF’s Waterfront Properties in Vancouver, Jesse Gregson is responsible for running four commercial office buildings with his team. That includes managing emissions, energy conservation and water conservation.

“We’ve had a strong sustainability program in place, helping us on that path for some time,” says Gregson. “From an emissions efficiency standpoint, essentially these are high-performing buildings and we have a good roadmap to see us through to net zero. We have good operations policies, procedures, programs and technology in place to operate the buildings as efficiently as we can. In many cases, we’re going to be ahead of that 2050 target.”

Gregson says heating the buildings is where most emissions come from, so the company is always looking for opportunities to reduce those, such as a project involving the installation of a geo-exchange system, a retrofit, to one of the existing buildings.

“We can have heat-sharing between an office building and a retail building that are side by side, and extract heat out of the geo field in the ground when we need it,” says Gregson. “The Geo-Exchange system has reduced CO2 emissions at 777 Dunsmuir by an estimated 473 tons per year.”

Gregson says CF supports environmentally friendly projects even when they don’t meet traditional financial criteria.

“CF gives people the opportunity to bring forward ideas that will help us on that journey,” says Gregson. “Being able to tell your kids that what you do at work has a direct positive impact on climate change is something people are really proud of. It brings purpose to your job.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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