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Benjamin Mendoza, an employee at G&W Electric, working on switchgear.Provided

Over a 33-year career at G&W Electric, Debbie Ellis has always found her employers supportive of her interests and passions. And in recent years, Ellis’s biggest passion has been sustainability.

“Fostering environmental leadership in the electrical industry is something I take very seriously,” says Ellis, Ontario sales manager for the Brampton, Ont.-based company, which delivers innovative electrical power grid solutions and products. “I’ve seen what’s happening with climate change and I desire a positive future for my grandchildren, nieces and nephew that is sustainable.”

In 2013, Ellis became a founding member of Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE), which has grown into a global organization. In addition to advancing the role and recognition of women in the clean energy sector, WIRE also regularly sponsors workshops, conferences and field trips that help promote awareness about renewable energy solutions.

“G&W Electric gave me the time and support to serve on WIRE’s advisory committee for five years,” says Ellis. “They also stepped up immediately to provide sponsorship to help get this organization founded.”

In 2022, Ellis was selected to participate in a subgroup that drafted a sustainability statement for G&W Electric’s global operations, the first step in putting together a comprehensive sustainability plan.

On Earth Day 2022, she also served as part of a volunteer G&W Electric team that helped clean up a local Brampton park.

“It’s good to be part of a company that’s taking positive actions on the environment,” says Ellis. “I feel like I’m making a difference.”

Continually improving G&W Electric’s environmental performance is a big part of the job for Dave Taylor, the company’s operations director. Under his leadership, G&W Electric’s green team has introduced a series of sustainability initiatives at its 210,000-square-foot base facility in Brampton.

For example, in 2020, G&W Electric’s landfill diversion rate (the amount of generated waste not sent to a landfill) stood at 74 per cent. The company began recycling wooden pallets and sand as well as personal protection equipment, including COVID-19 related masks and gloves. Other steps included using more visible recycling bins and ensuring work rags that had previously gone to the landfill were laundered and reused.

All of the programs involved employee education and training, and the combined effect was both immediate and impressive: G&W Electric’s 2021 landfill diversion rate increased to 86 per cent.

In 2022, the company continued to improve its landfill diversion rate by removing all disposable cups, reducing paper towel use by 80 per cent and introducing a green bin program for organic waste.

G&W Electric also invested $300,000 to replace fluorescent lights with energy efficient LED lighting throughout its shops and offices.

Employees have embraced these efforts, says Taylor.

“People are realizing it doesn’t cost a lot to achieve these objectives and that it’s very much a team effort,” he says. “For example, we were spending $800 a month on disposable coffee cups and stir sticks. In addition to keeping those items out of the landfill, the cost savings are being split evenly between the company and G&W Electric’s employee profit-sharing plan.”

Similarly, the new LED lighting is reducing energy costs by $9,000 a month, while also improving employee morale.

“It’s a cleaner, brighter light and people say they feel more energized,” says Taylor.

In addition to being the right thing to do, undertaking green initiatives helps make G&W Electric a more attractive employer, he says.

“When we interview job candidates, many are now asking what we are doing for the environment,” says Taylor. “That’s a cultural shift and something you didn’t see even five years ago.”

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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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