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The head office at Manitoba Hydro has several rooftop gardens including one for Indigenous plants.Provided

When Manitoba Hydro was constructing its new Keeyask hydroelectric generating station more than 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg, workers ran into a problem: the area’s native gulls and terns liked to nest and lay their eggs close to the water, where construction was ongoing.

“It became a hazard for the workers and the birds because you can’t have nests there,” recalls Kim Bryson, an environmental specialist in Manitoba Hydro’s enterprise environment department who led a team of environmental inspectors at Keeyask.

So the company found a creative solution: it hired a falconry outfit that flew falcons and other birds of prey around the control zone to keep smaller birds away from the site – and out of harm’s way.

Bryson says that solution, and much of her team’s work – which involves ensuring environmental protection plans are being followed and offering education and advice when unanticipated challenges arise – exemplifies Manitoba Hydro’s approach to caring for the environment.

“I respect and appreciate how fully integrated environmental considerations are in all aspects of our business,” she says. Bryson notes that since the utility generates hydroelectric power, has a network of transmission and distribution lines crossing the province, and exports power to other places, it means that the environmental impacts of its business are complex and varied. So the company employs multiple teams of environmental professionals with different expertise areas, she says. “It makes it a really great place to work, and to do meaningful work.”

Dave Little, the utility’s director of health, safety and environment, says the company has been embedding environmental stewardship into all aspects of its business for decades. When building at new sites, that means leaving the area in a good condition or better than the company found it. It also means running operations such as a fish hatchery in Grand Rapids, where one of the company’s environmental teams rears walleye and sturgeon and then returns the fish to their native waterways to boost populations in the area.

And nearly 20 years ago, when it started building its head office in Winnipeg, it meant designing the location with the aims of getting a LEED certification, an unconventional move at the time.

“We didn’t have to go for LEED but the decision was, we need to move in that direction and show people we were willing to put our money where our mouth is,” says Little, who was the construction lead on the building.

Today, the building is a source of pride for the company and employees, with a 70 per cent lower energy footprint than comparable office towers, a Platinum LEED certification, shower facilities on-site to encourage active transportation to work and green roofs on the third floor. The green roofs hold an apiary and a garden of plants traditionally used by Indigenous Peoples. “You can get your hands in the dirt on your break,” Bryson says.

Over the past few years, when droughts have led to a shortage in sage – something used in Indigenous medicines – Bryson says Manitoba Hydro donated the bumper crop from its roof gardens to local Indigenous community groups.

“Things like that speak to the culture here, and just jibe with my morals and ethics,” she says. “It’s really something special.”

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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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