I had a pretty simple life before I traded in my desk work for power tools, but some roads are worth traveling even when the destination is unknown. Developing sustainability plans for organizations left me wondering: what needs to happen to make it easier for businesses to solve a problem that needs solving, even if they don’t think it’s “their problem”?
About a year ago, I had this crazy idea that I could wave my magic wand and make all the garbage skis disappear. I was fired up and euphoric because I knew that once people realized that there were options beyond the landfill for ski material, they would be as excited as I was. No one wants to throw away skis. Somehow we know that these objects, and so many others, deserve a better after-life. They have emotional meaning for us.
I’ve hit a few speed bumps on this journey. There are the obvious ones, like the challenge of disassembling densely packed wood, fiberglass, plastic and metal. But there are others I truly didn’t expect. Like questions about the value of the work. I think these are the same people who pretend the climate isn’t changing, you know the type.
I find the toughest barriers the ones that are institutional. When large, profitable, well respected companies with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plans are reluctant to be truly supportive in solving problems they are helping to create, we’re in trouble. Why the reluctance? Because CSR plans are neat and tidy, but in practice, CSR is messy and it thrives in a nimble environment.
So back to the first question: who is responsible? Whose job is it to truly embrace CSR opportunities? And why should they bother? Because at its heart, CSR is exponentially rewarding. It gives employees permission to creatively solve problems that align with shared sustainability values. Customers notice that the company blends with the community, giving that coveted “true local” feeling. And costs – real costs, not just dollars – are reduced through creative partnerships.
That’s what Ski Heaven partnerships should be about with every business, and luckily, we’ve got a few friends in town. Like the good people at the Whistler Athletes Centre. They commissioned us to create unique art pieces for each of their rooms. Three designs – the wildflower, snowflake, and inukshuk – are all original industrial art pieces that tell the story of what it means to love the mountains. In summer and in winter, we are passionate about the wild beauty here, and we know that this is home. Each is made from discarded WhistlerBlackcomb rental skis – about 500 pounds of permanent garbage. They are reminders of why we call this place home, what we love about it, and a nudge to protect it. And they’re just fun to look at, too.
WhistlerBlackcomb is on the path to meaningful CSR, and just as we reward our kids for intention and effort, I’m appreciative of progress. Could more be done? Yes, please. By all of us. We tell our kids to work together to find solutions, rather than pointing the finger of blame, so let’s do the same. And the great news? It’s way easier than you think, and it’s super rewarding.
I still develop sustainability strategies, so if you need a hand with yours, give me a call.