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Earth Day: Moving public relations beyond sustainability towards more restorative business practices

By Deirdre Campbell
Sunday, April 22 2018

Earth Day gives us the chance to talk about a focus of our business at Beattie Tartan, the integrated communications agency. We are constantly looking at how we can help our clients not only communicate how they are creating a sustainable business, but how they are taking it one step further to restore communities, cultures, environments, and destinations. 

In the 16 years Beattie Tartan has worked in marketing and public relations, we have focused our attention on what it means to be a sustainable business, the triple bottom line, and helping our clients build companies that are a force for doing good.

This journey opened up international opportunities as we were drawn to destinations and businesses that were early adopters (Costa Rica, the Cayuga Collection) and new industries, working with real estate companies that were disrupting their own landscapes (Dockside Green).

World of possibilities

Our eyes were opened to a world of possibilities as we developed communication plans with thought leaders such as Joe Van Bellegham at Windmill West, James Tansey at Offsetters then NatureBank, Dave Butler at CMH and Jill Doucette at Synergy Enterprises, Karen Lewis at Lapa Rios, and Glenn & Teri Jampol at Finca Rosa Blanca.  

This was also self-serving. We clearly believed that the businesses that would grow and thrive in all industries were those that understood this holistic approach and balance building a profit with giving back to employees, the community, and supporting the environment.

During the IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism conference which we co-founded, we heard over and over again that sustaining was no longer enough. 

We need to look back at the best aspects of the past – a healthy forest, wetland, oceans, community centre, rich, thriving and diverse cultures, and find a way to bring them back for future generations. 

Fulfilling and balanced

Reducing our impact as businesses, offsetting our carbon, supporting employees in living fulfilling and balanced lives, and giving back to the community are exemplary achievements. Adding one more step to this mandate can help bring back to life positive relationships, eco-systems, neglected cultures, and urban communities.

It seems daunting. Yet many of our corporate communications clients are already adding restorative practices as part of their commitment to sustainability. Inn at Laurel Point, British Columbia’s first carbon-neutral hotel, is assisting with the restoration of a significant portion of its land, working in collaboration with Transport Canada, and the City of Victoria. Belmont Residences and Belmont Market are restoring a former school yard into a thriving community centre with affordable housing and shopping options. 

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort helps to fund Sea to Cedar, a not-for-profit foundation that focuses on three initiatives: working with communities to protect bear populations and habitat; documenting genetics for salmon recovery in the Broughton Archipelago and beyond; and supporting opportunities with emerging young leaders and connecting them to their culture and their land. 

'Dead zone'

At Victoria International Marina, real efforts are being made to reinvigorate a so-called, “dead zone,” on the west side of the marina. Later this year, concrete “reef balls” will be sunk into the depths, which will provide aquatic life from algae and seaweed to fish and crustaceans with somewhere to set up a home.

The country of Jordan has just launched its Meaningful Travel Map, highlighting social enterprises that are accessible across the country, including many ancient experiences, new artisan techniques, dance and performances, and traditional recipes and feasts. These experiences connect visitors directly with local people all while restoring economic opportunities that were badly hurt following the Arab Spring.

Maple Leaf Adventures has led Canada with the promotion of trips that promote conservation, taking guests to some of the most remote places on BC’s coast, while educating them on how funding is supporting restoration of these rare spaces.  As well, the crew and guests keep a collective eye out for practices that can degrade communities and the environment that would otherwise go un-noticed. 

The opposite of over-tourism, these regular small group expeditions reach into off-the-grid areas, bringing additional revenue to local communities while inspiring global awareness for greater protective and restorative measures. In 2012, Maple Leaf Adventures was awarded the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award for promoting the appreciation of Canada’s natural, cultural and aesthetic heritage, while also protecting them.

Thriving cultures

While the rise of Indigenous Tourism across Canada seems, “new,” we often need to be reminded that Indigenous communities and cultures were thriving for millennia before Canada was even created as a nation 150 years ago.

The relatively new impact of tourism for Indigenous communities, as well as providing ways to honor and celebrate their local culture, is a significant act of restoration that is being watched closely around the world as many global destinations struggle with the repression and lack of economic opportunities that their own Indigenous populations experience.

As in the early days of sustainability being championed as a positive business practice, we find many of our clients are doing more than they realize. By communicating their achievements, they encourage others to follow their lead.

So, for 2018 our renewed focus is asking our clients to promote their restorative business practices, the impact on their overall sustainability plans and encouraging them to be open and transparent about their success.  We will help monitor their results and work with them to expand business strategies in all industries to include restorative practices.