Why Ignoring the Environment is XL Bad for Business

Jeff Graham

On Canada Day (July 1) I am adding a great company to my list of previous employers on my LinkedIn profile. It’s not because I want to; it’s because it’s closing. C3, an Alberta, Canada based social enterprise dedicated to energy efficiency, will be officially done. Kaput. Gonzo.

I’m not writing this because I’m angry about not getting another paycheque from C3; I’m writing this because I’m totally dumbfounded that Alberta would have such a cavalier attitude towards the environment and their own economic future.

Death by 1,000 Funding Cuts

C3 was originally founded by the Government of Alberta in 2000 to run energy efficiency programs and their carbon offset registry. In 2009, C3 was inexplicably asked by the Province of Alberta to transition into an unfunded social enterprise. Two years ago the $2M annual funding was cut completely, and as of July 1, 2014, the death of 1,000 funding cuts will be complete.

Here’s Where It Gets Really, Really XL Bad

Here’s the thing that really makes me shake my head: Alberta and TransCanada corp have been putting on a full-court press in an effort to convince Nebraskans, and the rest of America, that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline won’t be bad for the environment.

Then, Alberta turns around, and manages to not find the paltry $2 Million to fund C3, which is by far the most credible group they have to demonstrate their commitment to the environment.

Even though the Government of Alberta receives over $5 Billion in royalties from non-renewables, they can’t find $2 Million to fund their only conservation organization? These are the people that our American friends are supposed to believe will protect our environment from harms way? These are the people that Americans should let put a massive pipeline in their backyard?

Here’s Where it Gets Oval Office Bad

The continuation of the $5 Billion in royalties Alberta receives is hugely dependant on the proposed expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Washington Post has an excellent article on the route it takes, and one glance at the map shows the benefit: access to the refineries and ports in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s the rub: the province that has Billions in oil royalties on the line now faces the distinct possibility of having the pipeline vetoed by President Obama over environmental concerns. Even if the pipeline is safe, which I believe it is, it looks terrible to let C3 close in the midst of this.

Why on earth, even if you didn’t care one iota about the environment, would you risk $5B for the sake of saving $2M? It’s not good business!

C3 Was Insanely Great And We’re All Going to Pay The Price

I’m not fundamentally arguing that C3 should be kept open for appearances so that we can all build a pipeline together. I’m arguing that letting C3 die looks bad, that it should raise some eyebrows in America, and that we have lost an insanely great company. For the record, I'm not opposed to pipelines, but I am hugely opposed to wasting resources of any kind.

The people at C3 are the hardest working, smartest, most committed people I’ve ever worked with. Many of them regularly turned down huge oil money to continue working there because they believed in what they were doing.

Over the 14 years the company was in operation, they built a staggering array of energy efficiency projects and technologies. We’ll all lose now because much of that IP will be gone, and all those great committed people will be absorbed into the local energy industry, along with their extensive corporate memories.

In the meantime, millions of dollars will likely be spent on lobbyists and ads in an attempt to push the Keystone XL Pipeline through. If President Obama vetoes the bill, perhaps the C3 closure will prove to be the $2M straw that broke the $5B Camel’s back.

In the end, ignoring the environment could prove to be one of the worst business decisions ever made.