Written by Paul Rellinger
Not all business decisions are made with a benefit to the bottom line front of mind.
Most are, for sure, but not all.
Sometimes a change in strategy, or a revision of traditional practices, or a combination of both, evolves because it is simply the right thing to do.
At Wild Rock Outfitters in downtown Peterborough, the results of a Green Economy Peterborough-facilitated environmental audit undertaken in 2018 at the Charlotte Street business were nothing short of an “eye-opener” for co-founder Scott Murison and his staff, subsequently leading to the difficult decision to no longer offer overseas cycling trip packages to its customers.
“Looking at our greenhouse gas emissions, at our carbon footprint, that’s when it really hit us in the face,” recalls Murison.
“Even though it (overseas trip offerings) was a small part of our business, it accounted for 80 percent of our carbon footprint.”
Murison notes Wild Rock began taking cyclists abroad in 2015, initially bringing small groups to Majorca, a Mediterranean island off Spain’s coast. In 2018, they were six such trips, accounting for an eighth of Wild Rock’s gross sales. With the advent of the COVID pandemic, the trips stopped but the results of the audit lingered.
“This decision was made for a number of reasons,” says Tori Silvera, co-owner of Wild Rock along with Jeff Faulds.
“One of them is it’s the responsible thing to do. The activities that we want people to be out doing are good for their mental health but also they require us to be friendly to the planet. We need green spaces in order to go hiking and ride our bikes or go skiing or whatever it is. Taking care of the environment goes hand in hand with that. You can’t promote those activities and then also promote something that destroys those spaces.”
“The reason to do this wasn’t to lead by example but we definitely want to be doing the right thing to show that you can do it and that it’s OK and that it works so that others can follow.”
Faulds notes that coming out of the challenges of the pandemic, most businesses reviewed their practices, top to bottom, and Wild Rock was no exception to that.
“Just like everybody else, we’re short on staff,” says Faulds, referencing one reality of the COVID hangover. “If there’s one part of the business we can cut back, it’s where we’re being the least responsible (environmentally).”
The good news for Wild Rock customers is cycling trips will remain an option, but with one big difference – they’ll be taken on adventure trips closer to home.
“The conversations we have when riding and over dinner…we don’t want to lose that; we love that connection with our customers,” says Faulds.
“We want to do something to still be able to connect and enjoy the activities we love together. We do that now in our own backyard. We haven’t explored the exact details but we know there are fun things to do within driving distance.”
A survey, notes Murison, has been sent to Wild Rock’s customers, asking, among other things, “what voids we can fill in their experiential world.”
“I‘ve had a couple dozen emails from people saying ‘Oh, that’s a tough decision. I’m saddened but it is the right thing to do.’ In the climate of infinite growth, it’s a bit unusual to say ‘We’re going to explicitly have less sales next year.’ But this is the right thing to do and our customers agree.”
Better still, Wild Rock Outfitters’ purposeful focus on environmental responsibility is but one example of regional businesses taking full advantage of Green Economy Peterborough’s coaching and expertise, the end goal being to further the region’s vision of being home to the most sustainable and innovative economy in Ontario.