GreenUP: Funds available to make Peterborough businesses more sustainable

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Whether a business needs $2,500 to overhaul its recycling program or wants to install a $250,000 energy efficiency upgrade, access to finance – in the form of grants, incentives or loans – is essential. Experts and experienced members of our business community are available to help organizations in Peterborough and the Kawarthas “go green”.

Pressure on businesses continues to grow from stakeholders, customers and the public to embrace sustainability and contribute to collective emission reduction goals. Simultaneously, with rising costs at all levels, the business case for these projects is also strengthening.

Companies are nimble and responsive to these challenges, proactively seeking the financing they will need to undertake sustainability projects, make impactful environmental change and improve their bottom line.

Canadian banks, too, are responding to changing demand and can help finance these projects. “We are seeing phenomenal growth in the market for sustainable debt issuance as ESG (environmental, social and governance standards) standards enter the normal course of day-to-day business,” said Susan Thompson, Managing Director , Sustainable Finance and Business Transitions at TD Securities. “2021 has been a scorching year, with nearly $1.8 trillion in sustainable debt issuance, representing 12-13% of the overall global market.”

There are now greener options offered by Canadian banks that might appeal to corporate borrowers: green loans and sustainability-linked loans.

The first is very similar to a typical business loan but governed by a set of green lending principles. These state that they can only be used for projects linked to an environmental objective, such as the installation of renewable energy systems or conversion to clean transport.

Sustainability Linked Loans (SLLs), on the other hand, can be used for corporate purposes and are tied to pre-determined sustainability goals. Those who choose to borrow with SLL demonstrate a tangible business commitment, as it often pays to achieve your goals. This is a 1-5% adjustment in your favor on the interest rate – and a corresponding penalty if targets are not met.

It is heartening to see the trend of such loans in traditional banks and to see a sea change in the way investment decisions are made. Clearly, climate action becomes an asset in the eyes of a financier.

Sustainability grants and incentives that can help a business achieve a faster payback period are even more appealing to local businesses – and members of Green Economy Peterborough (GEP).

However, companies often lack the time or capacity to keep up to date with funding announcements or proactively seek out opportunities. Gail Moorehouse, Executive Director of Community Futures Peterborough and member of the GEP says: “There is money [in sustainability] available… but they are done through very sectoral specialties based on government mandates and priorities.

Green Economy Peterborough recommends learning from expert members of the business community and like-minded organizations to tackle these challenges proactively and enthusiastically.

For starters, if there aren’t any grant opportunities directly related to your project, Community Futures says it might be time to get creative. Putting the right spin on your application can really make a difference in your success, according to Moorhouse. “When you write a grant application, you need to make sure you include the keywords the government is looking for. If it doesn’t match the sector, but is strong in all other areas, you can still be successful .

Two members of Green Economy Peterborough recently successfully received grants and provide insight into their experiences.

“A grant won’t fall on your knees, you have to go get it,” says Lesley Robb, owner of online retailer Swell Made Co., who recently received a $20,000 Desjardins GoodSpark grant to help her make its greener expeditions.

Robb recommends auditing your business to figure out where you can improve, hone your writing skills, and know when to ask for help. More importantly, she repeats that if you don’t get the grant, keep trying. Practice is enough!

For Steve and Anne Wildfong, co-owners of Lake Edge Cottages Inc, a Tourism Relief Fund grant of more than $85,000 helped them finance a new solar panel-equipped building, designed to meet 100% of electricity needs of their complex. Although this opportunity was not explicitly tied to sustainability, they succeeded.

“The opportunity we took was ‘product development’,” said Steve Wildfong. “So we’re going to change the way we do business to make it more sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

Green Economy Peterborough helps its members identify, set and achieve sustainability goals while improving their bottom line. GEP is currently recruiting members for 2023 – and is offering a preferential rate to those who join before November 1. If you are interested or know someone else who might be, please join us at one of our upcoming member information sessions, from Tuesday afternoon until October 18th.

Interested in learning more about Green Economy Peterborough? Visit www.GreenEconomyPeterborough.ca or contact Hub Coordinator Natalie Stephenson at [email protected] or 705-745-3238 ext. 223.

Natalie Stephenson is coordinator of the Green Economy Peterborough cluster. To learn more, visit greenup.on.ca.

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