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Seventh environmental award for W-B



Whistler-Blackcomb takes home an Ethics in Action Award

Spending more than $1 million to protect mountain ecosystems and ski trails has garnered Whistler-Blackcomb another environmental award.

Dubbed Operation Green Up, the project is just one of a series of initiatives that led to the Ethics in Action trophy, awarded to the company last month.

This marks the seventh environmental award in the past five years for Whistler-Blackcomb, suggesting that the company is on the right path to sustainability.

"Awards are just indicators of an evolving culture that is more and more focusing on the environment in our company," said Arthur DeJong, Whistler-Blackcomb’s mountain planning and environmental resource manager.

Beating out the provincial government’s BC Buildings Corporation, Whistler-Blackcomb scooped up a glass award in the Environmental Excellence for large business category.

"We were in there with a heavyweight," said DeJong.

"I believe it was a number of grassroots initiatives that brought us to the podium."

Whistler-Blackcomb was among six businesses, small and large, that were awarded at the Vancouver ceremony on Oct. 23.

Other categories were Community Care and Overall Ethics in Action Leadership.

Both humbled and proud of the award DeJong said: "It’s nice to get but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re yielding the results you want. It’s really the results in the field that matter."

He credits a number of projects and initiatives for the award.

Operation Green Up has used $1 million over the past three years, protecting drinking water and fish habitat values as well as protecting the recreational assets on the mountains.

The results of this work are obvious said DeJong.

In a recent walk on all the ski trails he says they have never been as clean and there is less erosion than in past years.

The project has two more years to go and another half-million dollars to spend.

He also points to a partnership with the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group. The Habitat Improvement Team, which runs on a volunteer basis, has completed 38 habitat restoration projects in the valley since its inception.

Whistler-Blackcomb provides nachos and beer to encourage employees to volunteer.

DeJong says that when people give their time, sweat and resources, they then begin to connect with the environment.

He’s proud of the work his staff has done. But they won’t be resting on their laurels now.

"Our goal is to have over 50 per cent of staff involved or contributing to an environmental cause in the community or company," he said.

He hopes the recent award will serve as encouragement for even more environmental achievements and landmarks because there is still a lot more work to be done.

"With respect to sustainability, as a resort, and as a region and as a company, I just feel like we’re somewhere between first and second base and we might have to run harder," said DeJong.

"The award indicates that we’re running in the right direction."

The community as a whole has been a driving force in the company’s environmental success.

"I think what helps so much in Whistler, to position ourselves as change agents in making positive steps to sustainability, is rather than being a community that’s polarized, we’re partnered," he said.

"We would not have the success we have to date without the great partners we have in the community."

In 2000 the company won a Starfish Award for Environmentally Responsible Tourism (B.C.). The award was created by the Oceans Blue Foundation.

Five other environmental awards have been awarded to the company from within the North America ski industry.

"It’s different when you’re being measured industry-wide," said DeJong.