The Heli-Ski Blog

What does a cowboy with a PhD have to do with Heli-Skiing?

Posted by Topher Donahue on Apr 19, 2013 8:05:00 AM

The story of food at CMH goes back to the 1960s and the very beginning of Heli-Skiing. At that time the Bugaboos was the only place in the world to go Heli-Skiing, and all the food had to be brought in, mostly canned, at the beginning of the season while the road was still open.  Once the snowdrifts closed the road, a crate of fruit once a week was the only fresh food resupply.

Over nearly 50 years CMH Heli-Skiing has found it necessary, in order to provide such excellent and responsible cuisine in such outrageous locations, to take the CMH story far from the mountains into the world’s most progressive fisheries, ranches, farms, vineyards, coffee roasters, cheese-makers and olive oil producers. To put it simply, not every food supplier is up for the task of providing high quality, responsibly-sourced foods to some of the planet’s most remote world-class kitchens.

Cariboo lodge

Yesterday I talked to Christoph Weder, the mastermind behind Heritage Angus Beef, a conglomerate of Canadian ranchers committed to raising cattle at higher standards than even the “organic” certification requires, and the source for all the beef prepared in CMH Lodges.

You’ll never meet a more committed cowboy than Christoph. He calls himself Dr. Moo after an education, both practical and institutional, that has given him a PhD in Animal Range Science and made him the proud owner of Spirit View Ranch, a free-range cattle outfit in Northern Alberta and one of the 20 ranches that make up Heritage Angus. His efforts have garnered several national awards including the Alberta Beef Producers Environmental Stewardship Award.

“The people who buy our beef,” explained Dr. Moo, “want more than hormone and antibiotic free beef - they want ranching done with consideration for wetlands and natural habitat, and without overgrazing and inhumane treatment of the animals; they want fair trade for the ranchers and animals that spent the most possible time foraging and the least possible time in the feedlot.”

CMH beef

Dr. Moo’s recipe for excellent Canadian beef is working, and now Heritage Angus sells beef to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Czech Republic, Holland and France as well as the US and Canada. Heritage Beef’s blog, The Trail, is an insight into what it takes to provide the best possible beef as a Canadian rancher - from counting herd losses due to wolves one week, to touring the finest restaurants in Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities the next. 

He explains his approach, in which he distills a lifetime of education and passion into a simple philosophy: “If you’re going to raise beef, raise the good stuff. If you’re going to eat beef, eat the good stuff. If the good stuff is expensive, eat a little bit less.”

Like so much of CMH Heli-Skiing, the network of passionate individuals and complex systems that makes it tick goes largely unseen, but once you dig into the story, it makes perfect sense. Christoph “Dr. Moo” Weder’s story isn’t so different from the story of CMH. In his blog he writes:

“It’s a busy schedule running a branded beef program, being a father, husband and also running a ranch… I spend many, many hours of the week in the office 15 feet from the kitchen table talking to customers and working with the partners of Heritage Angus… sometimes more than I would like, so when the opportunity comes to get in the saddle and get out with the cows I am all over it. September is some of the prettiest times of the year to be out on the range…. its a time for reflecting back over the past summer and for seeing if all the best laid plans turned out…. I love to see how well the calves have grown how the grass held up and what the cows look like as we head towards winter.  Being a real rancher and being a partner with nature is something the ranchers of Heritage Angus are all very proud of. …. Heritage Angus Beef is not a spin doctored brand… it is real ranchers and real families that are proud of being part of something good.”

CMH mealtime

Hans Gmoser, the founder of CMH Heli-Skiing, or today’s mountain guides and CMH staff, could just as easily have written something very similar about running the world’s biggest Heli-Ski operation, and the pleasure of getting “in the saddle” after a hectic day in the office or the sentiments of being partners with nature and being real families that are proud of being part of something good.

Dr. Moo ended our conversation with this: “The partnership we have with CMH is one we’re really proud of, and it’s fitting with their international guests who get to visit these far-away mountain lodges and experience some really good Canadian food.”

Photos of CMH Cariboo Lodge and well-nourished CMH guests by Topher Donahue. Spirit View Ranch photo courtesy of Christoph Weder.

Topics: Canada, Sustainability, Staff, comfort, hospitality, heli-skiing

The Best Ski Movie Ever!

Posted by Topher Donahue on May 3, 2012 7:45:00 AM

Calling this a review isn’t quite right.  Perhaps a rave is a better word for it.

Dave Mossop and Eric Crossland, of The Sherpas Cinema, directed All.I.Can, a spellbinding work of art that defies categorization as merely a ski film.  It’s been called the most incredible ski movie ever produced, and based purely on the pile of awards the film has received, it just might be.

While All.I.Can includes a plethora of mind-bending ski sequences, including futuristic footage of Kai Peterson catastrophically botching (as well as impossibly sticking) new-school tricks in the midst of horrifying alpine faces, the heart of the film is a powerful discussion on the environment. 

When a heli-skiing sequence ends with one skier joking around with a gas pump, pretending to shove it in another’s eye, I went from being a spectator to being a fan; we all have impact, so it’s what we do about it that matters.

Slow-motion, time-lapse and digital animation created with high-end technology are all used heavily, but tastefully, to give a strong sense of the passing of time and to illustrate change in the natural world.  The film also unflinchingly delves into the relationships between international travel, mechanized skiing, and environmental impact.  It takes the new approach that environmentalism isn’t about being against things - instead it is about changing our perspective on our relationship to the environment, and then changing how we live accordingly. 

The modern free-skiing visionary, JP Auclair, (whose street skiing segment in the film was viewed 124,000 times on its first day online) summed it up nicely: “People are always saying ‘do less of this, do less of that’ but I don’t think it’s about doing less of anything - it’s about doing more...”

The film’s example of large-scale environmental balancing in the ski industry is the Whistler-Blackcomb ski area installing a micro-hydro plant in one of the mountain’s creeks that offsets the entire energy usage of the ski area. 

Having just posted a blog about the CMH Galena micro-hydro reaching financial payoff and saving a thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions after seven years of operation, I realized the visionary drivers of the ski industry are all coming to a similar conclusion - we can’t run ski lifts of any sort without burning energy, so let’s do more, lots more, to balance our impacts with contributions.

skier environment solar

Several skiers interviewed in the film discussed the unique place skiers and mountaineers have in the environmental project:

One said, “Skier’s connection with nature and the mountains is incredible, and it puts us at the forefront of what is going on with the environment.”

And another pointed out, “You have a constituency on the hill who, by virtue of what they do, every one of them is an environmentalist.”

It’s not just the cinematography that speaks to the passing of time and the acceleration of change.  The youngest skier in the film is about three years old, the oldest, 75.  “We used to have more snow” said one of the older skiers. 

Even the topic of ski technology is brought back to the philosophy of embracing change. One skier mentions how, with the drastic changes in the shape of skis, “the average skier now is not fearing change, they’re expecting change, and that’s pretty cool.”

As the credits rolled, I sat back and wondered if I had anything negative to say about the film.  One thing came to mind: we are just learning how to talk about these things,  and it seems that All.I.Can is like the first few awkward - albeit beautiful, scary and inspiring - words in a difficult conversation about our world and its immediate future. 

Partway through the credits, the film’s carbon footprint is shown, including what they’ve done to offset 100% of the making the film. 

It made me realize just how visionary CMH Heli-Skiing’s sustainability report was when first published eight years ago in 2004, by neither pretending to be low impact, nor hiding its metaphorical head in the sands of progress - and instead being clear about environmental impact, initiatives, and the balance of providing carefully considered access to the world’s greatest skiing.

Photo of this blog writer/skier's house being equipped with solar power in Colorado - just one of many skier's houses powered by solar in the area.  I talked with a CMH million-footer who was putting geothermal heating into his home to help offset his impact. 

What are you doing to offset yours?

Topics: Sustainability, ski film, heli-skiing, ski videos

Galena micro hydropower investment pays off

Posted by Topher Donahue on Apr 19, 2012 7:44:00 AM

As of this ski season, the CMH Galena Lodge’s micro-hydro plant has fully paid for its installation cost - as well as saved about half-a-million litres of diesel fuel and nearly a thousand tonnes of carbon emissions over its seven years of operation.  Last February, Luke Crawford, the maintenance expert at Galena, gave me a tour of the hydro facility, a tiny structure shown in the photo below, nestled among snow mushrooms near a stream a few hundred metres from the Galena Lodge.

hydro plant galenaBetween keeping the Lodge and its energy systems in operation, and bagging as many pillow lines as possible, Luke took the time to answer a few questions:

TD: On average, how much of the lodge's power supply does the hydro provide?

LC: From end of ski season to start of ski season (April 1st- December 1st) it provides essentially 100% of our electrical power.  
During the season, it provides 100% electrical power needs from December 1st until usually sometime in early Febuary. From that point to the end of the ski season, we are running the diesel generator 15-18 hrs. each day.  However, even when the generator is running, 100% of the hydro power is dumped into heating our boiler loops.
The short answer would be about 80% for the year.

TD: How much did it cost?

LC: It was anticipated it would take 5-7 years for the hydro plant to pay for itself from the greatly diminished diesel bill. The installation of the plant itself cost about 450,000 dollars and saves between 45,000 and 50,000 litres of diesel annually (which translates into reduced carbon emissions to the tune of about 130 tonnes a year).

galena lodge pool table lighting 

TD: How has it changed the energy use/awareness by staff and guests?

LC: For staff I would say we are all much more aware of conserving power and to a certain extent greater awareness of what the power hogs in the lodge are eg. Hobart dishwasher, bathroom floor heat, the older style flourescent lighting.

With the guests I can't say I have really noticed much, however I have only worked here since the plant was installed. Every tour there are usually a couple of guests who take quite an interest in the hydro setup at the lodge.

micro hydro power plantTD: When was it installed?

LC: 2005

TD: Any issues with it?

LC: The biggest one is that we have a two-month period each year when the hydro plant cannot produce enough power to meet the Lodge's peak demand times which are in the morning when everyone is getting up, and then around dinner time.

The reason is that the run off from the creek always drops to a certain point that is just not enough for the lodge during those time periods of the day. The plant was designed with the goal of being able to meet all of our electrical requirements for the entire year, so it is unfortunate that this did not materialize into reality for the lodge.

Occasionally, something happens up at the hydro plant's weir that cuts off the water supply for the plant, forcing it to shut down. These can last from mere minutes very rare instances a couple of days, in which case we rely on the generator until the issue is resolved.

The Galena Lodge micro-hydro plant is just one element of CMH’s quest to be the leading sustainable tourism company in North America.  Visit the stewardship pages of our website for more information.

Topics: Galena Lodge, Adventure Travel, Sustainability, CMH Experts, CMH

CMH Gothics win Community Stewardship Award

Posted by Jane Carswell on Jul 19, 2011 7:54:00 AM

We have a bold vision for sustainability at CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures: To be the leading sustainable tourism operator in North America.  To strive toward a goal such as this one, we couldn't just write it down and forget about it.  It requires buy-in from each and every member of the team.

Each year our Second Nature Committee recognizes a staff member or team who exemplifies the spirit of CMH in their community through leadership and participation in a local project or volunteer organization.  In 2011 the committee recognized a team which linked something they had to offer, to something that their local community really needed. 

Second Nature at CMH   Gothics Lodge Team and the Revelstoke Food BankDave Butler, CMH's Director of Sustainability announced the award at our recent general staff meeting. "For the past 6 years the team at CMH Gothics Lodge has been helping out the Revelstoke Community Food Bank.  And not just with quantities of food at the end of ski season, or after fire fighting or construction projects, but they also donated and delivered 60 bed mattresses to families in need when they upgraded their guest rooms 3 years ago."

"More recently," Butler continued, "they instituted a Food Share program at the lodge where extra food from the kitchen has gone to people in need in their community.  After every meal, staff package un-touched, left-over food in small portions, put in the freezer, take it to town on the weekend, and by Friday morning of the next week, it is being distributed to people in the community who really need it.  Their submission was accompanied by a letter from the Food Bank, which was glowing in its praise of the lodge team."

Dave says "The project started small...the first 2 weeks of the program they had only 2 milk crates (of food) per week.  But through insistence and persistance, they had been delivering at least 4 to 5 milk crates per week for 15 weeks by the end of the season!"

As for the Food Bank, the following excerpts from the letter of support from Patti Larson, Outreach Service Manager from the Community Connections Food Bank say it all:

"I have had the absolute pleasure of creating a wonderful partnership with Claude Duchesne and his staff after they approached me last year with concerns about the amount of excess leftover food from their lodge and how it could best be utilized in our community"

"This food recovery program has been supported by the energy of the staff of the CMH Gothics whose time and goodwill help to get donated food onto the tables of the people who need it the most. This partnership has helped to establish a gateway for continuous food donations and helps to support our families and seniors who go hungry in our community."

"These donations are another valuable resource for our food bank and we are so appreciative of the time, effort and dedication of these remarkable people. I wholeheartedly support CMH Gothics Lodge in their application for the 2011 Second Nature Awards."

Dave Butler suggests that this project exemplifies what CMH's approach to Second Nature is really about.  "What I find so inspiring about this," he says, "is that our Gothics staff team did this not because anyone told them to do it, but because they care about their community, saw a need and took action to meet that need."

Learn more about about CMH's commitment to sustainability and past winners of the Community Stewardship and Environmental Initiative awards.

Topics: CMH Staff Profiles, Sustainability, Gothics Lodge

CMH Heliskiing and Mountain Caribou

Posted by Topher Donahue on Jun 23, 2011 8:07:00 AM

A recent article in Conservation Northwest titled “Heli-skiing and mountain caribou” - while well-intended in it’s attempt to raise people’s awareness of the plight of the mountain caribou - is a sad example of the dangerous misunderstandings between conservation groups, recreationalists, and land managers.   

cariboo lodge   heliski terrain
The article begins with: “What recreational pursuit costs $2,300 per day, generates nearly 600 times the CO2 on a per/km basis as a Hummer, is subsidized by taxpayers, and scares the heck out of wildlife? No, it's not a recreational space flight or a flight to Antarctica… It's heli-skiing with Canadian Mountain Holidays!"

The article is a full frontal assault on heliskiing, with CMH Heliskiing as the scapegoat, but the good news is that it provided a perfect forum for Dave Butler, biologist and CMH’s Director of Sustainability, to explain how CMH not only avoids the endangered animals entirely, but also assists with the mountain caribou conservation efforts in the areas where CMH operates.  One sentence of Dave’s response says it all, “scientists who have taken the time to understand both caribou and heli-skiing have recommended the approaches we are taking.”

Many CMH heliskiers can tell the same story of ski guides explaining how they monitor snowpack, avalanche areas, caribou and wildlife locations on a computer system called Snowbase, and how the guides view wildlife avoidance with the same seriousness as avalanche avoidance. 

Dave’s response is posted here in clarification of what really goes on out there:

June 20, 2011
Conservation Northwest 1208 Bay Street, #201 Bellingham, Washington 98225
Attn:    Mitch Friedman Executive Director
Dear Mr. Friedman,
It has recently been brought to our attention that our company is specifically referenced on your organization’s web-site. We reviewed the site, and quite frankly, are surprised and disappointed.
There are a number of key items which are worthy of comment:

  • It is ironic and disappointing that you’ve focused on CMH when in fact we are the company that has been leading the helicopter and snow-cat skiing sector for many years in addressing the needs of mountain caribou (and other key species). We are the only company which has been directly involved in recovery efforts since the early days of those efforts, and the only company with a staff biologist/forester to help us focus on these efforts. Perhaps you’ve chosen us because we’re the largest, or because we’ve taken the time to actually get involved. But you’ve chosen to “pick on” the company which is pushing the hardest for dealing positively and effectively with this important issue, while some others in our sector and in other sectors (such as commercial snowmobile tours) are not involved at all.
  • As background, CMH was founded nearly 50 years ago on the concept of stewardship. This equates to stewardship of our guests (through service and safety) but just as importantly, it means stewardship of the special places where we operate, and it means stewardship of the communities where we live, work and play. Those aren’t just words; we show people what we mean, every day and every year, through our actions.
  • While it’s true that some scientists who don’t specialize in the interactions between caribou and heli-skiing have suggested some habitat closures, it is also true that other scientists who have taken the time to understand both caribou and heli-skiing have recommended the approaches we are taking and are working with us to ensure those are constantly improved. They understand that a static solution such as closures makes little scientific sense when dealing with two very dynamic systems (the movement of both caribou and heli-skiers across the landscape).
  • We’ve worked very hard with biologists from our provincial Ministry of Environment and consulting wildlife biologists over many years to develop a range of practices, procedures and protocols to ensure that caribou (and other key wildlife species) are not displaced by our activities. These are constantly evolving, and your Joe Scott is well aware of these through his involvement in the provincial caribou recovery efforts. One of the things we at CMH have been actively promoting is the concept of a third party audit team which would monitor not only the implementation of the required procedures, but their efficacy. We hope that one or more representatives from the conservation community will play a role in such a team.
  • While some may not want to believe it, the introduction and evolution of these practices has had a very dramatic effect on our business. I’m sure that’s the same for other heli- and snow-cat skiing businesses which are operating in a manner that is consistent with these practices. For example, we close ski terrain (and do not use it) if/when caribou are in the area and if they could be displaced by our presence. “Wildlife alerts” are placed on a larger number of runs where the relative potential for overlap with caribou is relatively higher than other runs. In these locations, our guides and pilots can only go there if animal absence is confirmed prior to doing so. This past winter, 44% of our run-days across the company (total # ski runs X total # days in operation) were affected by either wildlife closures or wildlife alerts. In 2009/10, 55.7% of our run-days were affected.

There are a number of factual errors on your web-site which do require a response. While they may simply be there for dramatic effect, we appreciate that you focus on science-based solutions (which we assume means using fact as opposed to opinion or purposeful misinformation):

  1. Your reference to the costs of our program, while irrelevant to the issue of mountain caribou, is inaccurate.
  2. I can’t speak to the CO2 emissions of a Hummer, or how that compares to our business. It’s a very strange attempt at a comparison. But I can tell you that we are the first (and to our knowledge only) heli-ski company to publish a regular public sustainability report. We’ve won provincial, national and international awards for our work. Among other things, the most recent report includes a break-down of our corporate GHG foot-print and our approaches to that issue. I don’t know of any other tourism company in BC that is doing that.
  3. You suggest that our activity is “subsidized by tax-payers.” This is simply untrue.
  4. You mention footage of animals running from aircraft. You should be aware that our own company protocols (and those developed by government) do not allow us to get that close to caribou; staff can be fired if they allow this to happen. And we do not undertake any form of purposeful over-flights or flight- seeing. So, if this is going on, it is not our guides or pilots involved. As an example, a writer/photographer from a prestigious natural history magazine recently asked us to fly near caribou so that they could get photographs. We refused to do this and suggested they get their images from the local highway, where animals can commonly be seen in the spring. We practice what we preach.
  5. Your final paragraph infers that we don’t care about caribou and we‘re not helping to protect the species. That is also not true.

Clearly, Mitch, you get to choose what appears on your web-site. We understand campaigns and how they work. What we ask of you is that you take the time to understand what it is we’re actually doing before taking us to task. We’re open to that. As a company, and as individuals, we take great pride in doing the right thing, leading the way and showing people what we do. Our track record on many fronts proves that this is not a meaningless facade; it is the way we do business.
Please accept this as our personal invitation to visit us so that you can learn what we’re actually doing. We understand this may not change your mind or approach, but it will allow you to proceed based on facts. Thanks for the opportunity to hear our concerns. I would be pleased to talk with you in person.
Dave Butler, RPF, RPBio.
Director of Sustainability

Photo of CMH Cariboos Lodge - one of the places we hope Mr. Friedman will visit to see what Canadian Mountain Holidays is really doing out there.  More information on the issues facing the mountain caribou can be found here.

Topics: Sustainability, CMH Experts, heli-skiing

Carbon Off-sets and Heliskiing: The CMH Perspective

Posted by Topher Donahue on Apr 29, 2011 8:36:00 AM

Using energy is a reality while heliskiing.  At CMH, energy use is not something that is ignored.  Rather, for CMH - and perhaps for everyone - thoughtful energy use is our key to survival.

A few weeks ago, I brought up the subject of carbon off-sets and how they might be available to heliskiers, and ended up talking to Dave Butler, a forester, biologist and Director of Sustainability at CMH.  I fired a few questions at him and his replies are well worth sharing:

cariboo lodge-carbon footprint - heliskiing

TD: How do these carbon off-set services work?

DB: First, it's important to remember a basic premise: that human activity, whether it's burning a gallon of gas in a car, heating your home or office with electricity, natural gas or coal, or taking a trip on an airplane results in emissions of CO2 (which is a greenhouse gas or GHG) into the atmosphere. Current science appears to tell us that these human-caused GHG emissions are causing, to a degree which is under debate, climate change on a global scale.

In summary, companies offering carbon off-sets promise to bring to zero the carbon emissions associated with your travel (or any other activity) by investing in projects that will result in a comparable reduction in emissions elsewhere. So if you pay an offset company $20 or $25 for each of ton of carbon your travel has emitted, they will invest most of that in projects such as tree planting, refitting existing buildings to reduce their energy consumption or even projects to "capture" in underground storage. These projects might be in your neighborhood, or they might be located somewhere else in the world.

There are a number of carbon off-set certification systems in place around the world to try to ensure there is consistency about key issues such as how these credits are accounted for, how they are tracked/monitored, and in the case of projects such as tree planting, what happens if the forest is harvested or is consumed in a fire.

But despite the existence of those rules, there is also a multi-billion dollar market now in place for trading these credits. As a result, many people are still very concerned that these are simply schemes to buy one's way out of guilt, and that they are not resulting in an actual reduction in our global carbon emissions.

TD: What's your thinking about carbon off-sets in the context of CMH and heliskiing?

DB: Most of us are aware of the global debate about climate change. While the debate is important, I find that it acts as a deterrent for action.

At CMH, we've made a conscious decision to focus on managing our use of energy in all aspects of the business. We talk about this in some detail in our recent sustainability report. It's an environmental issue, it's a social issue, and because of the increasing uncertainty about the cost of energy, it's a major fiscal issue for us.

We're hitting this on four fronts:

  • First, we're ensuring that we know what our company carbon foot-print actually is. We're just finishing up the third year of these calculations. In 2009, our company foot-print was 10,872 metric tonnes of C02, which is an 11.5% reduction from 2008
  • Second, we're driving efficiencies in every area of the business.
  • Third, we're looking at new ways to use alternative energy in the business. Micro-hydro plants at our lodges are a perfect example of this.
  • Finally, because we will continue to use energy in the business, we're watching and researching off-sets.  

We don't have unlimited funds available to address our energy issues. But I often tell people that if I was given a million dollars to work with, and I had a choice between investing in projects in CMH to reduce our use of fossil fuels or giving it to another company for off-sets, the decision is very clear:  I would invest the money in our own efficiency projects.

And we're going to continue to do that until we get to the point where we can't be any more energy efficient. At that point, and only at that point, do I see carbon off-sets as a more reasonable consideration.

TD: What do you tell a guest who asks about off-setting carbon emissions?

DB: I 'm contacted by a few guests each year who want to off-set the carbon emissions from their trips with us. I'm always happy to calculate their carbon foot-print for them, and let them make their own decision about if and how they wish to off-set those emissions.

TD: What kind of carbon off-set service would be right for CMH?

DB: We want to work with a system that is non-profit (and is transparent about overhead costs) and that will invest in projects that will benefit communities close to our lodges.  We haven’t found one yet, but we’re still looking. If readers know of one that fits the bill, please let me know about it.

Many worldly people read the heliski blog.  A question to our readers: Is there a non-profit, transparent carbon off-set service out there that would be right for CMH?  

Topics: Sustainability, CMH Experts

CMH's Journey Towards Sustainability

Posted by Jane Carswell on Jan 19, 2010 9:41:00 PM

This week Canadian Mountain Holidays will release Volume III of “Moving Towards Sustainability", its regular corporate sustainability report.  I sat down with Dave Butler, CMH’s Director of Sustainability to chat about a few things, including the work and stories that lead to the completion of this latest report.
BB Heli-Skier by T Donahue
JC: Dave, what exactly does it mean to be the Director of Sustainability for a Heli-Ski and Heli-Hiking company?
DB: What an amazing opportunity! In short, it means keeping both eyes firmly on the far horizon, ensuring that we can keep sharing these mountains with our guests for many years to come. On the one hand, we face many challenges as the world becomes more complex so it keeps me hopping to try to stay one step ahead of those challenges. But on the other, I’m working with a group of colleagues who all feel deeply passionate about these incredible places we share with our guests. With that as a strong foundation, I rarely see any resistance to finding new and innovative ways to take advantage of our fiscal, social and environmental opportunities.

JC: Congratulations on Volume III of Moving Towards Sustainability.  This third volume represents a significant amount of work on not only your part, but of the Second Nature Committee and all the staff at CMH.   Is it a relief now that it’s done or have you already got a task list started for Volume IV?
DB: For all of us who have worked on this, it’s a real pleasure to be in a position to share it with everyone connected with CMH. But it’s not unlike pausing to enjoy the view during an amazing hike, looking at where we’ve come from and where we’ve yet to go. There are many, many more steps ahead of us, which is both daunting and exciting. In our case, it’s becoming clearer to me that this incredible hike has no end-point.
JC: What do you see as the major accomplishment for CMH since releasing Vol II in 2007?
DB: There are three, Jane. The first is the amazing innovative attitude that I see on the part of many of our staff. We’ve featured many of those stories in the report. The commitment of individual employees, and groups of employees to continued improvement and personal initiative is a constant source of inspiration for me. The second is the focus we’ve put on working with, and influencing our suppliers to change their behaviours and practices for the better. To me, that’s an unanticipated and very positive result from our own efforts. And third, we’ve come out of the closet, so to speak, about how we’re dealing with energy use and climate change. It’s an issue globally, and I’m pleased that we have begun to talk openly about our efforts.

JC: Sustainability at CMH is something that we all believe in and it seems from your latest report a number of the new, successful initiatives that have made a difference have come from the team ‘on the ground’.  Can you tell me one of those stories that really sticks out?
DB: The work that Rick Carswell has been doing to investigate the background of some of our suppliers is a great example, Jane. His efforts to research and understand the realities of beef and fish production, to go beyond emotion or marketing hype, is the kind of thing we should be doing more often. It also reinforces the fact that there rarely any black and white answers to complex issues, and it reinforces the value of publicly reporting on the reasons for our decisions.
JC: Climate change is a complex and emotional issue. Why has CMH decided to talk about it in this report?
DB: It’s an issue that has grabbed the public’s attention like no other that I’ve seen. I feel that it’s important for us not to wade into the debate about climate change, but instead to be clear on what it is we are doing about our use of energy. That’s what we’ve done in the report. We talk about how we measure our use of energy, and most importantly, we’re open about what it is we’re doing about that and where our challenges lie from a business perspective.

JC: What would you like readers to do after they’ve digested the report?
DB: Two things. One: I would really like feed-back from readers. Tell me what you think about what we’ve chosen to do, and how we’re doing it. Give me your suggestions for us to move forward, or let me know what questions might remain unanswered for you.
Second, I ask you to take a look at your own business or life, and give some thought to changes you might make to begin your own journey toward sustainability. I would be grateful if you would share those with me.

JC: How can our readers contact you and where can they find the full report?
DB: Feel free to leave comments right here on the blog and let's get the conversation going.  Share your feedback with others.  Alternatively, email me at or call me at 1.250.426.3599. To read the overview or the complete report, visit the Sustainability Report secton on our website.

What questions or comments do you have for Dave Butler and the CMH team about our commitment to Sustainability?

Topics: Sustainability, CMH