International study to address climate change in the workplace

The project’s aim is to investigate green options in the workplace.

An SFU professor has joined a newly formed international research project to assess the impact of the workplace on climate change, and to make recommendations as to how certain sectors can improve their carbon footprints.

John Calvert, an SFU adjunct professor of political science and an associate professor of health sciences, is part of the team which has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to pursue their research.

The team’s project, called Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW), will investigate how Canadian workplaces can be modified to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, ACW will examine what changes should be made in law and policy in order for businesses and workplaces to be as green as possible.

Over $2.5 million dollars has been given to the York University-led project. The SSHRC team is a collaboration of 36 participants from 17 organizations in Canada, the US, and the UK. Team members represent a range of 20 different disciplines, professions, and trades.

Project members will conduct their work in six stages, and in four groups. As an associate director of the Built Environment group — which will consider human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity — Calvert will have a leading role.

Although Calvert acknowledges that changing law, policy, and getting the government on board will be a challenge, the aim of ACW is to transition Canada into a lower-carbon economy. The industries that the ACW project will look into are construction, energy, manufacturing, and public and private services.

Calvert emphasized that action will be needed with or without the full support of the government. “Regardless of what party is in office, we will need to develop the skills, knowledge base and best practices in order to address climate change in the workplace,” he said.

Calvert already has some experience creating policies for the BC government, as well as with policies concerning monitoring, training, equity, and employment related to the Vancouver Island Highway project. With regards to the SSHRC project, Calvert told The Peak that he will apply this experience, with a more pronounced green focus, to his research.

Specifically, Calvert will be examining the construction industry; his knowledge of policy related to construction projects in BC provides him with suitable insight into the inner workings of the industry’s workplaces.

“My focus is the impact on work in the construction industry and the extent to which ‘green’ working practices are being integrated into the training and skills development of building workers,” he said.

According to Calvert, conducting research in climate change, investigating new laws and policies, and developing new strategies for greener work environments will allow ACW project to anticipate the jobs and workplaces of the future.