Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 12, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Integrated Sustainability Consultants Ltd. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2018):
- Integrated Sustainability Consultants encourages ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies for courses related and indirectly related to their current position, with no annual maximum
- New moms at Integrated Sustainability Consultants receive maternity leave top-up payments to 100% of salary for up to 12 weeks and reserve the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence
Integrated Sustainability brings professionals together
By its very nature, Integrated Sustainability Consultants Ltd. is a place where professionals engage in a wide diversity of thinking about water, waste and energy issues. That's because the Calgary-based firm was designed to combine specialized engineering and scientific expertise in those areas in a one-stop shop for industry, a less common mix than you might think.
"We wanted to build a company where we could bring engineers and scientists together and get them to collaborate on solutions," says founder and President Stuart Torr. "In most companies, that is quite significantly broken, and engineers and scientists can't come together and be the specialist team they want to be. Often companies will be forced to use two or more different firms.
"We put a flag up asking people who wanted to build a career in water to come together as a family group," says Torr. "That's the prime differentiator for us -- we are a specialty home for water professionals."
This family has grown rapidly to include engineers and scientists with post-graduate degrees as well as construction managers, technicians and skilled trades. The eight-year-old company offers services that support companies "from idea to implementation" on projects involving water, waste and energy management, particularly for the oil and gas industry in Alberta and the mining industry in B.C. There is also a Vancouver office.
Torr readily agrees that companies have not necessarily seen sustainability as their first priority. "Our whole philosophy is to support industry in doing the right thing and drive sustainability practices into their inner fabric," he says. "We are always working to push the envelope."
The company looks for people who are "very courageous in problem-solving," says Torr. "Our people are encouraged to come to the table with new ideas, to not be shy about breaking out of the mould. It invokes quite a creative culture."
In return, Torr has promised that employees will own 50 per cent of the business over time -- so far, it's at about 25 per cent. "I believe it's important to recognize that hard work came from everyone, not just a founding few people or myself," he says.
The company has a flexible working environment, in which some people work from home and two people are based in the relatively remote (and beautiful) B.C. locations of Nakusp and Salt Spring Island. There is also an active employee committee known as CHEWS -- for Community, Health, Environment, Wellness and Safety -- which puts on events from "March Madness" fitness competitions to pot lucks, as well as community engagement activities. Women in the company can attend the "Fabulous Ladies" group to talk about such issues as stress and work-life balance.
Frank Laxshimalla, Manager, Facilities Engineering, finds that "the culture is pretty incredible." After joining in 2013 as a lead electrical engineer, he was able to move through various teams before recently returning to manage the group he started in.
"During my interview, I said I would like to grow beyond my discipline," he recalls. "I wanted to understand how the big picture works. In joining, it was pretty neat to see I was surrounded by conscientiously engaged go-getters -- a work hard, play hard mentality. Everybody was very supportive of each other and cross-pollinating, learning from each other. Within a project we can have scientists, engineers, regulatory environmental specialists, even aquatic specialists at the table to tackle problems from a very holistic view."
Laxshimalla also remembers when his appendix burst and he was hospitalized. In the end, he had to take three months off, but he had "incredible support" from the company. "Everybody helped me get back on my feet," he says. "There is a very family feel here. We share our personal stories with each other, we share our professional successes and failures with each other. It makes our company a very special place to work."