COMMITTED TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE
In 2009, Rideau welcomed Valérie Duchesneau, a recent University of Ottawa environmental sciences graduate, as its new environmental projects coordinator. During CEGEP, Valérie realized that economic and human justice issues such as poverty and gender equity were linked to environmental degradation and climate change, leading to her continued pursuit of an environmental sciences degree.
Always looking for a challenge, Valérie quickly saw that her new position at Rideau provided her with the opportunity to put her beliefs into practice. “I hoped that my work at Rideau as project coordinator would enable me to reach out to people in an accessible way. There is still some stigma in society in general about “environmentalists”, and I thought that the experience at Rideau would help me understand how to breach that gap in order to be an effective agent of change.”
In the succeeding 20 months, Valérie truly became an effective agent of change. Her work began with overseeing recycling projects, employee education, and caring for the office garden. She quickly became the leading advocate for a series of major and impressive projects focused on environmental improvements inside Rideau, producing significant impact on Rideau’s environmental footprint, and creating lasting change in how Rideau’s business is done.
Everyone knows Valérie’s accomplishments during her tenure at Rideau. Two of her most important and impressive programs, valuable both to the planet and to Rideau, are the “No Dirty Gold” campaign and Rideau’s certification as carbon neutral by The CarbonNeutral Company.
Rideau signed onto the No Dirty Gold campaign in 2009, a commitment by gold retailers and manufacturers to support socially and environmentally responsible gold mining projects. Just two years later, in 2011, Rideau was certified as the first recognition company to achieve carbon neutral status. Valérie’s efforts in improving Rideau’s recycling processes, measuring the company’s energy consumption, and helping staff to reduce waste and identify inefficiencies were critical in obtaining this certification.
In addition to these impressive accomplishments, Valérie also:
Established the internal EcoAction Newsletter.
Found recycling partners who reused Rideau’s disposable materials or made new products from them.
Developed partnerships with Trees Canada and with American Forests, allowing recognition clients to offer their employees an opportunity to have a tree planted in their honor when they are being recognized or receiving an award.
Planned a “Rideau Recycle Days” event, where employees brought their used items to exchange.
Promoted more sustainable events (composting at the Christmas party, Children’s Christmas party card-making).
Organized and hosted games for the Défi Climat campaign (Eco-Pardy! In 2010 and “The Carbon Footprint is Right” in 2011).
Became the contact person with the UN Global Compact.
Valérie identifies Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental and political activist and 2004 Nobel Prize laureate, as her personal heroine. Ms. Maathai manages an international tree planting program, as she believes that tree planting can provide a livelihood to women while addressing environmental issues and supporting human rights. “She is one of the best speakers I have ever heard. Her energy is really something that I aspire to have in my own projects and I hope to be able to communicate my passion with others as well as she can.”
Apparently, Valérie invests her projects with the right kind of energy. In a recent employee satisfaction survey, 81% of Rideau employees agreed that they were “proud” of the company for doing so much in environmental protection. Most of those achievements are the direct result of Valérie’s stewardship.
In 2011, Valérie spent extensive time abroad teaching in China and learning the language (her fifth!) and volunteering on a Bolivian environmental project while living with a host family.Today, you will find her studying at Harvard University Law School pursuing her dream to become an attorney in international public interest law. We are sure that her drive and commitment will help her succeed in this endeavor as she did in inspiring us at Rideau to do the right thing in our corporate life and as global citizens. We would be much poorer without her commitment, intelligence, and passion.