Smart Commute North Toronto, Vaughan wins 2009 Vaughan Mayor’s Corporate Citizen Award

Winning attitudes

Vaughan businesses honoured for success through creative thinking
By Brian Baker
Posted:  2009-05-01

SMART CHOICE: Brian Shifman of Smart Commute North Toronto/Vaughan shows off his Vaughan Chamber of Commerce Mayor's Corporate Citizen award, which he says signifies his green-thinking company's increasing credibility and importance. (Courtesy Your Ad Online)

A time of economic uncertainty is ideal to start thinking of the environment, says Brian Shifman, executive director of Smart Commute North Toronto/Vaughan.

The non-profit organization received the Mayor’s Corporate Citizen Award at the 2009Vaughan Chamber of Commerce’s Business Achievement Awards recently.

And for Shifman the award is not about pride, but about getting Smart Commute’s eco-friendly message out to companies.

“(Winning) signifies our increasing credibility and importance,” he said. “Climate change becomes a bigger issue, but employee retention and turnover is very important, transportation — we touch on all those banks.”

Smart Commute helps companies establish an environmentally friendly mode of transit for their employees. For Shifman it means seizing the opportunity to think about carpooling and public transit.

“We really do cater to a specific niche that is often ignored,” he said. “I have consistently found when you go to a business, for example, you’ll often find that the green initiatives they’re doing will focus on energy efficiency or rainwater runoff or recycling programs.

“Those are all very important, but when we’re looking at greenhouse gas, a very significant component is coming from transportation and it’s very difficult to tackle that.”

Adapting to the current economic climate is also vital to Santina Mariani, who runs Zero 20 Bambini with sister Anna Turrin.

The brand name kidswear shop won 2009 Business of the Year – Retailer. Being recognized by the business community was special for the owners.

“We’ve realized that to get through and be successful we have to not concentrate on only one thing, or one area,” Mariani said.

She credited their 26 years in business to practical common sense, which has kept them from feeling the recession.

“What we’ve done to do that, and to increase our sales, is we are listening more carefully to what our customers want,” she said. “I am the buyer and it’s not a matter of me just going out and buying whatever the hell I like.”

Reaching out to the community is also top priority for Dave and Buster’s, an entertainment venue for adults who are young at heart.

Winning the chamber’s award for hospitality for a second time was an honour for the venue’s special events manager, Mary Patrick.

“I’m tickled pink,” she said. “I’ve already got the trophy in the trophy case all polished up next to the other one.”

Much like Smart Commute and Zero 20 Bambini, Patrick said Dave and Buster’s has not felt the economic malaise, and she attributed that to keen business acumen.

“We have been proactive in some areas of opportunity,” she said. “Along with having a strong client base and the support of the community, we have been able to maintain our market share.”

Other Chamber of Commerce award winners included North Star Homes,Decora Window & Door SystemsDeloitteHarkel Office FurnitureJD Smith & Sons Limited, and Biochem Environmental Solutions for its role in environmental leadership.

Shifman sees thinking green as a prospective source for employment and possibly creating industry leaders, especially since the province is shifting to a more eco-friendly approach.

“The Green Energy Act has an opportunity to spawn further going-green initiatives,” he said. “That’s a favourable climate to work with but I think we have a very long way to go.

“A lot of these initiatives will help push us forward to where we need to be, especially in this economy. To invest in green infrastructure and green thinking is very important,” he added. “It’s probably where a lot of the future job growth is going to end up.”



About Smart Commute
Commuter benefits program for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

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