Our 2021 Year in Review

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Written by Dorinda So, Executive Director, pointA

Even though we headed into 2021 with another COVID-19 lockdown here in Ontario, the news of vaccines provided much needed hope. As the year went on, we were able to launch a number of new campaigns and initiatives that supported businesses of every size as they started new ventures, returned to in-office work, or encouraged more physical activity of their employees outside of their homes.  

As I write this in January 2022, we have a brand new team, one that is well-positioned to help us emerge from this pandemic. I am thankful to our former team members, Stewart Slaymaker, Khushpal Brar, Lauren McVittie, and Titi Onabanjo, for their incredible resilience, skillsets, and passion for all things sustainability. The team collectively spent almost 20 years at pointA and we’re thankful for their commitment to our mission even amidst many changes. I wish them every success in the current and future endeavours. 

Here are some highlights from the past year.  

Smart Commute Campaigns and Innovations in York Region 

We worked with our partners in York Region to deliver two campaigns this year in Vaughan, including Bike Month in June 2021 and Smart Commute Month in November 2021. Bike Month featured a bingo card that encouraged the integration of more cycling into one’s everyday life. The campaign encouraged exploring bike infrastructure in York Region as the Region has continued to implement cycling network improvements even during the pandemic. In total, we saw almost 3,400 kilometres from 100 cycling trips in York Region from those who completed bingo card activities.  

Smart Commute Month in York Region focused on understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on commuting and doing a soft launch of the Smart Commute Tool, which is now online at www.smartcommute.ca. The Tool, an upgrade from the previous tool, is free to anyone to sign up and use to find carpooling partners, log their trips across all modes, and measure the impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their individual commuting habits. Smart Commute member workplaces can use it to understand the positive financial impacts of remote work and receive customized support and reporting from the Tool. We hope to fully launch the Smart Commute Tool soon in 2022.  

Return to Office Campaign in North York 

To support ongoing member return to office plans, including hybrid work arrangements, we worked with our City of Toronto Smart Commute partners and funders in 2021 to deliver the Return to Office campaign found at www.smartcommutetoronto.ca. This online platform became the hub for a set of free resources supporting all things remote work and sustainable commuting, as well as webinars, and discounts to our Smart Commute member workplaces. pointA staff delivered two of the four webinars featured in the campaign, one on how-to use new technologies to change-up your commute and another on optimizing remote work.  

We want to thank our delivery partners and especially the City of Toronto team, including those Councillors and departments from across the City that helped us promote the campaign on social media and in their newsletters. We look forward to providing more helpful content and resources in 2022. 

To augment the resources that were offered on the online platform, pointA also wrote a complete series of blog posts in support of members’ return to office efforts. From transit safety to hotelling and hot-desking, key questions and concerns that came up were covered as we acquainted ourselves with the ‘new normal’ of working and commuting.

Remote Work Strategy and Innovation  

One of our major initiatives last year was the Remote Work Strategy and Innovation course/workshop, that we produced thanks to funding from the Future Skills Centre (FSC). We learned a tonne from the Centre and met many of the innovative and interesting individuals behind the other funded projects. FSC’s work is pivotal to helping Canadians acquire the skills that are needed in our ever-changing world of work.  

Our goal with the course/workshop was to teach, primarily women and BIPOC entrepreneurs and small businesses owners and operators across Canada, how to develop strategies and learn innovative skills to help them transition or sustain their remote work operations. pointA has worked with many large workplaces in Toronto and Vaughan and, with the advent of the pandemic in 2020, we wanted to be able to ensure that small businesses from across Canada could also benefit from our expertise. 

One thing that was confirmed was that entrepreneurs and small business owners, particularly women, were adversely affected by the impacts of COVID-19, and extremely busy and often hard to reach due to their many responsibilities. Thankfully, we were able to meet many incredible people through the project, hear their stories of resilience and innovation, and help bring them some clarity as they continue their business journeys.  

pointA’s work on this project continues in 2022 and we look forward to sharing more with you. 

Accessibility Blog Series 

We have always known that sustainable transportation is not always accessible to all. Those who have accessibility needs may find it difficult to get around from walking to cycling or taking public transit. ‘Accessibility’ is a term that is used frequently in our work but is often not fully defined and so we set out in 2021 to, in a series of blog posts, define accessibility and accessibility standards and promote the infrastructure, workplace, public policy, and payment changes that would make sustainable transportation more accessible. In doing so, sustainable transportation can become easier for everyone to access and use. 

Understanding our Impact 

In 2019, the pointA Board of Directors approved the adoption of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 3, 11, and 13. And as a result, we have spent the last two years aligning our work with these goals and examining how country-level metrics can be impacted by the work done in individual workplaces by programs like Smart Commute and pointA’s Shuttles program. Members realized that even small changes over time cannot only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also increase our health and well-being, and financial savings.  

By first better understanding the measurement and impact of our programs and our work, we now plan to further develop ways to help all our partners and workplaces understand their impact as well – something we will unveil later in 2022.  

Thank You to those who joined us this Year 

I, and all at pointA want to thank the many team members who were with us this year as students, interns, and on contract: Rena Kong, Raechelle Farray, Matthew Brubacher, Amanda Cheung, Karisa Yuet, and Angeline Tan. They contributed significantly to our work and helped us move forward through another great year. I also want to thank our tireless Board members who have spent many hours over the past year leading us through the many changes we’ve experienced, not in the least this global pandemic. They are too often the heroes that don’t get recognized, and I am thankful to them for their dedication and leadership.  

Finally, I want to thank our partners, funders, and member workplaces who have continued to work with us even during these difficult times. We look forward to much more in 2022! 

While the pandemic has shown us the impact of remote work on how companies and employees work, it is also important to understand how remote work affects the environment. With the dire warnings in the IPCC report that preceded the COP26 conference held last month and as more companies adopt a hybrid or fully remote work environment, this becomes an opportunity for businesses to do their part in protecting the environment.

Image Credit: Paico Oficial from Unsplash


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