Leis Pet Distributing Inc. in Wellesley Ontario is installing a solar system on their roof in partnership with Community Energy Development Co-operative. Their system is being installed this summer, but their green leadership has been going on much longer. We spoke with Gary Leis, CEO of Leis Pet, about his interest in sustainability and renewable energy, and the partnership between Leis Pet and CED Co-op.
What sparked your interest in green energy at Leis Pet?
Our facility is sitting here; it only makes sense to use it to its full potential. We try to get as much out of the space in our warehouse as possible, so why not make our roof work for us as well? It’s a great roof, facing south, perfect for solar. Why not take the energy from the sun and make a little extra income while supporting renewable energy?
We also thought this would be a great opportunity for our business to showcase our concern for the environment. It would be a good thing for the community to see, and a good thing for our customers and partners to see. We could set an example for others.
That’s why, about six years ago we started working on an application for a solar system through the FIT program.
It sounds like you had it all figured out. Why work with CED Co-op?
The first push was when applying for the FIT program became a points-based system. We didn’t think that we had as strong a chance at securing a contract without partnering with a community-based co-op. That’s when we talked to Dale (Brubacher-Cressman, Secretary of CED Co-op) and said, “we should join up with you guys and do this.”
We liked the partnership approach – owning a portion and leasing a portion back – and we were getting tired of the bureaucracy of it all. Letting an expert like CED Co-op handle the application, paperwork, and regulations made good sense to us.
In the history of our company we have never had sole ownership, we have always had partners who share in the risk and reward. Because of this it doesn’t scare me to partner as we take on new ventures.
We’re glad you’re a partner and can’t wait to see your solar panels go up! Are there other green initiatives that interest you?
I believe wherever we can go green in our business is a benefit. It’s our responsibility to be good caretakers of the Earth, as both individuals and businesses.
At Leis Pet we were early adopters of a green bin system where we paid a company to take our recyclables, diverting them from landfills. That paved the way to eventually purchasing our own machine to bale down the plastic and cardboard. It has eliminated waste and paid for itself. We have also invested in a wind energy generation project.
I’m sure other businesses are wondering, where does direction for these initiatives come from?
Direction comes from our Board of Directors – we sit down on a monthly basis and we’ll make these kind of decisions based on our belief that it will benefit our business, and is the right thing to do.
It has also been a priority for the management and operations team to be at the forefront of our business and pursue environmental initiatives. We have retrofitted our warehouse to new efficient lighting, worked on reducing and recycling waste, and are going digital and paperless. We know there is a cost in the short run, but it will save us money in the long run, and share our beliefs and priorities with our suppliers and customers.
You bring a lot of personal perspective and passion to your business. Tell us about your decision to invest in an environmentally responsible way.
On the personal side, I have grandchildren, I don’t want them coming to me and saying, “what did you do about this situation?” It was important to me to make a statement to my kids and grandkids through my own actions, and the steps our business takes. Together, we helped them make their own investments in CED Co-op – I want them to see that there is opportunity to invest responsibly while earning financial returns.
I don’t have a lot of outside investments. I invest in my business, and invest with people I know, and projects that are socially responsible and environmentally responsible. By investing in CED Co-op I trust the people involved, and I know where my money is being spent.
I don’t need to be a multi-millionaire; I just need some money for retirement. We want to build that wealth while sharing my perspective on investing with my kids.
Thanks for sharing your insights with us Gary. Is there anything you want to add for our readers?
I truly believe that it’s not rocket science – it seems so simple, and it’s just the right thing to do.
Each month we feature a member story. One of our members explains why they chose CED Co-op, and why they believe in community minded professional investment. If you want to share your story, please contact us – firstname.lastname@example.org