Earth First

Diverse Québec firms take leading roles in greening Canada’s economy

There has long been a strong awareness at companies of the need to operate in a sustainable way to protect our environment.

The issue has become more acute in recent years. Increasingly, the failure to consider the world around us is having an impact: from the loss of virgin rainforest in the Amazon to worsening desertification in China and rising sea levels affecting coastal communities worldwide. 

Many Canadian companies have seized the initiative in their respective sectors to do business in a way that is sustainable, yet ensures they thrive. And many of them are operating in Japan, with local partners that share the commitment to a better future. 

Here are three enterprises that have strong connections to Québec, are in different sectors and embody the very best in sustainable business activities. 


The global transport sector has in the past come in for criticism that it is not doing all it might to safeguard the well-being of our planet, but investment in next-generation engine and other technologies by Pratt & Whitney Canada flies in the face of that suggestion. 

Advances in its sustainable hybrid–electric propulsion technology, for example, have been hailed as a contribution to Canada’s green recovery plan. In July 2021, the company unveiled the new equipment and a flight demonstrator program as part of a C$163 million investment supported by both the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Québec. 

“Hybrid–electric propulsion is one of many exciting new technologies that we are developing as part of our strategy of making aircraft propulsion more efficient and sustainable,” said Jean Thomassin, executive director of new products and services for the company, which is based in the Québec city of Longueuil. 

“Alongside greater use of non-fossil-based sustainable aviation fuels, more efficient propulsion systems are key to supporting the aviation industry’s goal of reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050,” Thomassin told The Canadian. 

The benefit of a hybrid-electric propulsion system is that it allows the crew to optimize engine performance and efficiency, he pointed out. While a thermal engine is optimized for peak efficiency as an aircraft is cruising, electric motors and batteries can be used for additional power during transient phases, such as taxiing, takeoff and climbing. Overall, this leads to reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. 

The evidence lies in the figures. For Pratt & Whitney’s regional hybrid–electric demonstrator, which is based on a De Havilland Dash 8, the company is targeting fuel efficiency that is 30 per cent better than that of the most advanced existing turboprop aircraft engine. 

The initiative is a successor to Project 804, which was launched as a joint program between Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace in 2019, and has served as the foundation of the new research. Ground testing commences this year and flight tests of the Dash 8-100 demonstrator are scheduled to begin in 2024. 

“A key advantage of hybrid–electric is that components and systems that we are today developing at smaller scale may eventually be applied to larger aircraft, such as single-aisle passenger aircraft,” Thomassin said. “And as associated battery technology improves — allowing better power-to-weight ratios — this will allow for even greater efficiency benefits from hybrid–electric configurations.” 

Pratt & Whitney Canada is the top investor in aerospace research and development in the nation. It ploughs in C$500 million a year, which also serves to drive economic growth and innovation, as well as improve the skills of the workforce — all the while helping the environment. 

“Ultimately, if it is successful, our hybrid-electric flight demonstrator could enable a major step forward in fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions for regional air transportation,” said Thomassin. “This will help ensure that the economic and social benefits of regional air connectivity can continue to grow sustainably, not just in Canada but around the world.” 

In parallel, Pratt & Whitney continues to increase the efficiency of gas turbine engines across its portfolio, while also supporting the wider use of sustainable aviation fuels and pursuing alternative fuels. To the aviation industry, all these initiatives will be critical if it is to meet its target of reducing CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050. 

It is also committed to work with stakeholders across the Canadian aerospace ecosystem, ranging from supply chain partners to academia and government organizations. The intent is to make sure that the nation’s aerospace sector is in a strong position to play a leading role in the global drive to innovate new, low-carbon technologies. 

“Canada has an opportunity to demonstrate environmental leadership in the aviation sector,” said Dave Riggs, chief transformation officer for De Havilland Canada. 

“De Havilland Canada has a legacy of innovation that has supported aviation in Canada and around the world for more than 90 years and we are immensely proud to be the first manufacturer of regional aircraft supporting the development of hybrid–electric propulsion technology,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with Pratt & Whitney Canada and governments in Canada to further the development of alternative, climate-friendly technology that holds much potential to contribute to more sustainable aviation.”

“Climate change is already having an impact on the environment, people and the economy. It is one of the biggest challenges we face in the years ahead.” 


Pyrowave is a pioneer in the electrification of chemical processes based on low-carbon footprint microwaves. Officials from the company recently visited Japan to explore the possibilities for its ground-breaking plastics circular economy and chemical recycling, to turn post-consumer and post-industrial plastics into new plastics. 

The company’s high-powered microwave catalytic depolymerization technology platform is the most advanced in the world and is pushing new boundaries in the development of next-generation plastics, restoring plastics to their molecular state, identical to virgin materials. 

“Our goal is to use microwaves to produce low-carbon products and contribute to keeping our precious resources in the manufacturing loop,” said Virginie Bussières, vice-president of communications, government relations and marketing for the company. 

“Our first application is to recycle polystyrene and decompose it into its basic constituents, identical to virgin material,” she said. “We can treat traditionally hard-to-recycle plastics such as black sushi trays, fish ice boxes and yogurt cups, and make new packaging with our product. We are technology providers, so our clients can buy our equipment and use plastic waste to meet their recycled content targets and reduce their environmental footprint.” 

Pyrowave’s technology helps client companies reach their sustainability objectives and comply with circular and low-carbon regulations, while the collaborative approach the company uses with clients also serves to increase innovation, Bussières said, which can become yet another competitive advantage in the client’s home market. 

“Customers are more demanding in part because, as a society, we became more demanding in the face of climate urgency,” she added. “We believe that innovation and technology are key to accelerate this shift and respond to citizen, government and industry expectations.” 

Equally, investors are placing greater importance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators in their investment decisions, which has helped to accelerate Pyrowave’s growth. A decade ago, Bussières points out, there was little discussion on plastic waste; today, it is in the news virtually every week. The emergence of Pyrowave’s technology, therefore, is timely. 

Yet there are obstacles that remain to greater uptake of the technology. 

“The biggest challenge is no longer the technology, as that technology is now mature and available,” she said. “One of the biggest challenges we face is how to break silos to enable the value chain to shift from linear to circular. It might sound like a cliché, but old habits die hard.” 

That has been the driver behind the collaborative approach, based on trust, dialogue and mutual understanding, she said. 

“We appreciate the commitment and energy our clients invest in finding new ways to serve their consumers with a lower environmental footprint, through pilot projects, bold invest­ments and this collaborative approach,” she said. “Governments also play an essential role in shaping the regulatory framework of the new, low-carbon, circular economy and we try our best to contribute to this important discussion.

“Finally, [non-governmental organizations] are part of this ecosystem. They might raise very good questions about impact and transparency, and can contribute to avoiding blind spots as well as voice citizens’ expectations,” she added. “In a nutshell, for Pyrowave, the way to break silos is to engage in a dialogue with all stakeholders.” 

And those stakeholders, the company an­ticipates, will increasingly be in Japan. 

“We believe we share many common values with Japanese companies, and this is why we were honoured to take part in the Québec delegation to Tokyo last April,” Bussières said. “We also notice that when governments are adopting regulatory incentives to achieve their sustainability objectives, it creates momentum. 

“In that regard, we were pleased to see that the Tokyo government has a plastic strategy which includes chemical recycling, and we had the honour of meeting with environment-related government representatives to discuss the deployment of our technology in Japan during our visit to Tokyo.” 

“It’s crucial for businesses to take action and help usher in a green, low-carbon economy.”


Canada’s financial sector is also playing its part in meeting the nation’s sustainability goals, with Investissement Québec committed to responsible investment and sustainable finance, according to Sylvie Pinsonnault, senior vice-president of Strategy, Business Solutions and Innovation at the company. 

“The organization supports the government’s actions under its 2030 Plan for a Green Economy and, more specifically, its commitment to make significant cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, pointing out that after the transportation sector, industry is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, accounting for about 30 per cent of emissions. 

“As a result, it’s crucial for businesses to take action and help usher in a green, low-carbon economy,” said Pinsonnault. “That’s why Investissement Québec aims to be a catalyst for change by supporting Québec companies and encouraging them to adopt best business practices, including the integration of environ­mental, social and governance factors.” 

The shift should not be considered a burden on companies, she added, as it invariably brings a wide range of new business opportunities that will help Québec enterprises take sustainable productivity to the next level. 

In recent years, the organization has adopted several initiatives designed to make the province’s companies more competitive and give them an advantage in foreign markets.

Under Compétivert, the green economy initiative, for example, Investissement Québec encourages firms to adopt clean technologies and eco-responsible practices, to become more competitive while reducing their environmental footprint. The initiative offers innovative financing and coaching solutions, and provides companies with the tools they need to take action. 

Québec businesses can pursue opportunities, such as the transition to, and improvement of, energy efficiency, electrification of transportation, carbon capture, new fuels, recycling and recovery of plastics, renewable energy and the circular economy. Another objective is to strengthen collaboration with ecosystem players in the green economy. 

Between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, Investissement Québec authorized financing interventions for 103 clean technology innovation projects, Pinsonnault said. Worth more than C$379.2 million, these financing interventions will support projects valued at C$1.7 billion according to the forecasts provided by the companies. 

The corporation has also introduced the Factorielle toolkit to raise awareness and provide tools to companies on gender diversity. The aim is to enhance the strategic contribution of women in business and thereby increase innovation and productivity, as well as facilitate access to capital for women entrepreneurs. Similarly, support for Québec sourcing addresses the benefits of procurement within the province and provides businesses with the tools to do precisely that, with downloaded information available on local manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and industrial services companies in Québec. 

A great deal of support is available to busi­nesses with a commitment to sustainability and ambitions to export to foreign markets, including Japan. The support includes assessing exporting potential, organizing meetings with clients, preparing and assisting businesses, as well as identifying business opportunities. 

“Integrating ESG factors into business practices is clearly becoming essential,” said Pinsonnault. “Failing to do so could have a considerable impact on a company’s operations and translate into financial risks. It is now a widespread practice in Canada and abroad for investors and lenders to consider sustainability and ESG factors in their decisions.” 

Underlining that shift, she pointed out that responsible investing now represents 62 per cent of assets under management in Canada, while 98 per cent of global institutional investors report considering non-financial factors during the investment process, up from only 60 per cent in 2016. 

“Climate change is already having an impact on the environment, people and the economy. It is one of the biggest challenges we face in the years ahead,” said Pinsonnault. 

“That’s why Investissement Québec hopes to be a force for change in the shift to a responsible and sustainable economy,” she added. “We are committed to ensuring that our investment and financing practices are informed by best practices and that environmental, social and governance factors are given due consideration in all our financing operations, in accordance with a new responsible investment and sustainable financing policy. 

“We are also embarking on a multi-year process to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related and Financial Disclosures and the United Nations’ sustainability objectives with a view to setting carbon reduction targets for our portfolio.”