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Interview with Renée Gratton

Founder and president of the Construction Resource Initiatives Council [CRIC], Renee Gratton wants to stamp out waste from building construction. So she set herself a mission.


SABMag: What made you decide to take this on?
While leading a drywall recycling task group, I realized the general waste generation from construction was worst than I thought. The awareness to the issue, impacts or possible solutions, was poor at best. Although I knew that changing mindsets, behaviours or related systems in the building sector would be extremely challenging, if not impossible, I found considerable interest for my thoughts on a change initiative. But ultimately, it was the overwhelming sense of duty to try to make a difference, along with support from many.

SABMag: How do you turn a big idea into action? What is your main goal? Well first you need a clear and shared vision. Then – and this is where evidently many initiatives fail – you have to overcome inertia by generating the reasons for your idea to all you need to take action. Thirdly, leading by example and taking action yourself is critical; especially when it is to engage or take the first step on a change journey.  As for the main goal, in short, we aim to eliminate the ‘concept’ of building waste – challenging old ways of thinking and viewing ‘waste’ as a potential resource with a value to be realized rather than a problem to be dealt with.

SABMag: What are some of CRIC’s initiatives to reach its goal?
The first was the creation of Mission 2030 – a pragmatic call-to-action for net zero construction, renovation and demolition waste by 2030. It focuses around change management, integration/education, tools/support, research/innovation and communication. Part of all this is the creation of a body of knowledge, advisory and support team. Last year, we released the ‘Waste Saver’ beta mobile app and our education program. Now we’re working on building partnerships for the app and our ‘living’ Reference guide.

SABMag: This is a big job. Are others helping you? Absolutely. From the onset, there were many professionals and organizations, from regional to international, helping to create, launch and continuously develop Mission 2030. And the list continues to grow, slowly but very surely. Thanks to their support and their wide-ranging subject matter expertise, I am able to raise awareness, desire, knowledge, help enable and provide reinforcement – everything essential to change management, plus recognition and momentum.  That said, this is indeed an extremely big job and we’ve only just begun. Therefore, countless more supporters are needed for us to succeed.

SABMag: Is this a world-wide movement that CRIC is part of? Yes, it is a world-wide movement. But it’s in fact the CRI Council who started it, to bridge the gaps between silos. Global and sectorial interactions are essential for material supply chains, resource or waste management. Especially when they are cornerstones of socio-economical systems or impact our environmental systems.

SABMag: What are you most proud of? That’s hard to say. I am proud of every partnership, endorsement and volunteer for many different reasons. Being the first uNeP- GPWM [uN environment Programme – Global Partnership on Waste Management] Canadian Partner was a highlight; as was winning the People Choice Award for the MIT Centre for Collective Intelligence 2013 Climate CoLab Waste Management Contest. I was  a finalist for the CTV Amazing People award, and I was appointed as a founding Director of the new National Zero Waste Council. But what I am most proud of is having stepped out of my comfort zone to grow and try to inspire a culture change in the building industry.

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