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What You Don’t Know About Canadian Business Success: Lynnwood Roofing x HSBC

  • Article

With its status as the oil/gas capital of Canada, Alberta may not come to mind as a green energy leader. Lynnwood Roofing, a commercial roofing contractor specializing in installation and repairs, is working hard to change — a solar panel at a time.

With its status as the oil and gas capital of North America, Alberta may not come to mind as a Canadian sustainability and green energy leader.

But that’s a reputation that Lynnwood Roofing, a commercial roofing contractor specializing in installation and repairs serving the Calgary area, is working hard to change — one solar panel at a time.

From rinks to roofs

Roger Cote founded Lynnwood Roofing in 1981. His son, Justin Cote, first started working at the company when he was a 16-year-old high school student while playing junior hockey with his lifelong friend, Ryan Cornforth.

Ten years ago, while playing on the same team in Calgary, Cote asked Cornforth to join Lynnwood, and the pair have since worked at every level of the company in various capacities, from shovelling gravel and driving trucks to project management.

In 2014, Lynnwood’s ownership was transferred to Cote, who now oversees the company as President with his father staying on as a consultant, and Cornforth, who supervises day-to-day operations as Manager.

Since taking over, Cornforth and Adam Johnson became shareholders and along with Cote the team has grown the business from a small “mom-and-pop" Calgary contractor operation specializing in flat and metal roofing projects to a Canadian sustainability leader that presently employs 45 people and is taking the lead in Alberta’s burgeoning solar market.

The sunbelt advantage

Expanding into solar panel installation is a natural fit for a Calgary-based roofing company, as the southern Alberta and Saskatchewan region is known as Canada’s “sunbelt.” Additionally, if not properly installed by roofers, solar panel installation frequently damages roof surfaces causing a need for replacement or repair.

Because traditional installation is usually performed by electricians, competition in the solar roofing market is limited, presenting Lynnwood Roofing with a unique opportunity to expand its product and service offerings.

“Solar started as a side interest,” says Cornforth. “A few years ago, we worked on a construction project that ended up having a solar roof installed and saw first-hand how all the simple and complex parts interacted with each other and came together. We quickly discovered that many solar contractors were unaware of what’s happening on the structural and building envelope side of construction.”

Cote and Cornforth’s growing experience with solar roofing projects led to their decision to expand Lynnwood Roofing by incorporating Rocky Mountain Solar Co., a company offering commercial and residential roofing and solar solutions in Southern Alberta.

While there are some government incentives for commercial adoption of renewable energy, particularly due to the way the province’s utilities and grid are structured, Cornforth likens Albertans’ rising appetite for renewables to his own experience working with and understanding solar.

“From a private sector side, [solar adoption] is more driven by the ‘passion project’ people that are really into it,” says Cornforth. “Quite frankly, we get a ton of phone calls from people saying, ‘I want solar panels on my roof, but I don’t know where to start.’ And a large part of it is coming from the corporate sustainability side – ESG reporting isn’t just a good idea, it’s now mandatory.”

A lasting financial partnership

“HSBC has been Lynnwood’s great supporter ever since we’ve been involved in the business,” says Cote. “As we seem to have become early adopters, we’ve been able to chat with various HSBC teams and give our input on what we’re seeing in Alberta.”

Cornforth adds: “While other banks are adapting their products and services to get on board with sustainability, they aren’t asking the right questions or are sometimes just throwing money at the problem. HSBC works hard to create a product that works for large-scale commercial, institutional and industrial customers, and that takes customer input and expectations into account.”

Lynnwood’s relationship manager introduced Cote and Cornforth to Angie Hall, HSBC’s Head of Sustainable Finance, Commercial Banking, who told them about the Green Equipment Finance (EF) program. Also known as Green Loans, EF products help companies finance the purchase of equipment with tangible environmental benefits and ensures alignment with HSBC and the Loan Market Association’s (LMA) Green Loan Principles. GLPs ensure proceeds go towards a green asset or project, where the borrower clearly communicates their project’s green objectives to HSBC and reports annually to ensure transparency and alignment with sustainability principles.

Small and medium-sized enterprises benefit from Green EF by showcasing their green credentials to employees, customers and suppliers while enjoying flexible commercial terms that mirror traditional EFs. In Lynnwood’s case, they were able to leverage their first, limited loan to successfully bid on a single site solar project, which will open doors to participate in larger scale projects in the future.

“The conversation was focused on their needs, and how HSBC could help them meet their financing requirements while also advancing their commitment to sustainable operations,” says Hall. “To date, the market has trended towards very large facilities for multi-national corporations, but this transaction demonstrates how sustainable finance can be leveraged to support businesses of any size.”

Building—and leading—by example

Cote and Cornforth expect to invest considerable time and resources into redesigning Lynnwood’s office in downtown Calgary and engaging with different sustainable construction methods, from insulation to a new HVAC system, to create a net-zero working space.

“Once we start to dig into our own backyard a little more, we’ll have a better understanding of what the best, most practical solutions are for our customers,” says Cornforth. “It shows that we’re walking the walk and doing what we say we believe in, not just riding the solar wave.”

Cote and Cornforth’s advice to aspiring small business owners looking to integrate sustainability principles into their organization is simple: Understand your business’ environmental impact, and look at the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to see where you can make a difference.

“Twenty-five years ago, safety programs were seen as optional, and today you’d be crazy to run a business without one,” says Cornforth. “It’s the same with ESG now—the earlier you get familiar with your own carbon footprint, the sooner you’ll develop a baseline and see low-hanging fruit.”

As Lynnwood Roofing continues to uncover new opportunities to grow and scale its business while advancing Alberta’s renewable energy transition, HSBC will continue to work alongside Cote, Cornforth and their employees by identifying and engaging the right tools for sustainable success.

Looking for ways to make your day-to-day operations more sustainable? Contact HSBC Bank Canada to learn how our strategies, services, and financing options can help.

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