Aphria grows gardening know-how in CSR platform

The cannabis producer's "Plant Positivity" platform improves access to green space and educates Canadians about its benefits.

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As a major cannabis producer, Aphria already knows a lot about plants, and for its first public-facing CSR effort called “Plant Positivity,” the company is looking to spread knowledge to the rest of Canadians.

evergreen2At Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, the cannabis producer has added six new gardens and 50 varieties of native plant species to the existing 8,000 square metres of green space, which is meant to help visitors reflect on the impact plants have on their well-being, as well as educate them on ways they might be able to integrate more green space into their daily lives. Each garden has a different theme: the “Heal” garden, for example, features plants like Witch Hazel and Lemon Balm that have medicinal properties. The “Connect” garden features benches surrounded by herbs that can be picked and also serves as a place for conversation. The “Thrive” garden is full of different vegetables that can be grown in the city.

Plaques in each garden feature information about the plants that can be found there, as well as a download code for a podcast with Evergreen’s head grower as a sort of guided tour, walking visitors through each of the plants and their benefits.

Tamara Macgregor, VP of communications and public affairs at Aphria says the company has led a number of environmental initiatives. Its facilities use growing practices that minimize the impact of its operations on the environment, from having zero carbon footprint facilities to recycling everything from water, waste and the sterile clothing its staff wears. It is also working on addressing how to reduce the waste from cannabis packing within regulations, an ongoing concern for many growers in the cannabis industry.

But “Plant Positivity” is the company’s first public expression of its commitment to “giving back to people and the planet,” which combines both sides of that goal.

evergreenbeeMcgregor says that while 94% of Canadians know plants and green spaces have the ability to improve their overall well-being (citing data from a recent Angus Reid poll), the majority also say they do not spend enough time in green spaces. While part of the platform is simply adding the green space people can visit, it is also looking to improve their access to plants by helping them grow a green space on their own.

“I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, but I have never been able to keep a plant alive,” Macgreor says. “I’ve been through the program myself and had so much exposure to the staff at Evergreen as we’ve developed it, and I’ve learned the intricacies of how to care for plants and have four in my home now. Canadians understand the benefits of plants, they just don’t have the tools, knowledge or education to incorporate plants into their lives. We want to provide the education so people feel confident enough to do so.”

The company is also in the midst of plans to develop a similar garden with a community partner in Leamington, Ont., where its main growing facility is located.

“We pride ourselves on providing a natural product for our consumers and patients, but we also value our environment, and at the end of the day we believe there are simple ways you can improve both,” Macgregor says, adding that the platform is an opportunity to create a CSR benchmark both for Aphria, and the cannabis industry more broadly. “We have an opportunity to set an example of what a good corporate citizen looks like… We wanted to be able to do something that was reflective of who we are.”