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Sustainability at the centre of Stok's acquisition of EcoAmmo

Buyout aligns with sustainability targets and corporate goals, EcoAmmo founder says

Stephani Carter, the founder of EcoAmmo, now Stok Canada Ltd. (Courtesy Stok)

The search for a “human-centric acquisition” and nationwide sustainable impact led to the acquisition of Edmonton-based EcoAmmo Sustainable Consulting by real estate decarbonization firm Stok, according to EcoAmmo’s founder and president Stephani Carter.

EcoAmmo is a green building and sustainability consultancy behind a litany of firsts: net-zero energy designed home in Edmonton, net-zero energy designed commercial building in Alberta, and LEED neighbourhood developments in Alberta and British Columbia. It has a hand in 30 per cent of the LEED projects in Edmonton, according to its website.

In early May, San Francisco-based Stok announced EcoAmmo would join the company, a decision driven by compatibility in values and matching business goals, Carter told Sustainable Biz Canada.

EcoAmmo has been rebranded to Stok Canada Ltd.

“Because I had gone through a merger and un-merger before, I was very critical at thinking about an acquisition or buying others and what would that mean and how to do it differently, because I strongly feel the M&A world is broken . . . There was really only one company that came to mind that fit a series of goals.”

Firing a salvo on sustainability

EcoAmmo was founded in 2006 by Carter, then an interior designer for commercial buildings who shifted over to the sustainability industry as her passion for the field blossomed, she said. The name of the company stemmed from her desire to arm more businesses with ecological knowledge.

“I really wanted to make the information to incorporate more sustainability into designs, (make it) easy, accessible, low cost and help support the adoption of sustainability by my peers.”

Its services are divided into three main areas: high performance facilitation and training; green building design and construction; and ESG advisory.

EcoAmmo taught corporate teams about Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), a construction delivery method Carter said is “lean and green” by enabling sustainability within a limited budget. IPD is being applied on a solar rooftop retrofit for the Edmonton EXPO Centre.

The company certifies buildings under standards such as LEED and WELL, performs energy consulting and modelling, and does building life-cycle assessments for factors such as embodied carbon.

Finally, EcoAmmo helps organizations integrate sustainability into their operations.

It has worked on projects in Alberta, Ontario, B.C. and the U.S. EcoAmmo’s landmark effort is the PRIMED Mosaic Centre, a LEED Platinum-certified building powered by solar energy and heated and cooled by geothermal energy. By applying IPD, the Mosaic Centre was built four months ahead of schedule and under budget by five per cent, according to EcoAmmo.

Its other clients include the City of Barrie, Edmonton Public Schools, the University of Alberta and the McMaster Innovation Park.

By helping organizations navigate sustainability issues, EcoAmmo has helped save approximately 161,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and divert 330,635 tonnes of waste from the landfill, the company claims.

Finalizing a ‘human-centric acquisition’

As EcoAmmo grew, Carter reflected on what growth meant. She does not envision traditional corporate growth as her ideal, a way of thinking that is “not aligned with sustainability.”

“We want to save more GHGs (greenhouse gases), we want more waste diversion, we want to reduce water. So that would be our metrics for growth,” Carter said.

But as EcoAmmo caught the eye of the industry and the COVID-19 pandemic led to greater awareness of sustainability in design, construction and business operations, she heard the hunger for an impact-driven acquisition from the company’s staff.

Having become familiar with Stok in 2018, she felt it fit into EcoAmmo’s goals and culture. She had the confidence it would be a “human-centric acquisition”, rather than a process that she feels can at times become quite adversarial.

For Stok, it was a matter of seeking a path to expand outside of the U.S.

EcoAmmo, on the other hand, looked for a company that matched its sustainability focused growth ideals, Carter said.

In the end, the acquisition has filled gaps which each company had in its business operations: EcoAmmo outsourced its energy modeling and commissioning, but Stok offers that service in-house, for example; Stok did not offer IPD coaching, but EcoAmmo has years of experience in the field.

The company’s processes will be streamlined for greater effectiveness, Carter explained. EcoAmmo’s next step is to bring its engineering services such as retrofitting and energy modelling to more Canadian clients. Expanding its service to more provinces will be another priority.

As the slow and steady adoption of sustainability inches forward globally, Carter is optimistic the movement has momentum, even with a current backlash against ESG in some business sectors.

“People are finding different ways to deliver sustainability. You have mass production, you have lower rates, you have costs coming down — solar has come down so much in the last decade — people are using different delivery methods like us with IPD, they’re also doing prefabrication, they’re doing vertical stacking of services to accelerate the adoption of it. “

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