Leading The Change

Emma Thériault: Co-founder D.A.S. Concrete Countertops

With a background and deep experience in government policy, economic development, and innovation at the federal and provincial levels, Emma Thériault, a native of Vancouver, is leading the change in the shift to a green economy with her company, D.A.S. Concrete Countertops. In 2018, Emma left her position with the federal government to start D.A.S. Concrete Countertops alongside her husband Yannick Thériault to make durable and sustainable surfaces more accessible in New Brunswick.

Thanks for participating in this campaign Emma, please tell us more about your inspirations and motivations to work in sustainability and take climate action in your organization.

To be honest, I have a hard time articulating why I care about sustainability. It may have something to do with my love for being outdoors and in nature (I’d choose the woods over a mall any day), or with the fact that we are concerned about the future of our three children. But in the end, for me, it just makes sense. 
I have always been particularly frustrated by unnecessary waste and the fact that today, it is so often cheaper and easier to replace things (small appliances, clothes, etc.) rather than repair them. In fact, the idea for D.A.S. Concrete Countertops was born out of Yannick’s experience tearing out and replacing laminate countertops in a low rental apartment building after having installed those counters less than a year before.
Now that I’m immersed in the world of sustainability through D.A.S., I can say that the more I learn, the more I care, and the more I want to drive change.  For example, we recently introduced a new line of glow-in-the-dark pavers, which include a solar-powered glow-in-the-dark aggregate that absorbs light quickly during the day and emits it slowly at night, illuminating pathways without contributing to light pollution. Through this project, we have been learning a lot about light pollution and the dark sky movement and are becoming passionate advocates for turning off the lights at night!

What is one myth about sustainability that you wish you could dispel? 

In the world of home décor and interior design, the narrative persists that sustainability is a ‘nice to have’, after looks and cost and the desire for low maintenance products have been accounted for. I think this needs to change. While many customers may still approach their decisions this way, there are more and more customers looking for sustainable products. However, it is challenging for these customers to navigate choices from a sustainability perspective as the information isn’t always clear or available or accurate. I do feel strongly that there is a need and an opportunity for all players in the interior design and home finishes world to take the lead in educating clients about sustainability considerations.  In many cases, customers will care about what you tell them is important.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about integrating sustainability into their work or operations?

I strongly believe that there is an opportunity for every business, regardless of size or sector, to integrate sustainability into their operations – at both a daily and a strategic level.  I also think this is true for consumers and citizens (who are also employees and business owners) with respect to the choices they make. We often hear the government talk about the green economy in the context of clean tech and big, multi-million dollar investments. Without a doubt, we need these big, new solutions to move the needle on climate change, but in the meantime, there is a lot that we – individual citizens, consumers, and small business owners – can do to minimize our impact based on the resources that we have.  It might start with triaging your office waste, organizing carpools for employees, or looking at ways to reduce the energy consumption of your daily operations.
Some will argue that focusing on small actions can distract from the need for radical change, making us feel like we’re doing our part when we’re really not making a dent. I would argue that the small steps are not the end game, but they are a necessary starting point. In my experience, the power of making small changes is that they pave the way for bigger changes – including culture change. 
In the end, we aren’t just talking about creating a new, separate ‘green economy’. We should be talking about how we make the whole economy green.  And that involves everybody.

Could you share a project you’ve contributed to that advances New Brunswick’s transition to a low-carbon economy?

It is difficult for me to talk about what we do at D.A.S. without talking about sustainability, which has helped earn us recognition in the province as a leader in the green economy space. We were honoured to have won the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce award for Environmental Excellence in 2020. As a result of this recognition and the work we are doing, I have been invited to participate in a number of different sustainability-focused forums over the past few years, where I have had the opportunity to share my perspectives on sustainability and the green economy.
One such forum that I am very pleased to be involved with is, of course, Green Economy New Brunswick.  As a (very) small business, one of our biggest challenges when it comes to participating in the green economy is measurement: knowing what to measure, knowing how to measure, knowing what to do with those measurements, and having the internal resources (money and time) to figure it all out. Many of the mainstream certifications that are often cited by larger companies are out of reach for small businesses like ours, so when we heard that Green Economy Canada was interested in starting a New Brunswick hub, we were quick to raise our hands and get involved. I am proud of the role I played in helping to advocate for the establishment of Green Economy New Brunswick (GENB) and excited about the potential for GENB’s growing membership – which brings together companies of different sizes, industries and regions of the province – to become an important voice in advocating for an inclusive green economy in our province.  Green Economy New Brunswick has been invaluable in helping us to put data behind some of our sustainability commitments and determining where we go from here.  

Thanks for #leadingthechange in New Brunswick, Emma!

Join D.A.S. Concrete Countertops and other Green Economy Leaders who are taking action on climate change and leading New Brunswick’s low carbon transition!