The Practical Side of Making the Planet a Better Place
Vertex Resource Group
From modest beginnings 60 years ago, Vertex Resource Group is today one of Canada’s most respected environmental service businesses.
Particularly active in demanding sectors like oil and gas, forestry, mining, agriculture, and renewable energy, Vertex has been described as an industry leader and is highly regarded by its clients.
Vertex started off in 1962 as a promising small oilfield services company, but a long way from today’s Vertex with its ability to meet an extraordinary number of the environmental needs of industry. Providing a select few services early on, such as industrial insulation, scaffolding, and the rental of light towers and generators, 1991 saw the company begin servicing oil companies, offering drilling waste and reclamation consulting, and vegetation management services in the years to follow.
A decade ago, all the operating companies came together and were branded Vertex Resource Group Ltd.
Full service – environmental & industrial
Actively acquiring other businesses including environmental consulting firms, energy services, oilfield solutions, and Hydro-Vac companies – to name a few – Vertex today provides an array of environmental, industrial, and consulting services.
Working with clients to provide valuable solutions at every stage of a project, Vertex’s offerings include advisory services, emission management, environment and land, and engagement services, along with fluid management and logistics, site services, waste and recycling, industrial cleaning and maintenance, pressure and vacuum, and much more.
Paul Blenkhorn, P.Eng., Vice President of Consulting Services, explains: “We have our environmental consulting arm, composed of engineers, scientists, and geologists, and we have a professional services arm providing consulting advice and manpower services around environmental projects. Then we have our environmental equipment arm, which is a variety of industrial cleaning, fluid management, logistical equipment, vac trucks and steam trucks, and industrial cleaning, where we can provide boots on the ground labour and equipment pieces to solve things out in the field,” he shares.
“When we put the two together it becomes a unique combination because we provide the science and advice along with the physical execution of a number of projects.”
Deeply committed to principles of integrity and safety, Vertex always aims for quality and the highest possible customer satisfaction, all while remaining cost-competitive. Continually developing over the past six decades, Vertex is dedicated to adapting to customer needs and respecting the environment. This has resulted in repeat business from clients and a number of awards.
Most recently, Vertex was recognized as a Gold Shovel Standard Certified contractor, a validation of companies with safety management systems that ensure “safe excavation practices for protecting buried assets and those working around them.” This designation fits into Vertex’s corporate culture of health and safety. And with dedicated safety professionals on staff, the recognition is a testament to the company’s ability to grow while keeping clients and the public safe at the same time.
Growing to about 700 full-time staff – including contractors, make that a thousand – Vertex can self-perform most of its work. Serving multinationals and large utilities like Suncor, Imperial Oil, Exxon, Addco, and Hydro One, Vertex also counts individual sole proprietorships among its client base and continues growing the government side of the company.
Active with clients in energy, utilities – including midstream pipelines and electrical on the distribution and transmission side – mining and industrial services, agriculture and forestry, and municipal environments, Vertex’s projects include hydrocarbon producers such as oil and gas, geothermal, wind energy, solar projects, storage initiatives (including battery and air injection), and facility work.
Taking on projects from Ontario to British Columbia, with some work in Atlantic Canada, Vertex has 20 offices to serve the needs of its customers. Additionally, about six years ago, Vertex entered the United States to support the operations of some Canadian clients involved with fluid logistics and environmental consulting. The company sees continued expansion into the U.S. as an important part of its growth strategy.
Inaugural ESG report
Last year, Vertex Resource Group published its Environmental Supply Chain Solutions 2020 ESG Report. For the company, the 36-page report introduces Vertex’s position on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) elements.
In the document, company President and Chief Executive Officer Terry Stephenson remarks that although the publication marks the formal beginning of Vertex’s ESG journey, the concept of sustainability is not a new one. Long before its rebranding a decade ago – and prior to the company’s entry into the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2017 – sustainability was long upheld as a value.
“As an environmental service business, we believe we are ideally positioned for strong ESG performance,” says Stephenson. “We understand that we have a responsibility to maximize our internal ESG performance and have made a corporate commitment to do so. More substantially, we understand that our supply chain opportunity to invoke change and support the ESG initiatives of our customers has a signi¬ficantly broader global impact,” he says.
“As such, our ESG design includes both an internal and supply chain focus. As our ESG journey evolves, so too will our measurement and reporting, holding ourselves accountable to internal and supply chain metrics.”
Ultimately, says Stephenson, Vertex’s intent is “to create business resiliency by becoming a primary source of executable ESG supply-chain solutions for our customers.” This includes developing the company’s ESG Design to align with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Vertex’s own ESG-specifi¬c mission and core values.
Internally, the company will reduce carbon emissions in its own fleet and enhance its environmental business to better serve the needs of customers.
Another key factor for Vertex is the company’s relationship with CanREA – the Canadian Renewable Energy Association – which is integral to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Attending several solar and wind conferences and trade shows prior to CanREA’s creation in 2020, it made sense for Vertex to be a part of the 320 member-plus Association.
“As the organization (CanREA) transitioned away from, say, a single solution to what we saw as a broader offering towards renewable energy, it made more sense for us corporately to be a bigger member,” says Blenkhorn, adding that Vertex’s technical team is also investigating other ways to get involved, supporting the energy transition in wind, solar, and energy storage solutions.
With client projects spread across Canada in all regions, Vertex is also active in Indigenous engagement, including managing Indigenous joint ventures across the organization. This includes involving Indigenous communities in projects as they emerge, sharing scientific knowledge with these communities, discussing and generating career opportunities, and fostering an environment of mentorship. Vertex’s intentions here include creating a better understanding of how Western science fits into the world.
Last year, about 10 percent of the company’s revenue went through Indigenous joint ventures.
Vision for the future
To date, Vertex’s growth has been about 60 percent organic, and 40 percent through key strategic acquisitions. Some benefits of acquisition include “adding bandwidth to what’s being done,” says Blenkhorn. “We have a ‘one plus one equals three’ model, where you can bolt on some of these acquisitions, and use our internal systems and processes to really grow them.”
With its dedication to creating a better planet, Vertex also doesn’t turn up its nose at worthy smaller jobs of a few thousand dollars’ worth, although it regularly takes on projects valued at upwards of $5 million.
Keeping its finger on the pulse of many industries, Vertex continues to re-invent itself. About five or six years ago, the company was more construction-focused, with an emphasis on heavy-facility construction and the industrial-insulation arm. Today, Vertex is much more focused on its environmental service aspects, strengthening its vac-truck division, industrial cleaning, and facility maintenance. “We see this as part of our corporate commitment to sustainability, helping our customers maintain their assets more sustainably.”
Internally, this environmental focus includes trialling a conversion to compressed natural gas from diesel within its fleet to not only save costs and fuel but produce fewer carbon emissions, contributing to the company’s improved supply chain performance for its clients.
As Canada transitions more and more from fossil fuels to renewable energy, carbon capture, and helium and lithium projects, Vertex Resource Group intends to be there every step of the way for its customers.
“When it comes to the energy transition and renewable energy, there is no one solution,” says Blenkhorn. “It’s a combination, from the wind energy everybody knows down to efficiency projects and existing supply chains that get put together in an emerging field, and our ongoing energy transition,” he says.
“We are in the middle of an energy transition, and we need a lot of these existing energy supply chains to get through the next 50 years. 2072 sounds far away, but 1972 was only 50 years ago. Our thinking as an organization is that we are working to integrate sustainability in all of our existing energy supply chains because they are so important,” he shares.
“By supporting our clients with evaluating emerging technologies and solutions, this is where we help industry find where the real winners in the space are, and what that industry will look like as we transition to the next round of cheap and abundant energy for the benefit of everybody.”