Hydro Ottawa’s CEO on supporting community


Hydro Ottawa knows better than most how unbelievable this year has been for our city. Through it all—from ice storms to tornadoes—its employees have been at the forefront, demonstrating how much everyone can benefit from an act of local love. United Way is proud to have a longstanding relationship with Hydro Ottawa, since its inception nearly 20 years ago. From annual employee charitable campaigns to crisis recovery, Hydro Ottawa’s leadership and long history of giving is instrumental to ensuring Ottawa’s most vulnerable people have access to a reliable network of supports. We sat down with Bryce Conrad, Hydro Ottawa’s President and CEO, to get his take on the company’s commitment to community.

“We give where we live”

How does Hydro Ottawa support community?

There are dozens of things we do to support our city—every one of my employees has volunteer days, some are volunteer firefighters and hockey coaches, it’s just who they are. From United Way, to CHEO, to local community associations, giving back is part of Hydro Ottawa’s foundation, our credo, who we are and what we do. We’ve been a United Way Ottawa supporter and partner since we came into existence in 2000. Since then, I’m so proud that our employees have contributed more than $2.5 million to United Way. Three years ago, we also signed off to donate $1 million over five years to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s Rose Ages Breast Health Centre.

We also try to build community support into our existing day-to-day operations.

About six years ago, we started donating five dollars for every customer who switched to online billing, and we’ve been donating that money to CHEO for the past three years. It’s five dollars for everyone to do the right thing.

If you look at the four key objectives of this company, community support is one of them—we’re measured on it on an annual basis. It’s the part of the job of that’s the most rewarding for me as an individual. The fact that I get to be part of the United Way board, that I get to attend events like the Community Builder of the Year Awards and go to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation and represent Hydro Ottawa—it’s the best part of my job.

A culture employees feel good about

How does engaging in fundraising and community building activities help your employees?

We are a community based company, the citizens of Ottawa own this company.

So in turn, my employees have an opportunity give back and help out their community—whether they live here, whether they live in Rockland, Dunrobin—wherever they might be. They take an active role in supporting their community and that’s what we do here at Hydro Ottawa, be it through the charitable campaigns that we run and or through the day-to-day work that we do in ensuring that city is fully powered.

When we go out to recruit and hire employees, we get our first choice nine times out of 10. Usually one of the top three reasons they come here is because of what we do in the community and what we represent. It’s something we’re very proud of and something that we invest heavily in. It’s bearing fruit for us in the sense that we’re getting top caliber employees coming to our company who want to work here because of that social benefit.


Hydro Ottawa and United Way

Why is partnering with United Way an important part of Hydro’s involvement in the community?

United Way is one of those organization that unfortunately, has to exist. And I choose those words very carefully. There’s nothing that pains me more than to walk around the city of Ottawa and see people in as much need as they are. But there’s also something about having United Way there as a backstop to be there and support those people and those communities when they need it.

You look at what United Way has done recently, with the refugee crisis. There’s no organization in Ottawa that could have stepped up and did what its team did. It was United Way that took the leadership role there. You look at the response of the tornadoes—which obviously impacted us directly here at Hydro Ottawa—but again, United Way convened and coordinated the community’s response to that devastating tragedy.

Day in and day out, whether it be new Canadians, whether it be people struggling with addiction … everyone has a story to tell about someone in their family, someone they know, or someone in their community that relies, depends or benefits from the vital work of United Way. So from our perspective, if I can put the collective will, the collective weight of this company behind that effort, I’ll do it five times a day—six times on Sunday.


Paying it forward

Through the years, communities near and far have turned to Hydro Ottawa for support in times of need. Why is lending a hand to others important for our own city?

It’s not just about supporting our own community. When our neighbours are down—whether they’re in Quebec, in another part of the province or south of the border—when our neighbours get hit with storms, we’ve dispatched, and will continue to dispatch crews to help them out. In the hopes that in the future, if need be, they’d return the favour.

We saw that with the tornadoes recently. Since I’ve been with the company—seven years—we’ve never once asked for help from anybody else until those tornadoes hit. The outpouring of support from my peers, the province and across the country was overwhelming and we’re so grateful. That’s part and parcel of supporting our community: when we’re there for others in their times of need, we’re also supporting the people of Ottawa.




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