Two boy wearing a TELUS Critter face mask made with recycled and organic material

Giving back

Mobilizing our social purpose while minimizing our plastic consumption

Apr 4, 2022

According to a 2019 study by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadians are throwing away close to 3.3 million tonnes of plastic each year, yet only nine per cent (or 305,000 tonnes) of plastic is actually recycled. This led our sustainability experts at TELUS to take a hard look at plastic use across our company, and to investigate alternatives that contribute to a low-carbon, circular economy. 

In 2021, when we realized COVID-19 masking requirements would continue, we wanted to offer a product made from recycled and organic materials. We were also able to identify chitosan, a sustainable fabric treatment that added an antimicrobial property to the fabric through natural, nontoxic means derived from crustacean shell waste.

We’re incredibly pleased to have designed, sourced and delivered more than 320,000 TELUS Critter masks. These were produced locally, using recycled and organic materials, and treated with chitosan. To make this a reality, we partnered with a social enterprise in Vancouver, operated by the Developmental Disabilities Associated, to distribute the masks across Canada. 

“TELUS’ commitment to purchase domestically manufactured sustainable masks during the pandemic had a positive impact that rippled throughout communities across Canada,” says Kemp Edwards of Ethical Profiling Ltd., our sourcing agent for this initiative. 

The chitosan fabric and the print method we employed to produce our masks contained no harmful chemicals or dyes, creating an eco-friendly product that our TELUS family and friends could use to protect themselves during the pandemic. The fabric used to produce each mask used approximately 0.4 bottles, resulting in 126,751 bottles getting diverted from landfills. The inside layers of the masks were produced using Canadian-certified organic cotton as a way to provide a natural layer and filter closest to people’s skin. 

The sale of the TELUS Critter masks raised $618,000 for the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation. In addition to our own fundraising, our sourcing house and producers - Ethical Profiling - donated masks to homeless shelters in the Greater Toronto and Vancouver areas, and gave more than 800 children’s masks to the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver. 

“Through our work with TELUS, we enabled four domestic garment manufacturers to keep their doors open and people employed,” says Edwards. “We provided a sustainable alternative to disposable masks, we donated to high-risk communities, raised money for charity, diverted waste from landfill, and greatly reduced the carbon footprint and waste resulting from Personal Protective Equipment sourced overseas. We’re incredibly proud to have been a part of this great initiative”. 

To find out more about our social purpose initiatives, see our 2021 Sustainability Report.