Throughout the past 40 years, Emmie Leung, founder and CEO of Burlington, Ontario-based Emterra Group, has led her company from a one-woman startup to a leader in waste recycling and resource management. During the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Awards in Toronto, Leung was named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Winners in the entrepreneurs category.
In the Women’s Executive Network’s (WXN) announcement, Sherri Stevens, president and CEO of PhaseNyne, parent company of WXN, said, “The Top 100 Awards showcases the leaders that are helping to drive positive change and progress and to remind us of the importance of empowering women in our workforce.”
“This award program recognizes women who have pushed the boundaries and are in a constant pursuit of leadership excellence,” Leung said. “It is a complete honor to be included with this group of exemplary people and to be recognized as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women.”
Judges commended Leung for growing and adapting her business to changing commodity markets and customer needs, building her team to support her vision and demonstrating her commitment to the community.
Widely recognized as a pioneer and leader in the recycling industry in Canada since 1976, Leung is credited with introducing reusable blue bags to collect old newspapers and other recyclables door to door in British Columbia, establishing that province’s first successful municipal curbside recycling program.
Today, Emterra has become a leader in green fleet management, investing millions in environmentally friendly compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks and a network of public CNG fueling stations across Canada, introducing Emterra into an entirely new line of business while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution.
Emterra Group also includes Canadian Liquids Processors, which provides one-of-a-kind confidential destruction of consumer products and liquids, and Emterra Tire Recycling, which hauls, processes and collects used tires in the province of Ontario.
Today, Emterra Group is a multimillion dollar, international family of companies with more than 1,100 employees spread across 31 locations in Canada and the state of Michigan. Joining her in the day-to-day operation are her daughters, Paulina, who is vice president of corporate strategy and business development, and Vivian, who is manager of materials, next life.
“At Emterra, we look at things differently,” Leung says. “Our business is 100 percent the result of diverting waste and transforming it into valuable commodities and green energy.”
Employment diversity also earned Leung marks in the awards program. As a young female immigrant for whom English was a second language, establishing herself in a male-dominated industry wasn’t easy. Therefore, Leung says she ensures the work environment at Emterra values and includes everyone. For the last two years, Emterra was a finalist in BC’s Workplace Inclusion Awards for its willingness to focus on diverse talent pools. Emterra also was nominated for an Innovative Labour Solutions Awards for considering and accommodating adults with developmental disabilities. The company also has been recognized by trade and stewardship organizations, along with employment programs across the country.
Leung’s community contributions target increasing sustainability and healthy living. Under Emmie’s leadership, Emterra’s Community Care program focuses on activities with dual goals: furthering recycling while supporting local social and health-related endeavors. Among these initiatives is Make Your Contribution at the Curb, which encourages residents and businesses in Ontario’s Niagara Region and those in Courtenay and Comox on Vancouver Island to recycle more to support local health care services.
Regarding Emterra, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016, she says it “is an endeavor worth committing my life to because I profoundly believe that we, as a society, must not be wasteful, and we must strive to live zero waste lives.”
Leung says she has found motivation in this recent award. “We must continue to look towards the future and challenge the norm, ask questions and create new goals. There is no time to stop—we have so much to do and we need to inspire and motivate each other to get it done.”
Among Leung’s other honors are 2014 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Special Citation for Pioneering Contributions, 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Ontario award for Energy and Cleantech, 2013 Canadian Waste Sector Executive of the Year in the large private business category by the Ontario Waste Management Association, 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs, the 2012 Rosie Award from Waste & Recycling News in recognition of women in business and the 2012 Environmental Award for Personal Achievement, Recycling Council of British Columbia.