When we consider various stories about women who have made their mark in a world most often dominated, at least historically, it would be hard to come up with a better example of breakthrough than Jenny Gough, owner of Pollutech EnviroQuatics Ltd., one of leading—perhaps THE leading—environmental services companies in the Sarnia-Lambton region and beyond.
We’ll begin this story at the most logical point, which is where she grew up, in the Greater Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire, on the west island.
Even at an early age, Gough had a strong sense that whatever she would do in life, the environment would play a key role and with that in mind, she found herself enrolling in the chemical engineering program at the University of Ottawa.
But even before that, she’d found herself with something of a travel bug and decided to combine her two passions—seeing the world and the environment.
That led her to what would become the stepping off point for her career, which began in Australia, partly due to a passion for travelling.
She started out by securing a job as country advisor for the Water Corporation of Western Australia, based in Perth, where she worked for the next three years before moving to the other end of Australia, where she worked as an environmental office at Nestle’s factory in Gympie, a town two hours north of Brisbane on the country’s gold coast.
What came next was a call from family back in Ottawa, where Gough’s mother—living in Otttawa—was facing health issues.
With that priority clearly beckoning, Gough looked for work opportunities back in Canada, one of which came in the form of a job offer with Ethyl Canada.
Through her time there, Gough became familiar with the business landscape in Sarnia and, from time to time, engaged Pollutech for its services, so when the opportunity came to join the firm, she jumped at the chance, coming on board in 2012, a year before Ethyl closed its Corunna plant.
It didn’t take long for Pollutech to recognize what they had in Gough, with her prior experience and passion for the environmental services industry.
Promoted to consulting group manager and principal just a year after joining the staff, Gough continued making a favourable impression for another six and a half years.
And then the founding owners of Pollutech decided to retire.
After some discussion, Gough was able to buy the business outright, although perhaps not without a sense of “what now?”
“Tim [an experienced marine biologist] had a great background, and in-depth knowledge of the Valley,” says Gough, clearly not intimidated but recognizing that as owner she had jumped into the proverbial deep end.
From talking to Gough in her office, located in the DMI Building in Point Edward, it’s clear that any uncertainty about how effective that transition would be was overcome in short order.
“It’s always been my dream to own my own business, so I guess I have a lot of ambitious goals,” said Gough.
But getting back to her early life, it was a great uncle that served as one of the first environmental directors of Canada’s Central Experimental Farm, a job from which he travelled extensively, reinforcing in his great niece’s mind the importance of the environment, including its waterways, soil, and trees.
“I learned that our future depends on the greenness of the earth,” says Gough, something she remains passionate about promoting and taking action on delivering through her work.
She’s also optimistic about how a renewed emphasis on keeping the planet healthy is able to make a real difference.
“I believe it’s getting more and more positive exposure in the public’s eye,” she said, even as she recognizes continued stresses require diligence and commitment.
“I’ve been accumulating knowledge around environmental affairs since I was 13, I firmly believe it’s a very good thing when you’re able to share your knowledge with the world, especially when it leads to positive change.” —Jenny Gough
With Pollutech EnviroQuatics and a staff of 21, Gough is taking a relentless approach to doing whatever is needed to advance that basic mission—taking care of the environment through a full suite of services that its customers have come to rely on.
She’s also doing it with the kind of attitude that’s not necessarily in industry, one that includes a generous spirit and the passion that goes with doing something you were born to accomplish.
One example came in the form of a note she recently received from a caller who said she had reached out to at least a dozen people for an answer on a particular environmental issue before finally connecting with Gough.
“I’ve been accumulating knowledge around environmental affairs since I was 13,” said Gough as part of our interview. “I firmly believe it’s a very good thing when you’re able to share your knowledge with the world, especially when it leads to positive change.”
Looking ahead, Gough sees a continuing bright future for the company she now leads.
“We’ll continue to be a stronghold of flexible services related to the environment,” she says.
With Pollutech EnviroQuatics equipped to manage projects that include a broad range of services, a list of which would almost certainly be overkill in the context of a story about its CEO and her journey, Gough also brings up an important point around what makes her company particularly special, that being its location.
“If a company has an issue and they have to call someone from out of town—whether that’s Toronto, Hamilton, or even London, if they’re busy in their own town, they’re not here,” said Gough.
And while Gough is also quick to acknowledge that she has local competition as well (“I like to think we’re cooperative in that respect”) she does speak for her own company’s sense of mission and passion regarding protection of the environment.
“Some companies are really on board with environmental protection, especially in taking steps that will help improve human health,” adds Gough. “But not everyone is as interested in doing that. Their attitude may be ‘we’ll do only what we have to do.’”
A different attitude, perhaps a more holistic one, one that would recognize the need to “raise the bar” on what’s possible regarding environmental standards, would likely be something Gough and others would embrace.
“At one point, Canada and the U.S. were moving forward together,” she notes. “With the regulatory framework changing, North America seems to have stalled because of the cost of implementation and that’s put us behind on the world stage when it comes to environmental protection.”
Still, Gough is optimistic about how things will play out in the future.
“It doesn’t mean the race is over,” she says. “We’re on team protecting the earth and it may take a crisis to wake people up to what we’re facing. But there are things we can be doing and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
This article appears in the July/August issue of Lambton Shield magazine. Click HERE to view the entire magazine online.