Skip to main content

Susan Blanchet

Woman with blonde shoulder-length hair standing in a corridor.
  • Category: Presidents' Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Environmental Studies, 1997; Law Juris Doctor, 2002
  • Current hometown: Victoria, BC
  • Birthplace: Fredericton, NB

About Susan

Susan Blanchet is the CEO and founder of Victoria-based B-Corp Origen Air, which promotes and manufactures air purification systems for offices and interior spaces. Their systems combine mechanical air purification with super plants, genetically modified with a liver enzyme, to remove toxins from the air.

After completing a law degree at UVic, Susan spent 14 years as an environmental and civil litigation lawyer and member of the Climate Action Legal Team for the Province of BC, while raising three sons.

A member of Women's Business Enterprise Canada and WE International, and a diversity, equity and inclusion advocate, Susan has made significant contributions to creating a more equitable and inclusive business landscape. A recognized figure in clean tech and innovation, Susan has spoken at numerous industry events, been a delegate on several Canadian Trade Missions and earned accolades such as the 2023 WE Empower United Nations SDG Challenge Awardee for North America and Europe, 2023 Gold Stevie Award for Thought Leader of the Year and Vital Voices Top 15 Women Climate Leaders invited to speak at COP 28.

What are some of your favourite memories of attending UVic as a student?

Taking Nancy Turner’s ethnobotany class, learning about the value of local flora and fauna passed down and shared by Indigenous peoples, and how living lightly on the land benefits seven generations. It was also the second time I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, about how toxins in the environment accumulate in our bodies, which is the basis for almost everything I've done in my life from that point forward.

In law school, I was one of the first women to take my brand-new baby to class and nurse him, likely annoying my constitutional law professor, but breaking some ground there, for a woman to be able to go to school with her kids.

What skills or traits are needed to be good at what you do?

Law school and my career as a lawyer helped me as a CEO to recognize risk and pivot and to be able to translate scientific language into something that anyone could understand. As legal counsel, I worked with experts to produce a lot of scientific reports for court, assisting to translate the science so the judge would understand it. So I’m a bit of a translator of scientific and technological terminology into something understandable that forms a clear argument and assists negotiation strategies. I can only aspire to one day do this as well as Rachel Carson, who many would credit as the mother of the environmental movement.

What motivates you?

Passion and giving back, grit. The people who have supported me and whom I support. All of my investors and the people I pay. All of my employees. I have a big responsibility. I can't stop until we succeed.

When I'm speaking to 100 or 1,000 people, afterwards it is electric. Everyone is buzzing and excited about the potential for impact, and then procurement is so slow, and I think: “Am I only making them sleep better at night because they know someone else is doing this?” Or “is it because women-led companies receive less than .05 per cent of procurement?”

I'm looking forward to when that starts to translate into real progress. With Origen Air, we’ve created technology that can potentially reduce GHG emissions to meet Paris Accord Targets. I firmly believe we can only achieve this future together.

What’s a valuable piece of advice someone has given you?

Never give up. Winners aren't people who are super successful—they're people who never quit. When things get tough, change the narrative, pivot, change the room you're in. 

What do you do to relax?

I meditate pretty much every night while I'm sleeping. I don't have enough time during the day, so I listen to sleep meditations. I figure what’s going into my head while I sleep is making me more positive.

I have also put my health first by eating right and working out daily, losing 45 lbs of “founder weight” in the last year. I go to a studio (Oxygen Yoga & Fitness) that is founded and led by a female BC success story, Jen Hamilton. I’m a believer in supporting local and diverse founders with my purchasing power.

What is something that brings you joy?

I love sailing. Thanks, Mom and Dad! I like scary stuff. Strong winds, heeling over at 20°, waves crashing over the stern, a little bit on the edge of fear. Maybe I'm going to go overboard. That's pretty awesome. I also have a motorbike. I like that adventurous stuff. It comes with the territory in the world of entrepreneurship too, which I sometimes describe as skating along a razor’s edge.

And of course, my three sons, Keegan, Jordy and Luke Neary, now adults. They have brought and continue to bring me immense joy.

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?

I have a horrendous singing voice that would make most people upset, except I can sing really strong, heavy metal. So “Walk” by Pantera would be my go-to, providing a good shock-factor to those listening too.

What is a secret talent or skill you possess that might surprise people?

I'm a provincially licensed soccer coach. I don't know if that's a secret. They used to call me Soccer Sue at UVic. That was my nickname.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

My three boys. I think being a mother is integral to everything. It makes me want to provide a future for generations to come.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.