Achieving Sustainability: Speakers at Sustainability Applied Conference Tell How To Make Change

Bloom Centre Conference to be held Oct 1 & 2, Mississauga, ON

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - How does the work of sustainability get done? That’s the question that keynote speakers will address at next week’s Sustainability Applied conference in Mississauga, just outside Toronto. They bring many collective years of experience and wisdom to focus on the acceleration of integrated sustainability solutions. I had a sneak preview of some of the discussions to come.

Scott Deugo, Chief Sales and Sustainability Officer at Teknion Corporation, has been guiding his corporation’s strategic environmental focus since 2002, to award-winning results. Teknion is an international designer, manufacturer and marketer of office systems and related office furniture products.
Deugo says the arrival of LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—standards for buildings and interiors galvanized his industry, but the end-point goes beyond any one standard: “[LEED] changed the face of our clients’ desire to create efficient and healthy interior spaces and buildings....However, increasingly, our clients are global and expect the same level of performance for their employees and their built environment beyond a country-specific standard. In many cases it is their standard or code of conduct for their employees that we come to serve around the world. Transparency is universal and sustainable development is a global challenge.”

Success at Teknion according to Deugo, has been in the doing, not the talking about, sustainable development. “We work to train and educate our teams on how their actions each day could have a positive effect on our business and on the environment. We use outside influence to measure our progress and to gain further understanding....When we arrive at a new solution we celebrate it and share that knowledge across all levels of our company and through our supply base and with our customers. Each year, within our charter, we publish what we have come to know, what goals we will set to accomplish and how we will work to improve. The more we learn, the more we realize we have to learn. However, we have gathered momentum through doing, not talking about sustainable development.”

Paula Martin, Advisor to the CEO, Vancity Credit Union, has also been involved in the “doing” of sustainability for a long time. She was previously Senior Vice President of Member Engagement at Vancity—a CR leader and Canada’s largest community credit union, serving 492,000 members in British Columbia. She is now accountable for ensuring awareness of Vancity's values-based approach to banking and leveraging its relationship with national and international organizations.

“Banking’s role in society is to be an intermediary in the allocation of capital, so where we decide to allocate capital today is a significant determinant of a community’s future health,” says Martin. “Our key sustainability priority is to ensure our capital—which is actually our members’ capital, contributed through their deposits—is invested in businesses, organizations and initiatives that are creating positive social, environmental and economic impact, be it in the food, energy, affordable housing, real estate, or other sectors.”

But transformational change goes beyond the local, and Vancity is partnering globally to promote values-based banking. “Our work with the Global Alliance for Banking on Values has allowed us to align with partners in a movement for change to the banking system right around the world and that has certainly helped create momentum here at home....To create a fundamental shift in finance we believe that the banking system must be much more transparent, focus on creating sustainable impact, and have a diverse network of banks, small and large, to ensure resiliency in the financial system. That is not work we can do alone.”

Bill Redelmeier also knows how local impact can be felt widely. The Proprietor of Southbrook Vineyards, Canada’s first certified biodynamic and organic winery, is proving that it is possible to succeed as a sustainable winery. “Everyone is talking about it and no one is doing it. We have to stand up and say,  “we support sustainability,” and we have to put our money where our mouth is. I’m always worried about greenwashing, so we talk a lot about third party certification [organic, LEED, etc.].”

Communication and consumer awareness are critical to the success and sustainability of the local industry, according to Redelmeier. He has been organizing Seriously Cool Chardonnay tasting events internationally to promote Ontario wine—ultimately back to Ontarians. “[Canadians often] don’t accept that something we do is good until people outside the country say it’s good. Only 7% of LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) product is Ontario wine – in other countries [sales of local wine in local stores] that can be 98%. The best way to protect farmland is not to pass regulations but have people buy the products.”

According to Redelmeier, LCBO sales of organic Ontario wine have grown with the success of Southbrook Vineyards. “We are trying to build the Ontario organic wine business—the rising tide lifts all boats.”

Bob Walker, Vice President of Ethical Funds and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Services for NEI Investments, is another pioneer in this space. Next week he will be speaking on Responsible Investment: Generating Long-Term Financial Returns and Positive Societal Impact. Leading “Canada's largest in-house team of ESG analysts” for the largest SRI mutual fund family in the country, Walker manages a robust company engagement program. His team has done deep work on executive compensation design, oil sands policies and performance, and mining and human rights. As he notes in an interview for SRI-Connect, he takes a Canadian approach: “Canada is different, with a tradition of multi-stakeholder engagement building toward consensus. Aggressive media-oriented campaigns go over like a lead balloon with many Canadians. The recent use of these tactics by some organizations has, unfortunately, contributed to what I see as an increasing polarization around absolutely critical issues like climate change . . . . We all need to get smarter and more strategic about this.”
 
For more information on Sustainability Applied, speakers and registration visit: 

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