As the President of GLOBE Series and Managing Director of CBSR, I am inspired by what is possible when Canadians work together. Together with Delphi and Leading Change, GLOBE Series and CBSR are part of Profoundry, a collective of like-minded sustainability and climate experts who help organizations create value and have a positive impact on society. Together, we are focused on achieving our vision: a more sustainable, prosperous, and socially just future in a generation. Through our work bringing people together at GLOBE events and connecting CBSR members at roundtables and workshops, it’s become very clear to me that collaboration is the secret sauce that will help us solve our toughest sustainability challenges.
“Collaboration is the secret sauce that will help us solve our toughest sustainability challenges.”
The next decade is critical when it comes to addressing climate change. Ditching our industry and regional siloes will help us move further and faster on the road to net zero. Collaboration underpins innovation: the more people at the table, the more perspectives there are and the more likely it is that new solutions will emerge. Working together will also allow us to scale clean solutions and accelerate progress on shared goals, such as achieving net zero and preserving biodiversity.
For Canada to lead in the future economy, we need three types of collaboration:
- Collaboration among industries and sectors: This will ensure we identify common challenges and develop and scale innovative solutions that bridge sectors.
- Collaboration among different types of organizations (business, government, NGO, finance, civil society, youth, etc.): This will expand our reach and ensure that we set ourselves up for success.
- Collaboration across challenges: This will ensure we build a sustainable future economy that addresses a range of critical issues, including key sustainability challenges. This is not an “either, or” proposition, it’s a “yes, and”. We need to get to net zero and achieve net-positive outcomes for nature, water, and resiliency, and also ensure our actions are addressing social justice and equity issues.
The Importance of Collaboration in Overcoming Sustainability Challenges
Collaboration Between Sectors
Increasingly, we’re recognizing that many climate-related and sustainability challenges – and the solutions to them – span across sectors and industries. Sharing knowledge and best practices between sectors will help us be more successful.
“Bringing together these diverse organizations allowed them to share best practices, develop solutions, and accelerate progress on sustainable procurement within their own organizations.”
CBSR is a great example of this kind of collaboration. We’re intentionally bringing together companies from across sectors to look at how we tackle key sustainability issues. For example, CBSR’s Sustainable Procurement Fellowship brought together leaders from 34 companies across Canada from all sectors. Bringing together these diverse organizations allowed them to share best practices, develop solutions, and accelerate progress on sustainable procurement within their own organizations.
The Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy is another example of Canadian collaboration across sectors. Critical minerals are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies – from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Many levels of government, Indigenous communities, as well as the mining, infrastructure, and transportation sectors are involved in conversations around nationally integrating the critical mineral value chain. This approach increases supply-chain efficiencies that decrease emissions within the critical minerals manufacturing and production process, and aims to cement Canada’s position as a low-carbon-economy leader.
Collaboration Between Different Types of Organizations
For 30 years, our GLOBE Series events have connected both likely and unlikely partners and collaborators. Bringing together a diverse cross-section of thought leaders and changemakers helps break down siloes and tackle challenges collaboratively.
At our most recent signature event, GLOBExCHANGE 2023, we partnered with the First Nations Major Project Coalition, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, Canative Energy, and Cenovus Energy on the “Collaborating on Climate Solutions: Indigenous Partnerships for a Net-Zero Future” session. This roundtable focused on how industry and Indigenous communities can form long-term partnerships that will:
- Help mitigate climate change and its impacts
- Drive investment, employment, and community benefits
- Ensure that First Nations are leading on sustainable energy projects
The roundtable was open to all delegates as it was designed to bring in perspectives from the diverse GLOBExCHANGE audience.
By collaborating with diverse stakeholders, you can achieve more buy-in. In turn, you can drive more impact and at greater speed. For example, the partnership between Canada’s federal government and the Cement Association of Canada on low-carbon concrete production was quickly followed by a net zero target and action plan.
“By collaborating with diverse stakeholders, you can achieve more buy-in. In turn, you can drive more impact and at greater speed.”
Similarly, in Fall 2021, the Pembina Institute and GLOBE Series partnered to produce the Women in Energy Transformation Series — a set of four national dialogues that celebrated the women advancing Canada’s transition to a clean economy and identified opportunities for more women to get involved. Featuring 20 speakers from across the country and across industries and experiences, the series explored barriers to gender equity and how all people in Canada can participate in building a net zero future and helping Canada overcome its sustainability challenges.
Collaboration Across Challenges
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that we can’t – and shouldn’t – address our greatest societal or sustainability challenges in isolation. Collaboration is at the heart of thinking across systems and making this kind of progress.
For example, there are innovative solutions at the nexus of GHG mitigation and climate adaptation, including nature-based solutions and natural infrastructure. During a recent conversation with a senior banking executive, it was noted that the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures is building on learnings from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. Climate frameworks have laid the groundwork for how we think about nature-positive and biodiversity goals, and we expect more of this cross-pollination in future.
“By collaborating across the challenges of employment and reducing emissions, these different actors are hopefully laying the groundwork for a future that is more inclusive for everyone.”
When thinking across challenges, we also need to consider societal equity and inclusion, which result in an improved quality of life for all. Reflecting this approach, the Government of Canada, the Government of BC, and the First Nations Leadership Council recently launched The Framework for Collaboration on the Path to Net Zero (Collaboration Framework). The goals of the framework are to create quality, middle-class jobs and build a net zero economy. By collaborating across the challenges of employment and reducing emissions, these different actors are hopefully laying the groundwork for a future that is more inclusive for everyone.
Last year at COP27, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, and Chile’s Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Maisa Rojas Corradi, officially rolled out the Global Carbon Pricing Challenge — a “Canadian-led initiative that calls on all countries to adopt pollution pricing as a central part of their climate strategies.” Participating countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, will meet annually to track the progress of the Challenge’s goals and to share knowledge and resources. The more countries that adopt carbon pricing, the more effective it will be, so international collaboration will be a critical signal that pollution can’t be free anywhere, and not just in the global north. This kind of targeted international collaboration will be critical to solving hugely complex and multi-faceted problems like the climate crisis and sustainability challenges. The climate crisis isn’t just one challenge but hundreds netted together – an ecosystem of challenges – that we as humans and as architects of a future economy must untangle in order to survive and thrive.
How Can Canada Solve Its Sustainability Challenges?
All stakeholders have to be willing to share and be part of the solution. Government doesn’t have all the answers, and neither does business. There’s a role for all of us to play, not in siloes, not in sectors, but together.
“Government doesn’t have all the answers, and neither does business. There’s a role for all of us to play, not in siloes, not in sectors, but together.”
As individuals and organizations step into new collaborative spaces and opportunities, there may be some concerns about exposing information that you would rather not share. For example, many organizations are struggling with Scope 3 emissions, and there’s discomfort with pulling back the curtain because we don’t have the answers yet. However, we can’t make progress at the speed and scale we need if we don’t openly share information and co-create solutions. The value of organizations like CBSR and events like GLOBE events is that they offer neutral, safe spaces for honest and constructive dialogue in formats tailored to bring forward challenges and co-create solutions.
The news is filled with ever-more ominous reports of extreme weather and disasters and it’s easy to get discouraged. However, each time we solve even a small piece of the puzzle, there can be unintended, positive consequences. With every iteration, we’re getting closer to solutions. Collaboration is the key to unlocking a future that is better for everyone.