2019 was, in many ways, a turning-point in the journey toward greater action on climate change and sustainability – including the business sector. Against the backdrop of unprecedented wildfires and civil action sparked by young Greta Thunberg, climate emergencies being declared by cities across the globe including Hamilton and Burlington, and an emerging pandemic, economists and the financial community added their voices to calls for climate action.
Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England (formerly Governor of Bank of Canada) and other leading economists warned that climate change is the biggest threat to our world economy. In August 2019, the Business Roundtable comprised of 181 US CEOs released a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. By outlining a modern standard for corporate responsibility that supersedes previous statements that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders, these business leaders are committing to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders.
We’re proud to know that SHB has been part of the sustainability and climate change movement that has helped create this awareness of a new, more responsible and effective way to do business. It’s extremely urgent that we build on this momentum to drive impact – and our members are leading the way.
Sustainable Business Initiative members are taking steps to challenge the way they do business: “business as usual” is no longer the case. This report showcases the positive impacts these organizations have created through their commitments and actions – which is why we have decided to rename the report to our Annual Impact Report.
Finally, we are delighted to bring this report to you as scheduled. With COVID-19 forcing businesses to prioritise their activities and, in some cases, shut down, being able to report on activities can be the least of everyone’s concerns. Collecting that information and still being able to produce a report can also be a challenge. We are humbled by the commitment of our members to not only improving their impacts, but also their commitment to reporting it publicly. We are also grateful for the outstanding dedication of our volunteers and staff whose nimble approach allowed us to be able to quickly adapt and modify our operations to seamlessly continue in a sustainable manner.
The 2019 event season included a variety of networking events providing education on sustainable best practices for business, including in-depth sessions on our several Sustainable Business Initiative measurement and reporting streams. We also partnered with the Bay Area Climate Change Office at Mohawk‘s Centre for Climate Change Management to present the four-day “Cities in Action: Bay Area Climate Change Summit” in March.
Our annual Evening of Recognition at the Royal Botanical Gardens showcased the incredible initiatives and results of our SBI members. This signature event wrapped up our event season in true style, sparking many conversations of possible initiatives to implement and even whispers of competition for next year.
The other highlight of our events calendar in 2019 was the second SBX Sustainable Business Expo (SBX19) – the sister signature event that sets the tone for the year to come. The SBX19 saw an expanded program spanning the whole day, covering the key theme of the Return on Investment of Sustainability. With keynote speakers Bob Willard, author and speaker at Sustainability Advantage and Paul Rak, CEO of VeriForm Inc. kicking off the day, attendees heard from a panel of B Certified Corporations (including SBI members!) and expertise on sustainability reporting from Professor Velma Grover from McMaster University.
GREEN ECONOMY CANADA
The Sustainable Business Initiative and our members belong to a larger network led and supported by Green Economy Canada, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to accelerating Canada’s transition to a vibrant and sustainable low-carbon economy. This growing network consists of seven Green Economy Hubs and over 300 businesses who are taking action on climate change, building sustainability into their operations, and creating a better future for generations to come.
Two new Hubs are slated to launch in Peterborough, Ontario and the province of New Brunswick in early 2021. Work is also underway in Edmonton in partnership with the City of Edmonton’s Corporate Climate Leaders Program. By 2024, Green Economy Canada’s goal is to support 20 Green Economy Hubs across the country, engaging thousands of businesses in changing business-as-usual.
In addition to supporting the launch and growth of Hubs, Green Economy Canada also works to amplify and celebrate our network’s collective impact, raising the profile of businesses in the network who are taking action, and ensuring that policymakers invest to enable businesses to retool for a low-carbon future. Green Economy Canada sits on the Federal Government’s Climate Action Incentive Fund Advisory Committee, and is becoming a go-to resource to advise on the needs and interests of businesses across the network in taking meaningful climate action.
Businesses in Green Economy Hubs, including SBI members, have reduced over 200,000 tonnes of GHGs – the equivalent of taking over 45,000 cars off the road for one year. They are inspiring others across their communities and across the country to take action to reduce their environmental impacts while strengthening their organizations, engaging their employees, and becoming more resilient.
Our growing national network is demonstrating that a more sustainable economy is possible. Visit greeneconomy.ca to learn more.
BAY AREA CLIMATE CHANGE COUNCIL
Sustainable Hamilton Burlington has been a proud member of the Bay Area Climate Change Council (BACCC) since 2018. Formed in 2018 by the Bay Area Climate Change Office at Mohawk’s Centre for Climate Change Management, BACCC is a social impact initiative made up of 14 leading community organizations from Hamilton and Burlington. BACCC’s vision is for the Bay Area to be a thriving and resilient zero carbon community by 2050.
To date, BACCC has supported the City of Hamilton and Burlington’s climate change emergency declarations and consulted on both community’s climate energy plans. Key priorities have been developed by BACCC based on extensive community input and a comprehensive regional greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Bay Area Climate Change Implementation Teams are being recruited to tackle climate actions on the areas of:
BACCC continues to hold community consultation and engagement at the core of its activities. A Climate Change Summit was held in March 2019 and a Bay Area Climate Change Forum in February 2020 for the community to provide an update on the BACCC activities, share its ambitious workplan for 2020, and engage the public in understanding the climate change priorities of the Bay Area community.
The impact of the Sustainable Business Initiative is growing across the Burlington – Hamilton area. We estimate that the SBI program now is impacting approximately 6% of the area’s workforce. Through our communications and educational programs our influence extends even further, as almost 300 people attended our events in 2019 and over 1200 business professionals and community leaders subscribe to our regular newsletters.
SHB has become known for its valuable volunteer opportunities, enlisting the help of 20 young people and working professionals in 2019. In 2019, as in every year since 2011, the volunteer experience gained here has helped many post-secondary students and recent graduates embark on meaningful sustainability-related careers.
In addition to the partnerships described above, Sustainable Hamilton is expanding our impact even further by collaborating with several other area non-profit, charitable and business organizations including Burlington Green, Bay Area Restoration Council, Burlington and Hamilton Chambers of Commerce and the Burlington Economic Development Corporation. In this way we’re working together to engage businesses, public sector agencies and other organizations in action on sustainability and climate change to help build a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.