Letter from Tima Bansal, NBS
We first assembled our Leadership Council to identify business sustainability challenges in 2007. At the time, business leaders were optimistic about the opportunities that lay ahead: The business case for social responsibility was coming into focus. In the subsequent six years, most organizations have experienced the proverbial win-win: they realized significant economic value by integrating sustainable business practices into their products, services and overall operations. They were able to sell sustainability internally because short-term costs were rewarded with short-term gains.
Further progress, however, requires larger investments with longer time frames. To continue their journey to sustainable business, these leaders recognize the need to tackle system-wide challenges beyond the boundaries of their organizations. They see the need, for example, to educate consumers and convince them to consume responsibly. The need to work with government regulators to produce integrated public policies on environmental and social issues. And the need to collaborate with unlikely partners, even competitors, to rewrite the rules for supply chain management. These are not easy tasks.
In its role as connector and catalyst, NBS looks forward to helping these leaders and their companies tackle the challenges ahead. By bringing together academic and industry experts with similar visions but different knowledge and experiences, we will produce frame-breaking new insights. We will reveal new business models that benefit both business and society. The challenges may be great, but that means the potential for growth is also great.
I hope managers are inspired to partner with researchers and tackle these challenges. And I hope you enjoy reading this report.
Tima Bansal, PhD
Executive Director, Network for Business Sustainability
Professor, Richard Ivey School of Business
Letter from Valerie Chort, Deloitte
Canadian business leaders have reached a pivotal moment in their sustainability efforts. The period of low-hanging sustainability fruit is over. It is now time for leaders in the Canadian marketplace to raise the bar, reach high and wide, and create innovative sustainability opportunities.
As the challenges identified in this report and those over the previous five reports show, sustainability is not an easy path to follow, let alone set. With continued economic uncertainty, regulatory changes and commodity price fluctuation comes significant pressure to do more with less, invest only in high value projects, and accept lower risk investments.
It is clear that Canadian business leaders are rethinking the way they approach sustainability in two key ways. Internally, leaders are searching for ways to sustain the behaviours and performance achieved to date. This means refocusing on the sustainability issues that matter most, using integrative approaches to move beyond incremental gains, and adopting smarter tools to drive management and decision-making, such as full cost accounting and life-cycle assessments. Externally, leaders want to create greater sustainability impact on the marketplace. This means collaborating with industry peers on challenging issues, learning leading practices from other sectors, and engaging stakeholders up and down the value chain to generate shared performance improvements.
Today’s sustainability challenges are the source of tomorrow’s sustainability opportunities. Capitalizing on these opportunities means we need to develop innovative, collaborative and adaptive solutions, particularly in the areas of measurement, leadership, new business models and education.
I believe this report can help Canadian businesses move towards finding solutions that will help advance Canada’s sustainability agenda.
Partner & National Leader
Sustainability & Climate Change