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2011 Canadian Business Sustainability Priorities

This represents the fourth instalment of the Challenges report. Here, we present the top sustainability challenges in Canada as identified by stakeholders.

Involving Stakeholders in the Sustainability Journey

This represents the fourth instalment of the Challenges report. Ten issues have been identified by our Leadership Council: a council of managers from leading organizations across major sectors of the economy.

The purpose of this report is to inspire new research in these issues. Armed with this knowledge, researchers, managers and others can collaborate to innovate new solutions.

The 10 Sustainability Challenges for Canadian Business in 2011

1. What are the key environmental, social and governance metrics for business sustainability?

2. Which outcome-based government policies are most effective for addressing sustainability issues?
Read the resulting Executive Report and Systematic Review on environmental policy.

3. How do individuals make decisions regarding social and environmental issues?
Read the resulting Executive Report and Systematic Review on decision-making.

4. How can businesses attract, retain, and incent employees to drive sustainability?

5. How do we incorporate key sustainability parameters into a financial business case?

6. How do we determine the materiality of sustainability risks and opportunities?

7. What organizational attributes influence the credibility of sustainability claims?

8. What is the aboriginal perspective on business sustainability, and what are the best approaches to constructive engagement?

9. What are the best practices for sustainable sourcing?

10. How can firms navigate the risks and opportunities of sustainability leadership?

Answering Questions through Research

Every year, NBS funds research on two of the priorities identified by the Leadership Council. Each project systematically reviews and synthesizes the rigorous information from academic and practitioner sources on a given topic, with an emphasis on completeness, replicability, and transparency.

The priorities studied annually via systematic reviews form the foundation of our other NBS activity. Results of the research provide a solid foundation of knowledge upon which managers and researchers can build.

In 2011, the two priority projects cover environmental policy and decision-making for sustainability.

#2: Government Policies

Governments have several tools at their disposal, such as taxes, regulations, and markets, to encourage businesses to steward environmental resources. Different policies have varying degrees of success in impacting the planet or society. Outcome-based government policies define success in terms of measurable benefits.

Leading businesses want to identify the best outcome-based government policies to raise the bar. “How can we build bridges between government and business that will allow for knowledge sharing and a solid foundation for future business sustainability-related policies?” asks John Coyne, Vice President and General Counsel at Unilever Canada.

#3: Decision-Making for Sustainability

Many decisions individuals make – from what food to buy to how much energy to use – involve sustainability-related tradeoffs. Locally grown vegetables, for example, might actually require more energy to grow in greenhouses than vegetables flown in from elsewhere. We constantly trade off different types of impacts (social, environmental, economic) at different levels (personal, communal, societal, etc.)

Understanding how consumers value sustainability among other product attributes in purchase decisions would help businesses develop products which meet their needs. It also allows business to educate consumers on issues and product attributes of which they may be unaware or uninformed. “Many people demand cleaner energy but refuse, for example, to allow windmills in their community,” says Peter MacConnachie, Sr. Sustainability Issues Manager at Suncor. “How can we help consumers make informed tradeoffs when it comes to sustainability?”

NBS commissioned a year-long research project in response to this challenge. Read the resulting Executive Report and Systematic Review on decision-making.

Connect with your stakeholders.

To access NBS challenges and opportunities reports published over the years, view the knowledge priorities.

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