How to Drive Industry-Wide Change
On February 21, 40 sustainability leaders met in Ottawa to discuss driving industry-wide change.
The meeting was NBS’s inaugural Industry Association meeting and included representatives from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Ontario Food Industry Environmental Coalition, the Chemical Industry Association of Canada and a dozen other national associations
“Our theme for the day was ‘Harnessing the Power of the Collective,’” said Tima Bansal, Executive Director of NBS. “Our goal in hosting the event – and convening our Industry Association Council
– is to inspire change and spread sustainable business practice through entire industries.”
Keynote speakers Avrim Lazar
and Gord Lambert
spoke to the audience of sustainability leaders about the challenges and opportunities of leading industry-wide sustainability projects.
Avrim Lazar is former president of the Forest Products Association of Canada and a member of NBS’s Advisory Board. He was an architect of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
, which protects more than 72 million hectares of public forests in Canada. Lazar had the following tips on how to drive collective action in an industry:
- Have concrete, measureable outcomes and ensure everyone is committed to them.
- Work with NGOs to build credibility and grow momentum.
- Work with your detractors. Find common ground rather than getting caught up on the differences.
- Promote even the small wins, as they help build momentum for the larger ones.
Gord Lambert is Vice-President, Sustainable Development for Suncor Energy and chair of NBS’s Advisory Board. Following Lazar’s talk about galvanizing change in the forestry sector, Lambert talked about the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance
(COSIA). COSIA is a landmark agreement among 11 companies to share intellectual property so they can all improve their environmental performance in the oil sands. Lambert had the following lessons to share about driving industry collaboration:
- Assemble a coalition of the willing. Rather than trying to move everyone in your industry, start with those organizations that really want to make change. The unengaged people dilute the message and dampen the momentum.
- Know why it’s important to collaborate. Be precise about the source of competition among companies in your industry and then clarify the specific reasons for collaborating.
- Know the limitations and strengths of your industry. For example, industries dominated by engineers and accountants may struggle to see creative solutions or set audacious goals.
- Have a line of sight to outcomes. Lay out clear actions that will lead to measurable outcomes.
NBS brought together industry leaders because we see the important role Industry associations can play as sustainability change agents across entire sectors. Building on our successful Leadership Council model, NBS will work with industry associations to provide evidence-based resources that help their members address important sustainability issues. The associations present a key way to maximize outreach and educate more organizations about sustainable business practice.
In addition to supporting outreach within their own sectors, the Industry Association Council creates a forum for industry leaders to address shared sustainability challenges through collective action – reaching across sectors.Learn more about NBS’s Industry Association Council and view a list of member associations. Read NBS’s Guide to Industry-Level Sustainability Programs.