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Recognizing Potential: The 7 Sustainability Opportunities for Canadian Business in 2015

This report signals a shift in our perception of the role sustainability plays in Canadian business.

From Challenges to Opportunities

Canadian businesses play a critical role in building resilient economies and communities. This report highlights opportunities for business to take decisive action towards positive change.

The transition from a focus on challenges to a focus on opportunities will help unlock new ideas and energy across the private and public sectors. We invite you to act on this report by using it as a conversation starter in your organizations.

These priorities were identified by NBS’s Leadership Council, representing leading Canadian industry, government, and civil society organizations. In September 2014, the Council identified these issues at a one-day roundtable facilitated by Dr. Tima Bansal, Executive Director of NBS.

Top 7 Sustainability Opportunities in 2015

  1. Collaborating for sustainability (See resulting Guide for Managersand Assessment Tool)

  2. Addressing climate change

  3. Building stakeholder trust

  4. Designing effective sustainability communications

  5. Turning sustainability into strategic priority

  6. Transitioning to green products and services

  7. Respecting free, prior and informed consent

Answering Questions with Research

NBS commissioned research to investigate two of these opportunities.

#1: Collaboration with Industry Peers

“We have to give up some of our traditional, 19th century ways of thinking about business,” explains John Coyne, VP Legal & External Affairs and General Counsel at Unilever Canada Inc.

Sustainability issues are bigger than one organization. Determining the right scale, composition, and process for collaboration may require experimentation. There are questions such as: should collaboration happen virtually or face-to-face? Should leadership be shared or held by one firm or stakeholder? Who should contribute which and how many resources? Answers to these questions can yield new models of collaboration like common product certification systems.

NBS commissioned a year-long research project in response to this challenge. Use the resulting Guide for Managers and Assessment Tool.

#4: Communicating Sustainability

Each year, Canadian businesses spend significant resources communicating their sustainability initiatives. With the proliferation of sustainability rankings and reporting standards, it has become harder to assess the business value of these endeavours.

A renewed vision of the structure, medium, audience, and goals of sustainability reporting and communications is needed to reduce the inefficiencies in the process. “If the communication is going to hit its mark, one size can’t fit all,” notes Karen Clarke-Whistler, Chief Environment Officer, TD Bank Group.

Research on this topic will be released in 2017.

A Positive Paradigm Shift

We hope this report prompts the business community to shift its thinking from seeing sustainability as challenges, problems, and barriers to a new paradigm that inspires change and exposes new opportunities in the Canadian business context.


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

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  • NBS

    The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) is a non-profit advancing sustainable development to build a fairer and more environmentally sound future. We aim to improve business practice by facilitating knowledge sharing across an international community of business leaders, scholars, students and policy makers. With these stakeholders, we co-create high-quality content that enables practical action. Our content focuses on 6 critical sustainability themes, from climate change to social justice.

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