2020 has reminded us of the power of working together to tackle our toughest challenges – whether it’s fighting a global pandemic, starting down the road towards racial and social justice, or pushing ahead on climate action.
As a constellation of organizations working to achieve a sustainable, prosperous and socially just future in a generation, we are inspired by the efforts of so many this year. We believe Canadians are just getting started, and that 2021 is filled with possibilities for positive progress. As we look towards our next chapter, we asked the leaders of each of our organizations to share what is making them feel hopeful.
What I keep coming back to is the people. Throughout the pandemic I’ve been amazed by how people have stepped up—the people I work with and total strangers.
In my 30 years of working in this space, I’ve never seen this much momentum around sustainability and justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. There is a renewed sense of purpose beyond profit. In the early stages of the sustainability movement, we saw high-emitting companies focused on managing their risk. Many of our newest clients at GLOBE and The Delphi Group are low emitters—companies that provide services or produce consumer products—but they see the benefit and value that sustainability offers beyond risk management. This perspective is driven by renewed interest from the finance sector and customers voting with their wallets and supporting ethical brands.
On a broader scale, it’s been touching to see communities come together: restaurants donating food to senior homes, young people putting together packages for front-line workers, and people finding innovative ways to celebrate special occasions like graduations, weddings and births.
In times of crisis, you always see the best in people and that’s what gives me hope.
There’s a new level of consciousness about the fragility and interconnectedness of our planet. For centuries, we’ve had incremental negative change in terms of our impact on the environment. These small changes can be imperceptible, but the pandemic gave us a chance to reflect. We got a glimpse of what the world could look like if humans had a more symbiotic relationship with nature. . The canals of Venice ran clear, people in northern India saw the Himalayas for the first time ever, carbon emissions were reduced by record amounts. We had a taste of what’s possible. These realities were perhaps the one silver lining in COVID. Now let’s try and accomplish the same without the pandemic part!
In 2021, I think sustainability will be a greater priority than ever before. We’ll be doing our part accelerating the transformation of organizations supporting net-zero carbon targets, circular economy commitments, and ESG performance enhancements. Let’s go!
2021 will be the year we see accelerated action on climate change. I’m not just hopeful about it—I know it’s an imperative. Despite reduced carbon emissions in 2020, we continue to see the frightening ecological impacts of climate change.
For their part, oil companies are just starting to scratch the surface of potential in clean energy. The real drivers of the energy transition will be electrification companies, energy buyers, and governments. California, for example, is excelling at adapting the intermittency of renewable energy to a grid.
‘Energy transition’ is a bit of a misnomer because it implies that change will be slow. In fact, the transition will require a series of radical shifts. The federal government’s recent increase to the carbon price is an example of a radical shift. ESG becoming a key factor in the allocation of capital would be a radical shift. Ahead of COP 26, I anticipate more changes like these.
The devil’s in the details for the energy transition and I hope we continue to see more radical shifts in 2021.
Thanks to both decades of work and new momentum from activism the world over, this year was a turning point in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. While we need to remain vigilant that this remains a movement and not a temporary PR play, the number of governments and corporations stepping up, engaging in challenging dialogue, and putting their money where their mouths are, indicate we’re turning a corner.
At the government level, the new 50 – 30 Challenge launched by the Canadian government pushes organizations to achieve gender parity on boards and in senior management, as well as 30% representation of under-represented groups. In terms of corporate commitments, one example I’m particularly inspired by is BentallGreenOak, who have set a target of two-thirds of new recruits being women or from under-represented groups. If the company fails to reach its targets, funds will be removed from its bonus pool and put towards charity instead.
This gives me hope that Canada’s leadership in the private, public, and social sectors will soon reflect the fabric of this diverse country. Evidence shows that diverse governance and management teams lead to better performance outcomes. If Canada steps up, it will give us a competitive advantage and a leadership role on the global stage.
There’s been a tidal shift in the investment community this year, with more interest in environmental, social and governance, or ESG, measures than ever before. Most recently, here in Calgary, Benevity, a corporate social responsibility software company, sold a majority stake for $1.1 billion. I see this success as part of a broader trend towards investing in purpose-driven businesses. According to a recent Edelman survey, 92% of investors agree that strong ESG performance merits a premium valuation. Investors are numbers people and they can see that purpose pays.
This enthusiasm from investors is sparking action as companies move to meet expectations. I’ve noticed this in my own work: we’ve seen major growth in our membership this year and our members are making announcements left and right, from carbon-neutral goals to diversity and inclusion targets and much more.
I expect this trend to continue into 2021 and I’m excited to see where it takes us.
The pandemic and economic downturn have shone a light on many issues, from the climate crisis to social inequality. In 2021, I’m looking forward to moving out of crisis response mode and into healing and rebuilding. I think it’s clear to all of us that we have some work to do to build a better world. I’m excited to dig into the conversation about how we get there.
For example, I’ve heard different perspectives on how we achieve a ‘just transition.’ Some say a truly just transition means nobody is left behind. Some say there are always winners and losers. Personally, I’m hopeful that there is a place for all of us in the transformation to a more resilient economy. That has to be deliberate. It means more emphasis on the ‘S’ in ESG.
Another key conversation is how we scale the clean economy, as we chart a course towards net zero in Canada. We have more technology solutions than we give ourselves credit for, whether they be in renewable energy or carbon capture, utilization, and storage. How do we secure investment in these solutions to help them grow and attain widespread adoption?
I’m really looking forward to digging into these questions and more at GLOBE Capital – April 13-15, 2021.
Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and happy holiday season and a hopeful 2021!