The Path to Net Zero: 10 Areas for Action

The path to net zero will require hard work, creativity, and a whole lot of collaboration. To help fuel and shape this collaboration, we have distilled the key takeaways from GLOBE Forum 2022 into the 10 action areas we need to prioritize in the next 10 years to achieve net zero by 2050.

Over the next few months, we will be developing an interactive 10×10 Matrix that highlights the actions that governments, businesses, and NGOs can take to achieve this ambitious but urgent target. We hope the 10×10 Matrix will not only inspire action, but also help you to better understand how your actions are connected to and enable others in your ecosystem.

To ensure that the 10×10 Matrix is representative of the issues facing diverse stakeholder groups, we have engaged the Leading Change Steering Committee and other partners. Virtual GLOBE Forum delegates will also have the opportunity to provide input into the full matrix in the coming weeks

The 10×10 will come to life at GLOBExCHANGE our next Destination Net Zero event, taking place in Toronto on February 27 – March 1, 2023. GLOBExCHANGE will build on the conversations at GLOBE Forum and use the 10×10 Matrix as a basis for driving meaningful change in pursuit of our net-zero goals.


Mobilizing & Deploying Capital:
Develop policies that de-risk and incentivize investment, remove barriers to innovative financial instruments, and address funding gaps through partnerships and private/public investment


Unlocking Innovation:
Accelerate commercialization of clean technologies, improve inter-jurisdictional knowledge sharing, support innovators and ecosystems, and accelerate public-private partnerships and community collaboration


Aligning Transparency, Standards & Reporting:
Create accountability and align climate-disclosure policies between jurisdictions and develop holistic sustainability/ESG frameworks to facilitate action and knowledge sharing


Advancing Resiliency:
Identify national and regional risks, direct funding to resilient infrastructure retrofits and development, and improve land use planning


Creating a Circular Economy:
Design an Indigenous-centred circular economy roadmap; establish national and provincial goals, policies, and programs; and incorporate circular economy principles into data and financial modelling


Implementing Nature-based Solutions:
Prioritize nature-based solutions in formulating government initiatives and embed the value of natural solutions into infrastructure and business planning processes


Centering Indigenous Leadership, Engagement & Ways of Knowing:
Cultivate long-term relationships with Indigenous leadership and communities, enhance authentic engagement, collaboration and community capacity building initiatives, and support Indigenous knowledge-based adaptation


Leveraging Infrastructure & the Built Environment:
Focus on infrastructure investments and development that address community challenges, encourage compatibility through international collaboration, and identify built environment innovations that deliver numerous sustainability opportunities


Shifting to Low-Carbon Transportation:
Leverage policy instruments to incentivize the shift to low-carbon alternatives, focus on increasing access to connect under-resourced communities, and create infrastructure that supports the transition to EVs


Accelerating the Clean Energy Transition:
Implement strategic policy supports that actively close the gap between federal policy and provincial enforcement, align industry focus around the adoption of net-zero technologies, and encourage coalition-building across sectors




Thank you to the GLOBE Advance session partners, and The Delphi Group’s expert facilitators, notetakers, and content reviewers.

            CN Railway Logo.           Delphi Group Logo Stacked Horizontally             




Are you thinking about offering an in-person, hybrid or virtual event, workshop or presentation? We can help!

For more information about how we can partner with you to deliver your next sustainability event, reach out to our Senior Manager, Event Partnerships, Caroline Vanasse, directly at


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Day Three Highlights from GLOBE Forum 2022, with Mike Gerbis

That’s a wrap! It’s been our great pleasure to connect and collaborate with the incredible community at GLOBE Forum over these past three days. As we look back on our last day together, hear about why we’re excited for what lies ahead on the road to Destination Net Zero from the Chief Executive Officer of GLOBE Series, The Delphi Group, Leading Change, and CBSR, Mike Gerbis.


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Day Two Highlights from GLOBE Forum 2022, with Carol-Ann Brown

From the Opening Bell at Marketplace, to Innovation Challenges and Reverse Pitches, to interactive programming both on-stage and online, the second day of GLOBE Forum 2022 blew us away! Catch up with The Delphi Group’s President, Carol-Ann Brown, for more highlights from Destination Net Zero.


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Day One Highlights from GLOBE Forum 2022, with Elizabeth Shirt

From the Prime Minister’s major net-zero announcement, to seeing all our favourite people back together for the first time in two years, the first day of GLOBE Forum 2022 was one for the books! Watch to hear from our very own Elizabeth Shirt, GLOBE Series’ Managing Director, and catch up on all the Day One highlights.


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Face Masks

With COVID-19, the Need for a Circular Economy is Clearer than Ever

By Ben Clark, Consultant, The Delphi Group

Have you noticed more garbage piling up in your home during quarantine? It’s only natural when we’re all spending more time at home, doing more online shopping, ordering more take-out, using disposable personal protective equipment (PPE), and certain businesses have pressed pause on reusable bags and coffee mugs.

Did you know that only 9% of the 3.2 million tonnes of plastic waste we generate in Canada is recycled? Much of it ends up in our waterways and oceans, eventually making its way back into the food we eat and water we drink. While environmentally friendly alternatives, such as biodegradable and compostable materials, are available for many common products, the uptake has been slow. Even if biodegradable alternatives are available, proper compost facilities may not be.

Single-use items are products typically thrown out after only one use. These items are used for a short period of time, but their impact can last thousands of years. While there are many examples of these in our daily lives, Examples of single-use items currently being considered for regulation include:

  • Bags
  • Cups
  • Takeout containers
  • Straws and utensils

The good news is that governments were making progress to reduce plastic pollution and single-use items before the pandemic started. Initiatives include municipal bylaws (such as bans on plastic bags and fees for consumers), national bans, and international standards and agreements.

Leading governments have not backed away from plans to reduce single-use items, as both Germany and the Netherlands have recently announced bans will become effective in summer 2021. Earlier this year China also announced plans to restrict straws and bags by 2025.

A wide range of businesses and non-profit organizations have also started testing various initiatives to reduce plastic consumption and waste, all coalescing around the overarching theme of the circular economy. For example, a partnership was recently announced between Nova Chemicals and Merlin Plastics to build a new recycling facility in B.C., increasing the capacity to produce food-grade packaging from recycled materials.

By design, the circular economy eliminates waste and regenerates natural systems by keeping resources and manufactured materials in our economy for longer through redesign, upcycling, re-manufacturing, and re-use. By shifting away from the linear “take-make-dispose” supply chain, the circular approach presents a tremendous opportunity to rethink how we design, use, and reuse our resources (both products and services).

While the current pandemic presents a challenging context, the fact remains that the circular economy will help us reduce waste, resource use, and carbon emissions…AND it will generate additional economic output—an estimated $4.5 trillion according to Accenture research.


The Canadian Context

When it comes to waste management initiatives, local government is usually where the rubber hits the road (or where that rubber is recycled into playground surfaces in the case of used tire recycling initiatives). Single-use items like plastic bags, cups, and other packaging make up a significant proportion of municipal waste, giving cities an incentive to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills—and, even more importantly, reduce the use of these items in the first place. In Metro Vancouver, for example, over 1 billion single-use items are disposed of every year, with the most common items being utensils, plastic bags, and disposable cups.

Despite some early speedbumps related to jurisdictional authority (for example, Victoria’s plastic bag ban court challenge), more and more local governments are developing strategies and bylaws to limit the use of single-use items, including the Cities of Toronto, Vancouver, Surrey, Calgary, and others.

At a provincial level, the B.C. Government is developing a Plastics Action Plan as part of its broader CleanBC plan. A public engagement process in fall 2019 received over 35,000 responses and showed that a large majority are concerned about plastic waste and willing to purchase recycled products (even if they might cost more). The Province has also approved several local bylaws and announced its intention to give new authority to local governments to ban certain types of plastic products without requiring provincial approval.

At the federal level, Canada championed the development of the Ocean Plastics Charter under their G7 presidency in 2018. That same year, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (which includes provincial and territorial ministers) approved in principle a Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste. The first phase of the Action Plan under this strategy was approved in June 2019, and a second phase was recently announced in July 2020. In Canada’s Speech from the Throne last week, the announcement was made referencing plans to ban harmful single-use plastics starting in 2021 and to ensure that more plastics are recycled.


Short-term Challenges and Long-term Solutions

“This pandemic has highlighted the value of plastics in many uses but has not altered the systemic vulnerabilities throughout the supply chain.” Rachel A. Meidl, LP.D, CHMM, fellow in energy and environment at Rice University’s Baker Institute

The current pandemic presents new challenges to the transition to a circular economy. Many grocery stores have banned reusable bags and cafes have banned reusable cups in an effort to protect their front- line staff. At the same time, global demand for certain plastics has increased in order to manufacture PPE, while low oil prices have also made virgin plastics cheaper than recycled alternatives, as highlighted in a recent article from Forbes.

The article describes the need for a systems-level approach to overcome the deficiencies of short-term and product-based solutions. This approach will require greater investments in advanced chemical recycling, improved waste management infrastructure, investments in transformational RD&D of higher-quality polymers that are infinitely recyclable, and collaboration between industries, technology providers, and governments at all levels.

The nature of a circular economy approach generally is that it requires systems-level approaches and cross-sector collaboration. At the recent GLOBE Advance workshop on Advancing a Circular Economy in Canada, over 100 leaders and subject matter experts gathered to explore the current state of sector-level transitions to a circular economy. Workshop participants identified the top two barriers to the plastics waste challenge as: 1) the lack of industry standards, and 2) the lack of harmonized policy. Participants also highlighted opportunities for progress in plastics production:

  • Government can play a role in harmonizing standards and definitions.
  • Companies can lead by positioning circularity as part of their brands.
  • Researchers can continue to grow the evidence body related to the circular economy and companies and governments can use that research to drive evidence-based decisions.
  • Both the public and private sector can work to influence consumer behaviour and help inform purchasing decisions.
  • Stakeholders can collaborate across sectors to create a common playbook.

A recent report by Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ, entitled “Breaking the Plastic Wave” outlines key pathways for eliminating the plastics challenge. Industry in Canada has also been exploring solutions, including a plastics research paper published by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Group, with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, entitled “A Roadmap to Support the Circularity and Recycling of Plastics in Canada”.

These critical conversations will be continued in the Circular Economy Solution Series, which is presented by the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition and powered by GLOBE Series.


There is a Place for Everyone in the Transition

While many of us have noticed an increase in plastic waste in our own homes, a similar challenge has been playing out on a global scale. China has curtailed its imports of recycled plastic by 96%, alongside other countries in Asia, creating a need for domestic solutions.

Without the ability to send our waste out of sight and out of mind, there is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on alternative uses for materials, and ultimately think about how we avoid creating waste in the first place.

The good news is that researchers, businesses, and policy and industry leaders have ramped up efforts on these challenges in the last two years. This foundational work, combined with an accelerated innovation agenda due to the pandemic, is setting the stage for a broader, long-term shift to a more circular economy. As public health concerns are addressed and we transition to a post-COVID world, let’s continue to work together to act on the many opportunities in the emerging circular economy.


If you’re interested in learning  more about the Circular Economy Solution Series or our Circular Economy services, please contact Ben or Paul Shorthouse, Senior Director

GLOBE Series and The Delphi Group work together as part of a constellation of organizations with a common vision. Learn more about the services we offer together here.

Webinar Recording: In Conversation with The Honourable Catherine McKenna and Michael Sabia

Join Jennifer Keesmaat, CEO of The Keesmaat Group & former Chief City Planner of Toronto as she sits down with The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Michael Sabia, Chair of Canada Infrastructure Bank. This interactive virtual dialogue highlights the important role of infrastructure as a catalyst for Canada’s COVID-19 economic recovery, as well as the opportunities and challenges the crisis presents for making our communities greener, safer and better. 


  • The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Government of Canada 
  • Michael Sabia, Chair of the Board of Canada Infrastructure Bank 


  • Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Executive Officer, The Keesmaat Group and former Chief City Planner, City of Toronto 


  • Elizabeth Shirt, Managing Director, GLOBE Series

Watch webinar recording

Women in Meeting

So You Want to be a Cleantech Entrepreneur? Start Here.

The times they are a-changin’. Millions of people on every continent marched in climate change protests last September. Leaders around the world are mobilizing to limit global warming to 1.5oC. More and more companies are committing to carbon-neutral targets. As we ramp up our climate ambition, innovative clean technology solutions are needed more than ever.

To put the opportunity in economic terms, the annual worldwide spend on cleantech development is expected to exceed USD $2.5 trillion this year, according to Export Development Canada (although the impacts of COVID-19 on the sector directly are still unknown). Canada is particularly well-positioned to be a leader in the cleantech sector, with 12 Canadian ventures on the 2020 Global Cleantech 100 list. Canada is also home to many government and funding programs that support cleantech start ups, and many local cleantech accelerators that help budding ventures build capacity.

Starting a new business is hard. It takes blood, sweat and tears and a solid dose of luck and good timing. But with big risk can come great reward, and we need Canadian innovators at the table to help us address one of the biggest challenges of our time.  Do you have a great idea that you think could change the world? Are you itching to build a business from the ground up? Are you searching for a way to make a difference by limiting climate change and preserving our environment for future generations? Keep reading for tips on how to build your knowledge and comfort in the cleantech space before launching a business.


1. Connect your PURPOSE with a PROBLEM.

Think of your purpose as an internal mission statement. Your purpose or mission statement should serve as both a driving force to propel you forward and a compass to keep you on track.

For example, when Leading Change, GLOBE Series, The Delphi Group and the EXCEL Partnership all came together to form a constellation of organizations, we united behind a shared purpose: to achieve a sustainable, prosperous and socially just future in a generation. This is the glue that holds us together and our North Star, guiding our actions and decisions and inspiring us to do what we do.

As you work to develop your own mission statement, ask yourself: What motivates me to get out of bed in the morning? What am I most passionate about? What values am I unwilling to compromise on? Do a little soul searching to identify a central purpose that resonates with you. As a frame of reference, look to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Which goal aligns best with your personal values, interests and skills?

Once you land on a purpose, begin to do a ‘root cause analysis’ on the issue you’re interested in—whether it’s affordable housing, food security, biodegradable packaging or something else. A ‘root cause’ can be defined as the core issue that sets in motion the entire cause-and-effect reaction that ultimately leads to the problem in question. In conducting a root cause analysis, you are ultimately looking to ask questions and dig deeper in order to understand what the true cause of a problem is. What is it about this issue that speaks to you? At the core of the issue, what are the challenges being faced by people, communities, or ecosystems? Draw on your own lived experiences or connect with an individual who has experienced the problem in question to learn about the solutions needed and solutions that have failed in the past. From there, conduct an in-depth search of secondary research materials, such as reports and white papers. For further information on how to conduct a root cause analysis, refer to the “It All Starts with a Problem” workbook from the League of Innovators.

As you home in on your purpose and problem, keep in mind: all great ideas ultimately need a customer in order to be successful. Will you be selling your product or service to other companies (i.e. business to business/B2B)? Or will you be selling your product or service to consumers (i.e. business to consumer/B2C)? By thinking about these questions, you’ve taken critical early steps on the entrepreneurial journey. The next steps are to 1) identify a target audience, 2) determine your product-market fit, 3) develop a business plan and then you’ll be in business! Keep in mind that you can always pivot and change your strategy down the road—flexibility is a key ingredient of entrepreneurship after all!


2. Learn the lingo.

When first entering the world of entrepreneurship and cleantech, it can be a confusing path to navigate. Startup. Venture. Angel investor. Educating yourself on the terminology of the sector and core entrepreneurial concepts is a key step on the path to success. From customer personas and business models to debt-equity structures and intellectual property, there’s a lot to learn. We’ve compiled a resource list to help you out:



Virtual Resources:

  • The Innovators Academy, a free online learning resource for youth, run by Victoria-based not-for-profit The League of Innovators


3. Find a mentor.

Developing a new idea, technology, or service area is hard work! To be successful, you need to do something that has never been done before. And that means you likely won’t have all the answers, but someone else just might.

Finding a mentor who is available for open, honest, and frank discussions can help you accelerate your startup AND help you avoid many common startup faux pas and mistakes. A mentor can be someone you admire for their business style, leadership skills, global impact, or simply for the idea they were able to bring to life. In a 2013 survey, 80% of CEOs said they had a mentor at some point in their startup career.

To find the right mentor for you, think of your professional and personal networks. Do you know any entrepreneurs? Who do you admire most? It could be someone you met at a conference, an old colleague or even a family friend. Reach beyond your network and consider local business leaders or role models who work in a field related to your business purpose.

If you don’t have a potential mentor in your immediate network, programs like Entrepeer from Futurpreneur Canada are very useful. If you have a specific person in mind but don’t have their contact information, try reaching out through LinkedIn or sending an email through their company website to ask if they would be interested in meeting you for a coffee. Be polite, but don’t be afraid to ask. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!


4. Visit an innovation event or connect with a local accelerator.

Chances are there is already a lot happening in your local community around innovation, cleantech, and start-up ecosystem development. While events will be virtual for the foreseeable future, online events still offer many of the benefits of in-person events—including networking, gaining intel, and building your personal brand. Check out startup pitch or networking events both at the national or international levels and in your local area. Innovation events allow you to see how other startups present their idea to funders, customers, and the general public and local events specifically can give you an opportunity to learn more about your local infrastructure and make local connections.

If you’re feeling up for more of a challenge, do some research into local startup accelerators and incubators. Check to see when their next program cohort will begin and consider putting in an application. If the cost and time commitment of enrolling in a full program is overwhelming, look at their course offerings. Local innovation hubs usually run courses throughout the year for individuals who don’t yet have a solidified idea but who are interested in learning more about entrepreneurship more broadly.

MaRS Discovery District has compiled a detailed (although certainly not exhaustive) list of startup accelerators and incubators across Canada. You can browse the list here, but don’t be afraid to do your own digging into potential programs and offerings that best align with what you want to do and where you are on your own startup journey.

If you live in a rural community, consider reaching out to an accelerator or incubator program in the city nearest you. Given the changes brought on by COVID-19, many innovation programs have had to modify their offerings so that they can be delivered virtually. Take advantage of this newfound opportunity. They may also be able to direct you to resources and connections within your own municipality.


For real-world success stories and advice direct from Canadian cleantech entrepreneurs, consider attending Leading Change’s next webinar, “Cleantech Connect: Key Learnings and Advice from Young Founders” on July 9 at 2-3 p.m. Pacific or 5-6 p.m. Eastern. The event is free to attend. Register here. We hope you can join us and continue the cleantech conversation!


Leading Change is a national non-profit organization for and by young leaders and sustainability professionals accelerating action on issues that are critical to attaining a sustainable, prosperous, and socially just future within a generation. GLOBE Series and Leading Change are part of a constellation of organizations that also includes the Delphi Group and the EXCEL Partnership.


Webinar Recording: How to Keep Your Sustainability Programming Alive in a Pandemic

Mike Rowlands & Mike Gerbis

GLOBE Virtual Q&A: CEO Insights on How to Prioritize Sustainability During a Pandemic

Ahead of this week’s GLOBE Virtual webinar, How to Keep Your Sustainability Programming Alive in a Pandemic, we sat down (virtually) with Mike Gerbis, CEO of GLOBE Series and The Delphi Group, and Mike Rowlands, President and CEO of Junxion Strategy, for their insights on how to prioritize sustainability projects and positioning in light of COVID-19.


Can you describe the sustainability priorities within your own organizations, and how and if they have changed or evolved as a result of COVID-19?

Mike Rowlands: As a certified B Corp, we pay attention to our impact in five areas: the environment, our employees, customers and clients, community and governance.

Once the COVID-19 crisis hit, our staff were our top priority. We made it clear that we understood it wouldn’t be possible to maintain the same levels of productivity. We didn’t want our people feeling pressured to hit billable targets that were set pre-crisis, especially given the transition to working from home, juggling things like childcare, and the psychological burden our colleagues are suddenly carrying.

We also quickly got on the phone with our clients. The conversations were less about selling a product or service and more about offering our help if they needed it. It was about the spirit of partnership, being there for them in a time of need. As it happens, our strong relationships have served us well as projects have been extended and new business opportunities have emerged over the last few weeks.

In terms of community, a number of our clients are in social services and are working on the front lines of our most vulnerable communities. For example, they’re dealing with the awful challenge of how to respond to a dramatic increase in domestic abuse cases when they can’t do home visits. Knowing that they are at capacity, we’re trying to help by raising awareness and supporting them in any way we can.

Mike Gerbis: Our people have also been first and foremost in our minds. We communicate often and as transparently as possible, and we try to find the right balance between the need for optimism and hope with the need for realism and preparation. Authentic leadership is always important but it’s particularly important now; it’s okay to show your people that you’re human and vulnerable at a time like this. Showing that you care, that we’re all in this together, can help to build trust at a time when you need it more than ever.

We’re also adjusting our policies to provide more flexibility, so our people have the ability to look after their kids, go grocery shopping in the middle of the day, or just adjust their schedules the way they need to.

In terms of customers, like Junxion we are also reaching out and connecting with as many of them as we can. It’s not about the sell or the hard pitch but about building and strengthening relationships. We want to be there for them in any way we can.

When it comes to governance, at times like these, you really need clear direction and accountability—even more than you normally do. Staff aren’t around the proverbial water cooler right now, so we ensure they know what decisions have been made, what the decision-making processes are, and where and how they can make decisions on their own. Empowering staff to take the lead on certain things sends the important message that you trust them, and giving them agency and control is a great thing to do right now.

On the community front, we have given 1% of our gross sales to charity for years. We had the conversation about whether we should be doing that in 2020 in light of what is happening; the answer was a resounding yes. It’s an important part of who we are, and now is not the time to pull back from supporting our community, no matter the amount. We also offer our staff paid volunteering days, which some of our people have used to help out the food bank and other organizations that really need it right now.


You both run purpose-driven organizations, how important is your purpose in terms of navigating COVID?

MR: Our purpose is fundamental to how we respond to this crisis, and to our optimism in navigating through it. It shapes how we take action and how we behave during and after the crisis. Our purpose is to accelerate the shift to a new economy, which we believe can be ecologically regenerative.

MG: You’ll see people and organizations acting differently through the crisis. Competition will get stiffer as some leaders adopt a dog-eat-dog mentality, some organizations will make decisions based solely on the bottom line. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you have to stay true to your values or you lose your purpose and your way very quickly. Forgetting your values and failing to treat people with dignity and respect will backfire pretty quickly—internally if not externally. Now is the time to remember who you are and what you stand for, and to look for collaborative opportunities and partnerships. Focusing on values and relationships will hold you in good stead once we’re out of this crisis.


You have both led your organizations through economic downturns in the past. What are some lessons you’ve learned?

MR: Pacing is important. We had an ambitious agenda for 2020 and we won’t be able to do a bunch of things we were hoping to do. That’s disappointing, but the economy is cyclical and we’re being impacted by a global crisis. You need to have self-compassion as an organization, and to be pragmatic in the face of challenges. Junxion isn’t quite what it was going to be this year, but it will continue to move forward. There is more to do, we just can’t do all of it right now.

That said, we’re starting to turn our attention now to longer-term economic recovery and rebuilding efforts. That dialogue seems to be bifurcating: the emphasis is either on reverting back to extractive industries, some of which were already on the wane, or making bold investments in the green economy. What’s being forgotten in these conversations is the notion of a just transition, which is essential if we’re to avoid leaving vast swaths of society behind. We need the collaborative decision making and transparency we’ve seen during the crisis to persist after the crisis in order to make that kind of transition to a clean economy. This is a potentially powerful moment for dramatic change; we need to resist being opportunistic, of course, while focusing on the opportunity to rebuild for the better.

MG: Elizabeth Renzetti wrote a great piece in the Globe and Mail last week with the headline, “Nothing will be perfect again—and that’s just fine.” These are tough times and we are all going to have to make tough choices. We’re going to make mistakes. That’s ok—no guilt, no judgement, you do the best you can.

It’s hard to talk about silver linings when it feels like our world is imploding, but when we’re pushed to the precipice, we tend to be more creative and innovative—because we have to be. You just need to look around at how businesses are pivoting right now. You’ll see the sustainability community have similar ‘aha’ moments as a result of this crisis; the big ideas that are going to accelerate our transformation to a clean economy are coming.


What advice do you give to organizations that are struggling amidst the crisis, how should they prioritize their sustainability initiatives and decision-making?

MR: There is no divide between business and the communities in which they operate: businesses draw their labour and profit margins from the community. Wise leaders and smart brands are investing now in making their communities safer, and/or supporting local charities that help the more vulnerable in our towns and cities. When we hear people saying, “We’ll get through this together,” we think that needs to include businesses rolling up their sleeves to focus on issues that were perhaps aspirational when things were ‘normal.’

Smarter businesses will remember they’re part of our communities, too. As COVID-19 gives us all a new way to think about what sustainability means—including its social impacts—businesses can show up in a way people will remember. That can of course go two ways! But the brands that are good corporate citizens now will thrive in the long term.

MG: Be guided by your values and be sensitive to how people are feeling right now. If you run an ad that is tone deaf or you don’t address your customers’ concerns in the current environment, they’re not coming back. Think before you act and think about what people are going through when you’re making decisions—especially those that are in the business-to-consumer space. You sometimes see privilege and entitlement creep into people’s attitudes during a crisis, but COVID doesn’t care who you are. None of us is immune.

MR: I agree with that. With great power comes great responsibility and, since privilege is power, so with great privilege comes responsibility. If you’re well off, don’t allow yourself to be walled off. Use your privilege to help those who don’t have access to power, capacity, or resources. Ask yourself and your organization, “Where can we use our expertise to help?” It doesn’t have to be working on health-related issues; there are many ways to make a difference right now.


Do you think COVID will lead to the reshaping of corporate sustainability, or the corporate sustainability agenda?

MG: Companies and financiers are still demanding climate- and sustainability-related action and disclosure. The COVID crisis has underlined the interdependence of health, social, economic and environmental issues, and the importance of a collective response to a global crisis. I think the corporate sustainability agenda is only going to get stronger and more compelling.

MR: There is going to be strong pressure to go back to normal, but the purpose revolution—which stands on the back of the sustainability movement—is in many ways unstoppable. I believe that the generational transition we’ve been talking about for years has been brought into stark view because of the COVID crisis. If you think that transition will halt because the economy is on pause and its fragility has been exposed…I’d say to you, “no way”. We just need to make sure we don’t vilify the people in the fossil fuel industry and others; they need to be part of a just transition.

MG: We need to have conversations and we need to find common ground so that our vision of a sustainable future is inclusive.

MR: I’ve been impressed with how federal political leaders have conducted themselves through this. For years, the press called the second party the “opposition” party. It should be the loyal opposition, in service of better ideas, working with government on the best ideas for our country. When we’re in a push comes to shove moment, in a profound health and economic crisis, they are the loyal opposition again. I hope this continues, and that industry and other sectors see that there is a different way to work together. A better way to work together.


Are there opportunities to build a better, more sustainable future as we come out of this?

MG: There is tremendous opportunity. I have no doubt that we’ll come out of this crisis and recognize how important small gestures and individual actions are. We have a huge opportunity right now to make massive investments that not only kickstart the economy, but also set us on the path towards a more sustainable, socially just future. Investing in more sustainable and resilient infrastructure, energy efficiency retrofits in all building stock from commercial units to affordable housing, renewable energy, etc., will create jobs and opportunities for generations. Those who are most privileged have an important role to play in this transition; they can help shape business’ fundamental role away from generating profits for shareholders and towards building an interconnected community.

MR: It’s heartbreaking to walk through our neighborhoods right now, with so many small businesses boarded up and closed. In the last 24 hours, I’ve heard about two beloved, long-serving community businesses that will not be re-opening after all this. They’re local employers that hire local people, including young people and students, who are finding it harder and harder to find their first jobs. After all this, as part of our national recovery efforts, I’d love to see a re-localization of economics. LOCO BC just updated a study looking at the multiplier effect of dollars spent with local businesses. Those monies get recirculated through the economy many times more than those that are spent with big businesses that often are headquartered overseas. We’re witnessing now the fragility of our corporate, centralized economy. Local models are more resilient.


Any final words of advice?

MR: When we go through huge crises like this one, it’s natural to think that the solutions for macro-level problems are also at the macro level. “It’s up to government.” But in reality, we’re already hearing about industry associations—retail, hospitality, tourism, and many others—doing the work to help their sectors to recover. And each of us who lead organizations can use our purchasing power, our influence, and our products and services to serve a healthy recovery. And of course, each of us as people can continue the amazing things we’re all doing in our neighborhoods, and with our colleagues and friends. We’ve all been reminded through this that each of us is responsible for the communities we live in. Let’s not forget this as we settle into ‘a new normal.’

MG: Don’t forget to take care of yourself—put the oxygen mask on first. You can’t support your staff, your family, friends or neighbours through this if you’re not taking care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually. Stay safe. Be compassionate. Stay positive.


Continue the conversation with our next GLOBE Virtual Webinar: How to Keep Your Sustainability Programming Alive During a Pandemic on April 23, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET.

GLOBE Virtual - Webinar

Webinar Recording: How to Navigate Your Business Through a Crisis

Hear from people who have been through it all before and have lived to tell the tale. Our inaugural GLOBE Virtual webinar features experts in the fields of HR, financial management, and communications who share their insights and lessons learned. GLOBE Series and Delphi Group CEO, Mike Gerbis, also provides his tips on how to prioritize and lead during times of crisis.

  • Featuring:
    • Jake Stacey, Vice President, Vancity Community Investment Bank
    • Margo Crawford, President and Chief Executive Officer, Business Sherpa Group
    • Mark Emond, Founder and President, Demand Spring
    • Mike Gerbis, Chief Executive Officer, GLOBE Series and The Delphi Group

Watch webinar recording