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Alberta Sustainability Champions Gear up for Success

On October 13 and 14, nineteen professionals gathered in Edmonton to build their capacity as sustainability practitioners by participating in The Natural Step Canada’s Sustainability for Leaders Course - Level 1: Foundations (join us at the next session coming up in Vancouver).

Participants included professionals from Enermodal Engineering, Worley Parsons, Edmonton Airports, Stantec, Bullfrog Power, AIMCO, Landmark Group of Builders, EIDOS Consultants, Servus Credit Union and Earth Legacy, municipal leaders from the City of Red Deer and the Town of Stony Plain, and educators from Bow Valley College, Grant McEwan University, and NAIT. I had the pleasure of facilitating the course with my colleagues Sarah Brooks and Colin Baril.

The University of Alberta’s downtown location Enterprise Square offered a central location that was easy for participants to reach using city and regional transit options. Fantasia Caffé, housed in the facility, provided delicious, locally sourced catering with no packaging or waste destined for landfill.

Our two days together began with a discussion of what motivates each of us to work for sustainability, a recap of the core concepts of sustainability that were covered in the e-learning pre-work, and some concrete examples of how The Natural Step has worked with its clients. A key component of the discussion explored the fundamental difference between incremental improvement and working towards a vision of achieving sustainability. Many in the room were touched by a video about the late Ray Anderson, who led Interface - the company he founded - on its journey up “Mount Sustainability”.

From this point on, participants applied the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development to a case study of a mountain resort. Working in small groups, we began by identifying key sustainability challenges and drafting strategic goals. Noting the internal and external forces that would help or hinder sustainability progress, we then developed action plans for selected strategic goals. “It made me realize there is a lot of planning involved in sustainability and it needs to be very well thought-out in order to be successfully implemented”, observed Laryssa Warne of Bullfrog Power.

Over the two days, we often returned to the question: “In service of what?” This question helped us maintain our focus on achieving success – sustainability. We select “key performance indicators” in service of measuring progress toward our short and mid-term targets. Those targets are established in service of moving us toward the achievement of our strategic goals. And finally, our strategic goals together describe an outcome that aligns with principles for sustainability

Participants also delivered a presentation about the core concepts of sustainability to a small group, reinforcing the learning by communicating the material to others.

“The benefits of a system of thought around sustainability in business were top drawer”, said Trevor McIvor of Bow Valley College. “Also, the networking opportunities were so relevant to going concerns in my own work.”

The course concluded with participants discussing the challenges of leading change toward sustainability, and sharing how they can deploy what they’ve learned in their organizations. All agreed that path to sustainability is undoubtedly both long and complex, and a commitment to ongoing learning and innovation is required. 

Want to advance your sustainability learning, too? Join us for our next Sustainability for Leaders Course - Level 1: Foundations in Vancouver from December 8-9. Register by November 21 to take advantage of our early bird discount.

Visit The Natural Step's sustainability learning opportunities for more information on our sustainability courses, workshops, webinars, eLearning courses, and free resources.


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