CSR In Canada: Who’s Who and Why They Matter, Part I

by | Oct 1, 2012

Leadership in Canadian CSR is important. Without leaders, we lack inspiration and the experience of a practical way to capture what works and what doesn’t in corporate sustainability. But progress in CSR is not just about the innovative companies and their leaders. I’ve also come to acknowledge the importance of recognizing the “background CSR enablers.” Those include think tanks, research support, and networking organizations that exist to provide growth in corporate sustainability. Mission-based, these organizations help drive the CSR conversation further, faster, and deeper. Canadian companies are better for it.

In this ongoing series, I will present profiles of organizations that have established its place in the Canadian CSR network.

Network for Business Sustainability (NBS)

The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) is a unique hybrid that brings business and academia together with other interested stakeholders. A non-profit organization, NBS aims to tackle issues of corporate sustainability through research and collaborative work. Specifically, the organization commissions research on business sustainability challenges and disseminates the information free of charge. With a large and growing network that includes academic researchers, NBS is able to tap into this resource to find the best person or team for each study. “We translate the academic studies into practical planning resources for business and disseminate them at no cost worldwide.”

Identifying Business Priorities in Sustainability

Picking two top sustainability issues to direct funding towards for research is no easy task. There’s a process in place, which begins with the Leadership Council. It is a group of companies selected by NBS and invited to join and “serve as a role model for their industry,” reads the website. This cross-sector group meets annually in order to identify the most pressing and relevant sustainability-related challenges to Canadian business. The challenges are explained in a priorities report, with two identified as the year’s funded research topics.

The Leadership Council consists of 16 organizations, from industries such as retail, foods, manufacturing, oil and gas, and financial among others. Sectors represented include crown corporations, NGO, government and private industry.

Engaging with Industry Associations

Industry associations bring an enormous potential to further sustainability. As member-based organizations, they represent the unique needs of a specific group of companies. There is also trust and typically, a good engagement level by businesses with their association. One good example is the Industry Association Council (IAC), which is an NBS-initiated collaboration “to advance the sustainability agenda in Canada.” The IAC identifies sustainability challenges relevant to their association members, including tackling the issues and sharing best practices.

The Research

At the heart of what NBS does to contribute to the Canadian CSR conversation is its research work. While there are growing opportunities for online and in-person learning and networking opportunities, the research reports are a much valued resource.

So far, NBS has produced eight systematic reviews on the sustainability issues identified by the Leadership Council. A recent research report called Decision-making for Sustainability has earned well-deserved attention in the Canadian CSR community. The systematic review on the subject helps the reader gain insight into how people – at work, home and as consumers – make decisions that ultimately affect how environmentally conscious their actions are.

Meirav Even-Har is a Justmeans staff blogger. She reports on Canadian CSR issues. Meirav is an independent sustainability consultant and writer working in Toronto, Canada. She specializes in green buildings, water issues and stakeholder engagement. Twitter: @CSR_Meirav LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/meirav-even-har/13/a87/734

This article was reprinted with permission from the Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series (TSSS). The next TSSS event, Wall Street: the New Driver for a Sustainable World?, will be held Oct. 9.

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