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

by | Oct 18, 2012

“CSR enablers” is a term I use to describe organizations that exist to help drive the CSR conversation in Canada. They provide research support, peer-to-peer learning, advocacy and networking. In this ongoing series, I am profiling the organizations that are well established in the Canadian business sustainability network.

This is Part Two, featuring the Toronto Sustainability Speakers Series (TSSS). As a regular attendee, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to meet new people in what sometimes seems like a relatively small group of professionals in Toronto. With each speaker and topic, a number of new faces joins, and so grows this networking group.

About TSSS

Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series (TSSS) is a forum for dialogue and problem solving among sustainability professionals. According to Brad Zarnett, founder and chief sustainability connector, “Each year, over 1,000 sustainability change agents attend TSSS events to exchange ideas, to network and to be inspired by leading companies that have integrated sustainability into their business practices.” Now in its fifth year, TSSS continues to be a “go to” learning and networking event, while the online component increases its presence with a variety of blog contributors and live feeds during events.

Learning & Networking: In-person Forums

“In sustainability, we talk a lot about capacity building. We need to build capacity among sustainability people, too,” says David Smith, national VP of retail strategy and sustainability at Sobeys Inc., in a testimonial interview at a past TSSS event. Sobeys is one of Canada’s largest national groceries retailers. Capacity building is encouraged through group discussions and networking at each event. A recent speaker, Tim Faveri, VP of sustainability and responsibility at Tim Hortons, said (also in a testimonial interview) that the TSSS event has a “connected audience” in a “focused environment.”

So how does it work? One or more speakers take the stage for a presentation or moderated format of discussion. Then the room is broken into groups and several questions are posed to the audience. Facilitators roam and inspire dialogue; group attendees may be asked to rotate between questions. When time is up, feedback is harvested: views are shared with the group at large. Networking time is always allotted for, before and after the main part of the evening.

Lessons Learned & Shared Success Stories: Discussion Papers & Blogs

As CSR matures, so does the need for more practical conversations. In a recent workshop on Objection Handling, course leader and best-selling author Bob Willard spoke with attendees about tackling barriers to adopting and embedding sustainability. For those who couldn’t attend, a discussion paper was produced and is now available as a free download.

Then there are the blogs. The TSSS blog is growing by featuring a variety of contributors (including Justmeans blogs), adding to the breadth and depth of CSR subjects. At each event TSSS is increasing its online audience through live broadcast and chat, recognizing the ability to harness the web and connect an international audience.

Future Direction

I asked Zarnett to give me a sense of what is in store for TSSS in the near future. He responded with the following three goals, of what’s to expect:

1) Expand the use of social media technology so that our events continue to reach a growing audience across Canada and around the world
2) Become a force for inspiration and build an army of highly effective sustainability change agents
3) Continue to provide a forum for sustainability thought leaders to connect, engage and discuss the pressing sustainability issues of the day.

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

To learn more about Toronto Speakers Sustainability Series (TSSS) and upcoming events, visit http://ecoopportunity.net/about/

This is Part II of an ongoing series. Read “CSR In Canada: Who’s Who and Why They Matter Part I (Network for Business Sustainability)” here.

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