Canada tackles the world’s to-do list

Access to clean water and sanitation is one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  ISTOCK.COM

Access to clean water and sanitation is one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. ISTOCK.COM

When Ban Ki-moon, then UN secretary general, launched the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to tackle the world’s economic, social and environmental issues by 2030, he described them as “our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people.”

Mr. Ban described the initiative as “the world’s to-do list,” and many Canadian companies responded by aligning their strategic corporate objectives with SDGs in a concerted effort to succeed in an era of changing social values and technology disruption.

“We know the world is changing and consumer expectations are shifting,” says Stuart Bergman, director of CSR strategy and planning at Export Development Canada (EDC). “This year, Generation Z will account for 32 per cent of the global population.”

He points out that EDC operates in a multi-stakeholder ecosystem where how the organization does business is as important as the business it does. 

“Our success ultimately depends on how we’re viewed by our customers and whether those customers continue to exist, and how we’re viewed by our employees – current employees and the employees of the future who are going to help run this organization in 15, 20 years from now,” says Mr. Bergman.

Millennial employees, and increasingly that new generation of workers [Generation Z], are looking to work for an organization that reflects their values, he adds.

“They believe in sustainable and responsible business and have access to more information than we even knew existed 10 years ago.”

Companies that don’t keep pace with these changes are finding themselves locked out of new opportunities and losing their abilities to plug into global supply chains, says Mr. Bergman. 

As part of a new CSR framework at EDC, corporate priorities are connected to a set of strategic measures that are also linked to six SDGs: Affordable and clean energy; climate action; peace, justice and strong institutions; gender equality; industry, innovation and infrastructure; and partnerships for goals. 

“This not only keeps us relevant in light of where the world is headed, but it allows us to leverage proven global tactics toward achieving our own strategic objectives. So, in that way, it brings together our strategic measures and reflects our contribution to the global sustainable development agenda,” he says.

Five years ago, Keurig set its own environmental 2020 targets to focus on issues such as reducing emissions and responsible sourcing.

“As we looked at the impact we could make by 2020, and how we would get there, we developed our goals through the lens of the United Nations’ SDGs, says Stéphane Glorieux, president, Keurig Canada. “The goals we set for ourselves reflect our commitment to actively contribute to the achievement of those global goals and a desire to push ourselves to leave the world better than we found it.” 

He says progress toward the 2020 targets has been achieved at a faster-than-anticipated pace by maintaining focus, which has in turn benefited the business and the company’s environmental footprint.  

One of the important Canadian contributions to the achievement of Keurig’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 per cent by 2016 was the conversion to a ‘green fleet’ in the Van Houtte Coffee Services business unit. The company also met its 2020 water stewardship target three years ahead of schedule. 

“As an organization, we’re committed to being good water stewards in coffee communities, in our operations and in our local communities,” says Mr. Glorieux. “Through our partnerships – including with the Nature Conservancy – we’ve improved the quality and availability of more than 1.6 million gallons of water in North America.

“We’re also a proud supporter of the AquaHacking Challenge, that each year, engages with rising gen hackers, engineers and marketers from various universities to create multi-disciplinary teams and develop clean-tech engineering, web and mobile solutions to water issues affecting the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin. The expected results are functional, marketable and demand-driven solutions that have a real and measurable impact in solving water issues.”

As an example of business leadership, Keurig also notes its commitment to engage one million people in its supply chain to improve their livelihoods.

“We’ve helped farming families through a number of initiatives that resulted in sustainable farming practices, new sources of income and access to clean water,” adds Mr. Glorieux. 

In 2015, Nutrien joined world leaders to participate in the launch of the SDGs, says Candace Laing, VP, Sustainability & Stakeholder Relations.

“Our company is well positioned to meaningfully contribute to many of the goals – most notably Goal 2: Zero Hunger – through sustainable agricultural practices and innovative solutions.”

Ms. Laing says the growing population and limited natural resources make it imperative to use and manage resources such as land, air and water sustainably. “We need to grow more on our current land while being mindful of environmental impacts.”

Nutrien helps growers sustainably intensify production by improving soil health through nutrient applications and use, precision agriculture services, and water quality and quantity monitoring. “The goal is to measure and monitor crop inputs and nutrients, resulting in less waste and potential runoff while improving crop yield,” says Ms. Laing.


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Tanya Camp