Adding an economic sustainability lens to the way local business and public agencies do business

News 100 greenBy Nicole Ramberg

December 4th, 2020



Environmental, social and economic sustainability are integral components in a thriving society; it is important to recognize local examples that highlight social and economic sustainability.

Each year at Sustainable Hamilton Burlington’s Annual Evening of Recognition the Business Sustainability Awards are announced recognizing businesses that best exemplify what it means to be sustainable.

Conservation Halton sign - angle

Winner of the 2019 Social Initiative Award

Conservation Halton was the winner of the Social Initiative Award for 2019 for their impactful project carried out, which was a prime example of how social sustainability plays a role in society.

Sustainable Hamilton Burlington (SHB) is a non-profit social enterprise, whose purpose is empowering businesses to act, innovate and participate in creating a more sustainable future. Sustainable Hamilton Burlington was originally launched by Sandi Stride and a Founding Board of Directors in 2011.

Sandi Stride

Sandi Stride, founder of Sustainable Burlington Hamilton.

Prior to forming the organization, Sandi got her undergraduate degree in physical geography and went on to work in the environmental field, followed by several years in advertising, marketing and sustainability consulting. In this time, she noticed a disconnect between business operations and sustainability. “After a pretty short time, I realized if we didn’t get businesses on board, we’re not going to make progress with the environment”, said Sandi. In taking a look at Hamilton – her focus at the time – Sandi thought that by promoting sustainability within the area’s businesses, positive impacts could be made with respect to the city’s social, economic and environmental progress as well as its brand image.

After considerable planning, networking and creation of the volunteer Board of Directors, Sustainable Hamilton was incorporated in 2010, and officially launched in June of 2011. By 2015, they realized they were getting many inquiries from Burlington, so they rebranded and expanded their area. Over time, the organization (and the services it offers to members) has evolved, adding the internationally recognized B-Lab assessment, target setting on greenhouse gas emissions, a carbon accounting tool, a waste framework and other programs provides evolved into Sustainable Hamilton Burlington as we know it today.

Recently, the membership-based Sustainability Leadership Program (SLP) was launched by SHB as a way of bringing together all of the resources, frameworks and services they have developed, into a step-by-step series for businesses to progress through. The SLP guides its members into getting started in sustainability by helping them to quantify their operations into a single, comparable metric (greenhouse gas emissions), to have a broader understanding of the sustainability of their organization, and how they interact with their community. Ultimately, the SLP is designed to lead organizations to the point where thinking sustainability is part of the lens applied to everything they do empowering them to become leaders within their community and industry.

The Evening of Recognition is an event put on annually by SHB to recognize member achievements in the past calendar year. This past year, Conservation Halton received the Social Initiative Award for 2019, which recognizes a program, product, service or process that demonstrates outstanding innovation and impact on social sustainability. “Conservation Halton took the initiative to look beyond the traditional bottom line,” says Rafiq Dhanji, SHB Executive Director. “By engaging with the community, they showed us that simple actions can have a huge positive impact not only on society, but the economy and environment as well.”

Conservation Halton became a member of what is now the Sustainability Leadership Program in 2019, to support them in calculating and tracking greenhouse gas emissions, ultimately aiming to reduce such emissions to net zero. In doing so, they have been able to gain a better understanding of their corporate emissions, as well as benefit from the variety of SHB educational opportunities and events, like the Sustainable Business Conference and Expo.

The award presented to Conservation Halton by SHB was in recognition of their initiative that had a positive impact on the Burlington area, where they were able to turn an invasive insect problem into a positive outcome.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a non-native insect from China and was accidentally introduced here as a result of improperly treated packaging material. There are no known natural predators of the insect here, which has allowed their population size to increase dramatically. Most species of North American Ash trees are vulnerable to this insect, and 90% of Ash trees in southwestern Ontario have been destroyed as a result. Adult beetles feed on the leaves, while the larvae feed on the inner bark, rendering the trees unable to function as usual.

The Emerald Ash bore has destroyed millions of trees and done serious damage to the tree canopy in Burlington. The Conservation Authority had to remove hundreds of trees from its properties.

Unfortunately, a number of ash trees on Conservation Halton properties have had to be removed as a result of EAB infestations. While dealing with the invasive species has been a challenge, they have been able to put a positive spin on the issue. A mutual contact of Notre Dame High School and Conservation Halton made the link between the woodworking class and the fact that Conservation Halton had extra lumber. The logs were delivered to the high school which allowed students to see first-hand the damage invasive species can do, as well as a chance to consider careers in urban forestry. The students were able to make live edge tables which were used in a fundraiser to support various school programs. The trees did have to be removed but the wood that was not badly damaged was put to good use and thus having a significant social impact on the Burlington community.

Sustainable Hamilton Burlington and Conservation Halton are two examples of organizations that share a common goal of working towards a more sustainable future. Through collaboration, education, and collective effort, we can all contribute to working towards that future.

Related news story:

Looking at sustainability differently

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