Canada’s Sustainability Heroes: the Clean 50

Earlier this month, Delta Management announced the inaugural Clean 50, a group of committed individuals who have made significant contributions to sustainability or “clean capitalism” in Canada in recent years.  These 50, either individually or, often, as leaders of a team, have been unrelenting advocates for sustainability in their organizations, their sectors, and their communities, collectively elevating the level of dialogue in Canada around environmental and social performance and innovation.  This group of talented and inspiring leaders epitomizes the drive and dedication that characterizes the sustainability field in Canada today.  And so it was with enthusiasm and excitement that I took part in the Clean 50 Summit held this week in Toronto.

The Clean 50 Summit gets underway

The Summit brought together as many of the 50 as possible, the Clean 50 Advisory Board (of which I was a member), delegates of Clean 50 honourees who could not themselves attend, and a small number of other sustainability practitioners and advocates.  Indeed, it was from the idea of bringing sustainability thought-leaders together for collaborative and creative problem-solving that the Clean 50 initiative was born.

The Clean 50 were drawn from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, which facilitated cross-pollination of ideas and the creation of new networks during the Summit. Throughout the day, participants brainstormed, filtered, debated, and refined ideas for business, government, and individuals to advance sustainability in Canada in the next three years. Ease of implementation was mapped against degree of impact, and the ideas with the greatest traction among participants were highlighted through a “dotmocracy” process.  Flipchart sheets about rethinking the business mission, increasing collaboration, and shifting regulation away from prescription bloomed with colour, as participants added their votes to ideas that resonated and held promise. Encouragingly, some participants also added their names as a commitment to take ideas back to their organizations or to share expertise with others.

Reflecting on the day, a common and recurring theme emerged in conversation: the need to move from ideas to action.  I heard this again at the Evergreen Brick Works Forum on sustainable cities the following day.  “Now what?”  “So what?”

There is great appetite among sustainability leaders in Canada to move beyond talk, to move forward.  Without implementation, the greatest ideas are only so much flipchart paper and Post-it® notes.  As Clean 50 honouree Antony Marcil (a self-declared “doer of the undoable”) observed during the Summit, as we evaluated the difficulty inherent in implementing many of the ideas, those of us with experience and capacity in sustainability must step up and take on the hard work.

I’m game.  I am personally committed to work with Delta Management and the Clean 50 group – honourees and advisors alike – to leverage our new and strengthened relationships and collective expertise to translate ideas to action.  Outcomes of the Summit will be shared on the Clean 50 website, and I’ll provide updates here on work I’m involved in.  In the meantime, I welcome feedback and ideas; use the Comments feature on this site or get in touch with me directly.


Read profiles of the Clean 50 here.

Learn about the Clean 50 initiative, process, and advisory board here.

Read about the Evergreen Brick Works Forum here.

Connect with Delta Management here.

Clean 50 logo used with permission.

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