A Message from Chad Park, Executive Director:

The past year has been one of intense development for The Natural Step Canada. 2014 was the second year of a five year strategic plan focused on shifting our approach from working mostly one organization at a time, to multi-organizational collaborative interventions aimed at catalyzing profound change in larger systems.

The centrepiece of this focus is the Sustainability Transition Lab (STL), which blends our backcasting approach and experience enabling sustainability-driven change within organizations, with best and emerging practice in multi-stakeholder change processes. We’ve spent the last couple of years developing the STL program and methodology, and 2014 was when we really began to put it into practice. The first full-fledged STL project was the Housing Action Lab in Toronto, a partnership with Evergreen Cityworks, and about 30 other organizations in Toronto to address the complex, interconnected issues of affordability and sustainability of the housing system in the GTA. The Housing Action Lab has generated outstanding collaboration and notable momentum and promises to have a real impact on the system. It has also been a fertile learning ground for the ongoing development of the STL.

Towards the end of the year we started two new STL projects; the Energy Futures Lab focused on the energy system in Alberta, and the Natural Capital Lab which aims to change how Canadians understand the amazing resources we too often take for granted. Both of these new projects incorporate many of our lessons learned to date in evolved program designs. They each involve an array of uncommon collaborators – with the Ivey Foundation, TD, CPA Canada and Sustainable Prosperity working together on the Natural Capital Lab and the Suncor Energy Foundation, Pembina Institute and Banff Centre collaborating with us on the Energy Futures Lab. This year will see Phase III of the Housing Action Lab, focused on the implementation of collaborative initiatives, while the Energy Futures Lab and Natural Capital Lab both ramp up their activities significantly in pursuit of breakthrough results.  Our other major collaborative initiative, the Future Fit Business Benchmark, will reach important new milestones in 2015 as well.

At the same time we’re continuing to offer our Learning Programs and Youth sustainability leadership programs, and are shifting to a model where they are mostly delivered through partnerships, whether with professional associations, higher education institutions, or youth-focused partners. The Natural Step Associates are continuing to deliver advisory services to support organizations in the development and implementation of sustainability strategies, and the associates network will be expanded in 2015.

We also convened two landmark gatherings over the past year, demonstrating our commitment to collaboration in this space. In June we had our second annual Accelerate Conference in Toronto, with a focus on developing the skills involved in working together towards solutions to our most pressing sustainability challenges. Then in September we convened a smaller gathering of sustainability changemakers from across the country in Wakefield, Quebec to spend 3 days learning from each other and exploring opportunities for further collaboration.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter, and the whole TNS team looks forward to connecting with you in our efforts to accelerate the transition to a sustainable society.


Chad discusses his article 3 myth-busting sustainability strategies on episode 1 of the Transitions podcast.

  • Why isn’t sustainability a process?
  • Isn’t sustainability about reducing our negative impacts?
  • What is wrong with the idea that “Sustainability is about balancing social, environmental, and economic priorities”?

Download the entire podcast interview here.