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Ontario Champions Gather in Markham

In early January 2009, decision makers and sustainability champions convened in Markham, Ontario to hear Whistler, BC Mayor Ken Melamed share his lessons learned on the road to community sustainability and discuss Whistler’s plans to host the most sustainable Olympics in history.

Using The Natural Step Framework, Whistler created an award-winning integrated community sustainability plan, Whistler2020. The planning process engaged citizens in creating a vision for the community and identified the individual steps that would be needed to move Whistler towards its vision. Whistler expects to realistically wean itself off fossil fuels by 2060, increase food safety through more local and sustainable purchasing, and continue to provide adequate affordable housing for its citizens, among many other initiatives.

Corporate Knights Sustainable Cities Rankings

With our global economy in crisis, increasing food shortages in the developing world and reports of unprecedented ecosystem decline around the planet, it’s easy to feel disillusioned with the state of world. However, when we look closer to home there are indications that change is afoot.

Corporate Knights, an independent Canadian-based media company, conducts annual sustainability assessments of small, medium and large cities across the country. They choose indicators to measure the socio-ecological and economic wellbeing of cities by using publically available data and sending surveys out to municipal staff.

This year, in an effort to improve their rankings, they invited The Natural Step Canada (TNS) to participate on an advisory committee. As lead advisor, TNS researched how Corporate Knights could apply systems thinking and backcasting to help define success and strategically inform their indicator selection.

Sustainability and Economic Crisis

Albert Einstein once said, we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. The current global economic crisis is a perfect example of the need for a new way of thinking.

We can’t look at the global economic crisis without also looking at the challenges of the climate crisis, water scarcity, food shortages and extreme poverty. We need to step back and look at the whole system, realize that all these problems are in fact interconnected and that we can’t address our economic concerns in isolation from our social and environmental concerns. These crises are all symptoms of a larger global system that is out of balance. The need for sustainable development has never been greater.

Building Toward Sustainability, Literally

The Landmark Group of Builders is a residential construction company further comprised of seven individual companies with offices in Edmonton, Red Deer, and Calgary. In the fall of 2008, in collaboration with The Natural Step, Landmark embarked on a journey to identify their key sustainability challenges, key innovation goals to overcome those challenges, and to develop a road map for embedding sustainability into their business. TNS advisor Sarah Brooks commends Landmark for “taking a long term perspective in their strategic planning for sustainability.” She points out that by “benchmarking progress from full sustainability rather than compliance regulations, [The Landmark Group] are taking an approach that is rigorous enough to answer the question “how will we know when we’ve arrived there [at sustainability]?””

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