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article imageHammond Lecture in Ontario focuses on sustainable development Special

By Bob Gordon     Mar 27, 2010 in Environment
Guelph - On the evening of Friday, March 26, 2010 Dr. Blair W. Feltmate delivered the Kenneth Hammond Lecture (2009/10) on “Environment, Energy and Resources” at War Memorial Hall at the University of Guelph.
Dr. Feltmate, is the Professor and Director of Sustainability Practice, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED), Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo. He moved to the University of Waterloo from the position of Director of Sustainable Development, Ontario Power Generation. Prior to that he was the Vice President of Sustainable Development, Bank of Montreal. He is also Chair of the Sustainable Energy Program, Canadian Electricity Association and a Board member, Canada's Expert Delegation on ISO 26000
His presentation was entitled, “Bringing Industry Sectors On-Board to Sustainable Development (SD): A Case Study of the Canadian Electricity Association”
The lecture series is named after Kenneth Hammond CEO of Hammond Manufacturing, a former member of the Board of Governors University of Guelph who was committed to human dimensions of the economy and the environment.
Dr Feltman began by asserting, “the take home message has three key points:”
“Sustainable Development [SD], properly applied, is good business.”
“It is the business case, and only the business case, that will make the case for SD.”
“This message must be reinforced with boards of directors and senior management over and over again.”
Dr Feltmate did not spend time defining SD He simply stated that no definition has improved on that presented by the United Nations (UN) in The Brundtland Report in 1987, SD “is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In presentations to industry associations and corporations he said that he emphasizes SD will “minimize [environmental] footprint while offering social benefits and economic value added”
He also noted that a new “international directive or guideline on SD” introducing “tangible, measurable, verifiable metrics” will be unveiled in six months.
He acknowledged that there is “one reason and one reason only that corporations embrace SD: to have an effect on the bottom line, and share price and shareholder value.” He added “When a large market player commits to sustainable development others follow suit.... When Home Depot got religion about SD, other companies, particularly their suppliers came on board pretty quickly.”
Home Depot only adopted SD when their sale of lumber products led to a public outcry, boycotts and threats to the bottom line. Adopting SD improved their public image and, ultimately, their bottom line. In other words, he concluded, responsible environmental stewardship is good for the bottom line and that is the message that he presents to industry associations and corporations.
In a similar sense, he added, a company that offers community and social benefits such as community outreach that “puts a face on the company”, work/family life balance programs such as flexible work hours, “a diverse workforce and diversity training”, and First Nations outreach improves its public image, its sales and, ultimately, its bottom line and shareholder value. He described the ultimate economic benefits of SD as the 'sdEffect'.
He then advanced into his case study, the Canadian Electricity Association, and the evolution of the “Environmental Commitment and Responsibility Program”. A program that was revolutionary in 1997 but stale by 2007. He made a presentation to them in which he argued, “It's good business, we're already doing a lot of it and we're falling behind,” he argued.
The result, “Sustainable Electricity: Its in Our Power” initiated in 2008. The keys were an influential Public Advisory Panel with high profile and informed members and an organization-wide and powerful Sustainable Electricity Executive Council.
In terms of practice and performance a Sustainable Development Index (SDI), like the indexes that track value in a mutual fund, that quantify the sdEffect and allow it to be tracked over time. “Is the line sloping up or is the line sloping down? Ideally the line is sloping up.”
Summarizing his presentation he concluded that “SD is a long-term trend, not a fad” and “the economic argument must be emphasized and reemphasized” to boards of directors and executives.
The symposium continues tomorrow at the Guelph City Hall in the Council Chambers.
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