Lisa Fox executive director Sustainability Resources Ltd.

What is Sustainability Resources Ltd.

We are a not-for-profit company that is focused on building a capacity for decision makers in Alberta to implement sustainability so from resource management to sustainable community planning to corporate sustainability. We are basically the professional and educational resource that decision makers can tap into either for education and learning or for program assistance or for actual consulting in policy community planning stakeholder engagement on issues related to things like water sustainability water conservation watershed management long-term water security options etc. We also advise corporations on sustainability planning in regards to provincial policy and local policies around environment and natural resources.

How and when did it start?

Originally we put this company together back in 2007 with a small board advisory committee. The very first initiative that we tackled was the Pathways 2 Sustainability (P2S) conference in Cochrane. It takes about a year to plan a Pathways conference and we work with the municipal government and the community to pull together… and assess the gaps in achieving a sustainability vision and we design the conference around that vision. That was one of the first projects that we did with the company. We incorporated Sustainability Resources in 2009 as a not-for-profit right at the same time we launched the Pathways conference in Cochrane. So it’s one of our pillar events.

Was there something in particular that led to the formation of this not-for-profit?

To be frank I used to be the environmental co-ordinator for the Town of Cochrane and in my work I was involved with water stewardship groups I was involved with community sustainability action group and I did a lot of work at the municipal level to design programs such as water conservation initiatives etc. I realized that municipalities across Alberta really don’t have the capacity to design and implement programs related to water management and sustainable community planning. Knowing that when I left the Town of Cochrane it was a natural evolution to design an organization that would be able to provide those types of services to all communities in Alberta. Sustainability Resources was created as a not-for-profit so that we could actually design and help communities fund these programs and initiatives to advance sustainability.

You held one of those P2S conferences last year in Calgary?

Yes we did. That was our third conference. Our second conference was in 2011 in Red Deer and then we came to Calgary for the 2013 conference.

I would imagine that each community is different in terms of what they need.

Yes. One of the basic philosophies of our organization is that the community has the answers we just have to convene the community together to have them sort of identify the solutions the objectives and the goals of a Pathways conference. So really the conference is designed by the community for the community. It’s also funded by the community and the content is crowd-sourced by the community. It’s a really unique initiative in that we’re really the convener and the facilitator of these events but the communities own the conferences and they own the outcomes of the conference. Going back to 2009 in Cochrane each one of our conferences has really mobilized the capacity of the local community to pack up and build momentum and carry the initiatives forward. That’s the goal when we start the planning process is to really work with the 20 to 30 volunteers to build the relationships strengthen their understanding of how to move forward to create those linkages between the key community partners and build courage in leadership by presenting innovative examples of implementing sustainability.

You had over 400 people attend your event in Calgary last year.

It was very successful. Over the three days we had 400 people so we had about 350 in a room at one time and we had over 400 registrants for the three days.

Who came — what type of people?

Really diverse attendance — and this is I would say the most spectacular pieces of this conference and we hear it over and over again from those that attend…. We have folks that are working in corporate sustainability at the industry level community development at the grassroots level — I mean folks like the YMCA and finance groups. ImagineCALGARY was one of our biggest partners so we had a really big group of folks from the Calgary region who are invested in sustainability. But at the same time we had folks from Walmart and Enmax and Suncor and Encana and Enbridge. So you’ve got a real diverse mixture of folks coming together with a similar need to drive sustainability forward in Calgary but they all come from a diverse interest base.

I’m curious how Walmart would have a need to address sustainability in Calgary.

We had a presentation from one of the lead transportation directors from Walmart and they are keen to present how Walmart is contributing to the sustainability of major cities. So they showcased their green supply management plan for their big outfit here in Balzac. And it was you know — the conversations aren’t always easy and they don’t always go smooth because we do encourage a lot of interaction from the room so folks are challenged on specific aspects of sustainability but what these events really do is they give you an opportunity to look at sustainability from all different perspectives. There’s a big rift in Alberta in understanding sustainability so we have industry working with oil and gas and resource development and we have the green folk or environmental groups that are opposed to oil and gas and so we’ve got this sort of mixed identity in Alberta about what sustainability means to us. Our Pathways conferences really provide that sort of nexus in the conversation where folks can really understand that we’re not on two sides of the fence that we are working together for a common goal — it just uses a little bit of a different language perhaps.

So what is the next step for Calgary?

Because of the success of the Pathways Calgary this last May we have struck up a legacy committee so we’ve got a steering committee that just had its first meeting this month and we’re designing a series of roundtable events so this is continuing the dialogue amongst folks in different pillars of sustainability in Calgary along the lines of the imagineCALGARY focus. The built environment is going to be showcased on January 24 — we have Tanya Doran from the Canada Green Building Council Rollin Stanley the chief planner from the City of Calgary as well as a couple of other professionals that are working in the industry as our roundtable hosts. We typically get 30 to 45 folks out for these roundtable events…. We hope to have five or six roundtable events throughout this year. It’s up to the steering committee but we may be hosting a capstone event to… tie all of these issues together so we can see what that pathway to sustainability looks like for Calgary going forward.

You mentioned imagineCALGARY. Is part of this trying to make the ideas from that citizen engagement process become reality?

I think the imagineCALGARY process — 114 recommendations to achieve the vision for sustainability in Calgary — the process of defining the vision for sustainability with imagineCALGARY was a spectacular award-winning process with very very robust engagement with the citizens of Calgary on what they wanted their city to look like. ImagineCALGARY really is the touchstone for the work that we do with Pathways and I would say that our role really is to mobilize and build momentum for that pathway to sustainability that imagineCALGARY has already mapped out. Some of the outcomes from our roundtable events will be suggested by folks in those roundtables and those will be published and perhaps we might have the capacity as an organization to help sort of seed fund or provide some professional resources to help those initiatives go forward as well. So it’s not just talking about sustainability; it is about mobilizing and building momentum for it to move forward.

For details on the Greening the Built Environment roundtable go to meetup.com/Pathways-2-Sustainability-Calgary/.