Clean50 “Activism”

By: Gavin Pitchford

The Clean50 Approach to Activism

The Clean50 is not a charity and thus has no restrictions on what “activism” activities the organization might undertake. It does, however, act more like a co-op – meaning that different members will have various perspectives – and differing capacity to publicly support activism or not.

The power of the Clean50 to draw attention to a specific issue comes not from the single voice of the Clean50 – but from the shared individual voices of its members. Consequently, open letters urging action are signed by individual members of the Clean50 – collectively identified as “the following members of the Clean50″…

We believe the vast range of organizations and individuals found in the Clean50 makes it incredibly unique – in that so many different voices can be heard on a given issue before the organization moves to act.

It’s also important to note that the number of members of the Clean50 in 2014, when we did our first open letter was about 170, including multiple team members sometimes coming from a single organization. Of those at least 25 were members of various organizations unable to take a public stance on any issue. So when 100+ members signed up to pay ~300 each to add their names to an open letter, that represented about two thirds of the people then Clean50 members.

Clean50 Public Letter History

When Clean50 members responded to their nominations to qualify for a Clean50 award, one of the questions we asked at the time explained that, from time to time, members of the Clean50 would take public positions on policy, and that individual members could then sign on to public asks, or not, and that those that did would have their names included on a public letter, identified as “We, the following members of the Clean50 (and our organizations when referenced) as listed below, call upon”… Followed by whatever ask of the day.

And then we asked all nominees if they would consider signing on to such an initiative.   

Literally every individual person on our Clean50 list since 2012 has responded positively, although obviously some with the caveat that it would depend on the content, and others noted that, as members of the civil service, they would never be able to include their organization’s name.

The CleanReset: April 22, 2020

Our most recent public letter was issued on April 22, 2020, a mere 5 weeks after the shut down, and was the first in Canada to ask that the Federal post-Covid-recovery plan be a “Clean Reset”. 

Work began on March 10th, before the lockdown was even in effect. Over the next month, over 100 members of the Clean50 contributed ideas, vision, their own extraordinary expertise, research, and eventually their editing and translation skills, to create a remarkable document that was the first vision of what a post-recovery economy could look like. We called for a “Clean Reset” – the first organization to use the “reset” word that later became common, although less in favour today.

The CleanReset document laid out areas of specific focus, including some rationales, and was then signed by ~217 members of the Clean50, and about 185 of their employers. 

Another 35 organizations joined our “ask”, and the Green Party of Canada made it their official policy. 

You can see that #CleanReset letter here:

In support of those asks, we also hosted four expert panels to discuss various elements of the asks in significant detail Our Clean50 YouTube channel hosts those podcasts here

Various members of the Clean50 took the CleanReset letter to virtually every Federal MP. Other organizations soon followed suit, with other similar “green reset” asks that virtually echoed the Clean50 policy asks, and in the end, we got just about everything we asked for. 

Our Ask of All Canadians: Make Climate THE Election Issue (April 22, 2019)

In 2019 we asked all Canadians to identify climate as the single most important issue in the 2019 election that was looming. ~100 Clean50 members signed the letter, most including their companies, and contributed, on average, $250-300 towards the $27,500 cost of running a full page advert in the Globe and Mail that ran on Earth Day.

That letter itself became news: It was picked up as a story by CP (Canadian Press) by Mia Rabson that ran in EVERY SINGLE ENGLISH LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER in CANADA! Over 250 of them – except, ironically, the one we paid to be in: the Globe and Mail. Read it here:

Previous Letters

Previous letters have been equally successful at essentially giving various governments permission / cover to do what they wanted to do anyway.  (carbon pricing, for example)

Ahead of COP 21, in November 2015, 100 members of the Clean50 paid for a full page advert in the Globe and Mail to ask for serious commitments from the government to advancing action on climate change. Canada helped lead the way in Paris a few weeks later.

In November 2014, 100 members of the Clean50 paid for an advertisement to ask the Federal and provincial governments of the day to create a price on carbon. About 5 weeks later, the Liberal government of Ontario, led by Kathleen Wynne announced that either a cap and trade, or straight carbon tax would be implemented in Ontario as soon as consultations were complete. They did so, leading to massive investments and $6 Billion in planned investments in the province – all lost when Ford cancelled the cap and trade.