Clean50 Summit 12.0 – October 6th, 2022 – Toronto Canada

By: Gavin Pitchford

Typical for a Clean50 Summit, October 6th in Toronto bloomed sunny, and at exactly the right temperature to take advantage of the Globe and Mail Conference Centre’s expansive outdoor terrace.   But that would be later.  First there was work to do! 

48 of the 2023 individual Clean50 award winners and several of their team members, 19 of 20 Emerging Leaders, and all 5 Lifetime Achievement Award honourees were joined by 22 past winners and members of the Clean50, ~20 Top Project Award winners, and a few special guests for a day of intense work dedicated to solving “wicked problems” connected to the environment and climate change.

The day started at 7:30 AM for facilitators – 20 Clean50 award winners from this or past years, and who volunteered to take special training to prepare them for leading one or more of the 33 table discussions that took place over the course of the day. 

By 9:00 AM other participants began to arrive, and spent the next hour consuming coffee, networking,  deciding which Top Project to vote for later, and picking the last session of the day.

At 10:15, Delta Management Group CEO  and Clean50 Founder & Executive Director, Gavin Pitchford, called the gathering to order, shortly thereafter followed by a thoughtful and thought provoking address from Wataynikaneyap Power CEO, Margaret Kenequanash, who thanked the Creator for the earth and our day, and shared advice on how participants might best tackle reconciliation. 

HP Canada has now funded the return of Clean50 Alumni to the Summit every year there’s been Alumni – Frances Edmonds of HP welcomed alumni, and took a moment to explain the critical importance of adopting “sustainable procurement” best practices.    And then we were off and running!

Our first two series of 11 discussions, were each centred around a critical question, to be answered by 12 people.  In all, those 22 tables tackled 13 different problems (1 question tackled by 3 different groups, 7 questions were tackled by two completely different groups, and the last 5 tackled by just one table) seeking answers to the questions listed below:

  1. How do we best advance the practice of sustainable procurement
  2. What are the most critical things to address to help us get to a 75% Circular economy  (3 sessions)
  3. What are the best things organizations who are doing “the right things” can do, to best engage consumers and eliminate “green-washers”
  4. How do we best adjust /fix  “ESG” metrics to go beyond risk disclosure and make ratings be more meaningful with respect to true climate responsibility
  5. What policy initiatives would best accelerate the CAD clean tech industry and adoption of Canadian cleantech?
  6. What are the best things we could do to accelerate the decarbonization of our grid
  7. What are the most effective / impactful  practices  for an organization to do, to build a meaningful plan to get to “net zero”
  8. What are the most impactful next step policies for governments to introduce to advance GHG reduction / ensure we hit targets 
  1. What are the best practices to truly embed sustainability and ESG metrics across the organization
  2. What are the most critical steps municipalities can take to accelerate making their communities net zero sooner
  3. What policies could best accelerate a shift to ZET (Zero Emissions Transportation)
  4. What policies could best accelerate a shift to green buildings / building efficiency
  5. How do we best use nature based solutions to drive climate solutions

The make-up of each table for the first two sessions is carefully curated to provide every participant a chance to connect with other individuals the organizer, executive search firm  Delta Management believes would be the most likely to lead to future opportunities for collaboration. 

As a participant, after finishing with your first problem, you would then join an entirely different group, and focus on a completely different problem.  In that way each participant was provided the opportunity to work with / learn from and introduce themselves to as many different people as possible. 

A third discussion closed out the hard part of the working day – Through a ranked ballot system, participants started with 20 options on the wall, and through ranked ballots eliminated 9 of the topics, settling on 11, and then participating in one last discussion, this time on a subject of their own choosing. 

Between sessions one and two, participants enjoyed a tasty vegan lunch from McEwans Catering, while Top Project awards were handed out, and then listening to 5 of the leading Top Project award winners present a ;pitch as to why they should be voted Top Project of-the-Year.

At the end of the workday, before collecting tickets for refreshments, all participants voted on their choice for Top Project, and then headed outside to enjoy wine and beer overlooking downtown and the harbour, and for the iconic Clen50 group photo shots, as the sun sank lower.

Over dinner, the individual awards were handed out, and then a few folks were surprised to pick up a little extra hardware, as the winners of the Clean50 Special Awards were also announced.

The HP Clean50 Award for Leadership in Sustainable Procurement, and the TELUS Award for Community Service both went to Brianne Miller of net-zero grocer Nada , who was also a finalist for the Quadreal Award for Best Net-Zero Plan, but that instead went to Canada Post represented by President and CEO Doug Ettinger, and the Resolute Forest Products Award for the Clean50 GHG Reduction Champion went to Bell Canada.

Finally, the voting totals revealed that the Clean50 Top Project of the Year Award went to “HalifACT – a Coastal City’s Climate Plan”, executed by Halifax Regional Municipality and led by Shannon Miedema. 

“Talk Climate to Me” from Project Neutral, led by Katie Harper, and “Protecting Boreal Wildlands” completed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, led by Catherine Grenier rounded out the top three of the Top Projects.

Whether they won an extra unexpected award or not, most participants went out of their way to express a heart-felt thanks for the value they took from the day. 

For many, the Clean50 Summit is one of the best days of their professional year – the day they don’t need to explain to anyone why they do what they do – and the day where they can get re-energized from the other remarkable participants. And this year, amidst so many gatherings-gone-virtual, the Clean50 Summit for the third time delivered a safe, in-person gathering during a pandemic. 

Clean50 Analysts, recent MES grads Matt Pogue and Constantina Chronis Marks, are now combining a few hours a day of looking for their first full time permanent role in sustainability, whilst simultaneously analysing and synthesizing all the ideas captured from each discussion, and our plan is to see what we can publish in the way of findings, recommendations, and best practices, answering the questions above.  Check back in a few weeks for those!