Climate Action: The Next Generation – Part 5 of 6

By: Gavin Pitchford

This week we are recognizing 8 more Emerging Leaders across Canada who are working towards creating a sustainable future!

Every year the Clean50 recognizes 20 Emerging Leaders, honouring individuals 35 or under (at the time of their accomplishments) who are driving sustainability in Canada and globally. This year, we’ve received more than 45 strong nominations for our Emerging Leader award – far more than we can recognize in a single year!

As nominees, these individuals are eligible for both the main Clean50 list and an Emerging Leader award, but given the sheer volume of nominees we’ve received this year, we can’t guarantee they’ll win either award. So we’ve decided to run a spotlight on each of our Emerging Leader nominees over the course of six weeks, to give recognition to all of our inspiring young leaders even if we can’t award them, and provide some good news in difficult times.

This is the fifth of six part series, and we’re spotlighting our next eight nominees: Kelly O’Neil to Claire Seaborn!

Kelly O’Neil

Kelly O’Neil (34) – Laurentian Bank – Edmonton, AB

ESG factors are an integral part of Laurentian Bank’s new strategic plan. In her new role as AVP, ESG & Sustainability, Kelly is responsible for ensuring that ESG factors are taken into consideration across Laurentian Bank’s activities. Kelly led Laurentian’s first annual ESG report and TCFD disclosures. She is responsible for leading the ESG strategy, engaging employees around ESG issues and opportunities, and improving availability of climate data, such as analysis of lending related carbon emissions. Under Kelly’s leadership, Laurentian Bank became the first bank in Canada to announce that it would no longer finance exploration, production or development in the fossil fuel industry.

Prior to joining Laurentian Bank, Kelly was also a key member of the team behind TD’s Climate Action Plan and commitment to Net-Zero announced in 2020.

Allison Penner

Allison Penner (25) – Reimagine Agriculture – Toronto, ON

Worldwide agricultural practices provide only 18% of calories yet use 50% of land for farming, with ~42% of that land used for animal-husbandry. To mitigate the effects of livestock cultivation, Allison is working on cellular agriculture as an alternative way to provide meat without the environmental impacts of reduced habitat, biodiversity loss, and increased carbon emissions. She recognized that 79% of food loss occurs before the consumer level and is addressing this by targeting food waste at the legislative level. The development of Project Food Fight in 2021 involves law schools of the University of Ottawa and the University of Windsor to conduct extensive research on current legislation to provide solutions where regulations will lead to the elimination of food waste.

Brian Putre

Brian Putre (33) – Evenergi Software Consulting Ltd. – Toronto, ON

Brian works with clients across various industries to implement strategies that reduce GHG emissions. He advised the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and assisted them in developing their $1.5 billion zero-emission bus financing initiative. This has accelerated the adoption of approximately 4,000 zero-emission buses nationwide. His work further supported CIB in investing $68M towards ~100 battery-electric buses and infrastructure in the Durham Region Transit system. Additionally, Brian is leading the Transportation Master Plans for communities across Canada, including St. Thomas, Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and Iqaluit, Nunavut, by implementing strategies that mitigate congestion and carbon emissions, and encourage walking, cycling, and public transit.

Nathan Renaud

Nathan Renaud (31) – Green Economy Canada – Waterloo, ON

Nathan has led the development and implementation of a cost-effective in-house carbon accounting solution called the Impact Tracking Tool (ITT). This system reports on almost 50 GHG inventories, which represent over 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The ITT identifies trends to help Canadian enterprises target areas of high emission releases. It encourages companies to use mitigation strategies by setting science-based targets; it inspires organizations to discuss measuring Scope 3 emissions and prompts them to align with international standards. Nathan is working on engaging businesses to increase their accessibility, quality, and education regarding GHG measurements.

Christian Rinomato

Christian Rinomato (30) – Rinomato Group of Companies – Vaughan, ON

Christian is working on sustainable development standards to be used to increase the resiliency of community buildings. He has partnered with Enbridge’s “Savings by Design” to design a subdivision that will feature homes that incorporate specific air tightness ratings below 2, include increased amounts of insulation, energy-efficient windows, Energy Star appliances,  and tankless water heater to achieve high energy efficiency in new homes. These features go 20% beyond the standard Ontario Building Code (OBC). In addition, Christian led the Country Home’s Discovery Home focusing on using renewable energy in residents to achieve net-zero emissions meanwhile withstanding Ontario’s climate fluctuations.

Jeff Robertson

Jeff Robertson (35) – Bimbo Canada – Toronto, ON

A staggering 26% of global emissions come from the food we eat. Working through the influence of others at Canada’s largest bakery company, Jeff has led a small team in identifying and catalyzing sustainability projects in 16 plants from coast to coast. As one example, Jeff developed business cases and gained executive buy-in for a nationwide change to compostable and recyclable packaging clips on over 530 million units, keeping 200 tonnes of plastic out of landfill annually. In total, Jeff’s team has supported over 70 completed projects across Canada in the last 18 months, avoiding 191,000 kg of food waste per year, and preventing the annual use of 112 million litres of water, 425,000 m3 of natural gas, and 4.5 million kWh of electricity.

Palash Sanyal

Palash Sanyal – Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan – Saskatoon, SK

To address the global issue of water security, Palash is working on developing platforms that have open communication between water scientists and policymakers. He partnered with Ceres and co-wrote the Valuing Water Global Assessment project, which informs investors of water risks associated with unsustainable corporate practices. His collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan’s Government Relations office and Office of the Chief Scientists has developed an event called Water Day on the Hill, which has brought together 23 water scientists from 14 institutions across Canada as well as 24 MPs to bring attention to water security issues.

Claire Seaborn

Claire Seaborn – Natural Resources Canada – Ottawa, ON

At the forefront of executing green infrastructure initiatives across Canada as Chief of Staff to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, amongst other things, Claire led a $2.75 billion Zero-Emission Transit Fund, which incentivized communities to purchase 5,000 zero-emission public transit and school buses. An additional $1.5 billion will go towards this fund and purchase over 3,000 zero-emission school buses throughout Quebec, BC, and PEI, and over 1,000 public transit buses in cities within Edmonton, Brampton, Halifax, Ottawa, and Toronto. A $200 million Natural Infrastructure Fund was reserved to support municipal and Indigenous-led projects to protect biodiversity and expand native areas throughout Canada. Including supporting Toronto’s Ravine Strategy, Saskatoon’s Green Strategy, Vancouver’s Rain City Strategy, and Halifax’s Green Network Plan.