Where are they now? – Tom Ewart

By: Tom Ewart

We love seeing the growth of our past winners and want to share their sustainability journeys with you! In the following weeks, we will be following up with our past winners in our new “Where Are They Now” segment.

Tom Ewart

Q: Can you describe your current position and company?

A: I am currently Senior Manager of Sustainability at Co-operators Group. My team and I help the organization realize its vision of being a catalyst for a sustainable society.

Q: How are you contributing to reaching Canada’s climate change and emission goals?

A: We doubled-down on our climate commitment earlier this year—setting net-zero goals across both our operations (by 2040) and our investment portfolio (by 2050 at the latest), along with interim targets. Notably, we also set a new goal to significantly increase the positive externalities that we generate alongside financial returns through our investment portfolio. Specifically, by 2026, half of our invested assets will be in either impact investments or investments that support the transition to a sustainable, resilient, low-emissions society. This will increase to 60% by 2030. We believe it’s important for organizations to consider not only what negative impacts they wish to cease, but also the positive contributions they wish to increase.

Q: How has being recognized early on in your journey as a Clean50 emerging leader affected your journey?

A: The Clean50 community is deeply committed and powerfully catalytic. Being part of it has boosted my knowledge, broadened my network, and bolstered my authority as a change agent.

Q: Any upcoming exciting news that you would like to feature? What’s next?

A: I think a lot is going to change after COP26 this November. Policies are hardening, capital is mobilizing, and I believe society is increasingly receptive to structural change. The marathon of sprints has already begun for some, and I think we should all be ready to join in the coming months. 

Q: Do you have any advice for young adults starting their sustainability careers?

A: I think some insight can be drawn by reflecting on how corporate climate action has evolved since I was recognized as a Clean50 Emerging Leader in 2015.

While Co-operators has long been an active public policy advocate for climate action, at that time our official carbon reduction targets focused on our own operations with limited inclusion of scope 3 emissions sources. Now, our operational emissions inventory includes a broad range of scope 3 sources, including very notably our investment portfolio, as I mentioned above.

One of the insights one might draw from this evolution is that climate action has proliferated across functions within organizations. This has big implications for sustainability professionals as we have needed to adapt our competencies (more systems thinking and collaboration, for example) and tactics (more engagement and dialogue) to meet this opportunity. The good news is that doing can significantly increase impact. I think many young adults have been educated and trained in these concepts—certainly more than I was when I entered the field in the early 2000s.

Another implication for young adults who are passionate about sustainability and starting their careers is that they can have significant impact in non-sustainability roles—as accountants, salespeople, procurement experts, HR professionals, etc. There are many more of these jobs than there are sustainability roles. While such roles may not be top of the list for the people reading this, the positive impact that can be achieved through them should not be underestimated.