It can be difficult to nail down what sustainability really means, especially in a diverse and changing city like Hamilton. Sustainability is a much broader notion than being environmentally and economically conscious, it is about taking inherent values and putting them into practice. A transition to sustainability appears to require a substantial leap; however, the “sustainable train” is already in motion; we just need to travel on the sustainable track. Adopting a sustainable approach to our lives will shape the future in Hamilton and around the world, but where do we start?
I recently met with Sandi Stride, the President/CEO and Founder of Sustainable Hamilton. Sandi explained that in order to transition to a sustainable landscape we need visionary leaders who understand that a new approach is necessary. Generation Y seeks out businesses that embrace corporate responsibility and sustainability, which means the transition to sustainable business will soon become the norm. Sustainability guru Paul Hawken states: “Civilization needs a new operating system. You are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.” Sustainable Hamilton is helping local businesses develop this new operating system and work towards a sustainable future.
Sandi suggests that instead of businesses focusing on the “traditional” bottom-line, which is the economy, businesses must consider a triple bottom-line: the economy, the environment, and social equity. Sustainable Hamilton helps businesses understand the inter-relatedness of sustainability and how they can move towards this change. By addressing social and environmental obligations, economic profits subsequently follow. Considering the triple-bottom line can lead to “sustainable prosperity” in every aspect of the business.
Sustainable Hamilton help to drive sustainable innovation by offering an “outsider perspective” and develop a new lens for the business. The process of assessing a business and keeping tabs on progress is a tangible motivator for change. In addition, having third party recognition dictates that a business is indeed having a positive impact on the community. Communicating what your business is doing and identifying as a sustainable business is important for continued progress. For example, proudly displaying the Sustainable Hamilton logo on the storefront can provide a sense of achievement and attract sustainability minded consumers --- a win-win.
Although we can imagine a sustainable city, we will not fully know what a sustainable city looks like until we get there. I asked Sandi to describe what a sustainable Hamilton would look like in her opinion. A prominent theme came out of her answer to this question: resiliency. According to Sandi, a sustainable Hamilton is a forward looking city that considers all aspects of society. A sustainable Hamilton is a city with a diverse, prosperous, and resilient economy that offers a high quality, and quantity of jobs. Despite the mention of a growing and healthy economy, Sandi also placed emphasis on understanding the greenspace we have in Hamilton and realizing how precious our natural resources are. Hamilton has so much potential to become a resilient city and Sustainable Hamilton is helping carve the path.
There are many events held by Sustainable Hamilton that help inform individuals and encourage measurable change. The workshops and forums offered by sustainable Hamilton are very specific and shed light on identifiable changes. For example, on March 19th, you can learn about moving towards zero waste at McMaster Innovation Park. In mid-October, you can check out the “Sustainable Supply Chain Management Learning Forum,” which explains how to expand sustainability throughout the business framework. If you just want to get involved, Sustainable Hamilton is glad to accept volunteers who are excited about sustainability in our city. You can learn more about events, objectives, and the Sustainable Hamilton team here.