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Welcome to the CSAE Blog

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Associations are perfectly positioned to help their members – and Canadian society – transition to a sustainable future

Associations are perfectly positioned to help their members – and Canadian society – transition to a sustainable future

Associations that represent the interests of their professional and business members recognize more than anyone that global trends create risks and opportunities for their members. Climate change. Indigenous reconciliation. Income inequality. Emerging technologies. Changing demographics. These trends and current issues will drive changes in regulation, customer expectations, investor and banker demand, and employee and society aspirations. Associations that address these issues will help their members succeed, improve their future competitiveness, foster innovation, attract and retain talent, and build the brand, trust and reputation of those they represent. They will increase member engagement and enhance the value proposition for the employees and members they seek to attract.

Canada boasts many associations leading on these issues, while others struggle to keep up and keep ahead of regulator and stakeholder expectations. Best practices and guidelines exist to help Canadian associations get up to speed quickly on these risks and opportunities. One new tool is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). These are a set of universal global goals for sustainable development approved by all the countries in the world in 2015. Since their adoption, governments, businesses, industry and civil society have been leveraging them to prioritize social, economic and environmental initiatives to put society on a sustainable path by 2030 — the timeline of the goals. They are a universal tool which associations can use to develop relevant approaches to sustainability and future-proof their members and sectors.

Following are some examples of associations stepping up to move Canada to a more sustainable future:

Providing sustainability training

Canadian Institute of Planners

The Canadian Institute of Planners equips its members with sustainability competencies and capacities through training opportunities and professional tools. In the past two years, the Institute has aligned its policy priorities with the SDGs, which has resulted in new policies and collaborations with international partners. According to Beth McMahon, chief executive officer, the Institute was driven to do so by recognizing the issues that their members are facing in their work to plan and develop more sustainable cities and communities.

Supporting sustainability at the community level

Canadian Federation of Library Associations

The Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA) recently used the SDGs to guide its current strategic priorities. Katherine McColgan, executive director of the Federation, believes the SDGs are a useful framework for her members because it helps libraries to better articulate their role in supporting sustainable development and to demonstrate to the federal government how integrated libraries are in the social economy and in building stronger communities.

Promoting socio-economic stability through sustainability

Fisheries Council of Canada (FCC)

The FCC’s new president, Paul Lansbergen, has also prioritized sustainability. Lansbergen believes that the issue of sustainability in Canada’s fisheries sector has evolved from a challenging past to becoming a point of pride. The Council is a strong proponent for the sector’s performance and its dedication to continuous improvement.  At the same time, the Council is a focal point on federal policy related to sustainability and Canada’s commitments to the SDGs.  “Fisheries is a complex resource and sustainability is paramount for the sector.  We, collectively, have to ensure fisheries management decision-making is founded on science if we want to maintain and enhance the socio-economic benefits we generate from the resource,” says Lansbergen.  He continues, “It is as much about government scientific assessment and policy decisions as it is about industry execution.  We either all succeed or we all fail.  FCC aims to facilitate success.”  Mobilizing on sustainability and the SDGs is a cornerstone to this success.

These issues and more will be addressed by the CSAE Conference in Vancouver in October. Join this session to learn about the accelerating societal trends and association strategies to address them; gain practical advice on steps you can take to help your members address social, environmental and economic trends that will affect them in the future; and get up to speed quickly on how associations are tackling societal issues affecting the economy and labour force of the future. With these insights you will be able to accelerate your response to these issues and opportunities within your membership in 2020 and beyond.


About the author

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Coro Strandberg is a leading sustainability and corporate social responsibility advisor to governments, business and industry associations. She has over 30 years experience leading and advising organizations on strategies to scale sustainable solutions in the marketplace. Her experience includes 20 years as a board director, and 6 years on the board of an industry association. In 2015 she was recognized as the top CSR consultant in Canada by Canada's Clean50.


Coro and four other association leaders will be exploring the topic further during their panel discussion “Decoding Sustainability and Social Responsibility Programs: Trends and Best Practices” at the CSAE 2019 Conference in Vancouver this fall. Read more here: https://pheedloop.com/csae2019/site/sessions/?event=csae2019§ion=11433&id=oyrWUD

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