Fostering Sustainable ESG Practices | Event Recap

Published: 1 May 2024

April 30, 2024 | A large part of implementing good public policy is understanding the effects on various sectors. With a focus on fostering dialogue and collaboration, this event on environmental, social, and governance measures explored effective strategies, identified challenges, and highlighted opportunities for enhancing sustainability efforts across industries. The event brought together prominent leaders from academia, private industry, and the public sector to discuss and exchange insights on developing and implementing robust sustainability practices within organizations. Dr Olivia Smith, McConnell Visiting Scholar, convened the event; director Chris Ragan gave welcoming remarks; and Neil Bouwer, visiting professor of practice, moderated the panel.

Professor Brian Leung, Director, McGill STRI and UNESCO Chair for Dialogues on Sustainability, emphasized the importance of addressing key environmental challenges such as climate change, invasive species, pollution, and over-exploitation. He highlighted the significance of international agreements on climate change and the recent commitment to preserve 30% of land and water.  

Ms. Delia Cristea, Partner/General Counsel, Power Sustainable Capital Investments Inc., provided insights from the perspective of the private sector and emphasized the role of investors in driving sustainability initiatives. She highlighted the tension between short-term profit motives and long-term sustainability goals, emphasizing the importance of investing in climate solutions and zero-net consumption projects.  

Mr. Craig Ryan, Recently Retired Director of Sustainability at BDC, shed light on the evolution of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices in the investment landscape. He discussed the growing interest in ESG investments over the past decade and the potential for ESG to mitigate harm caused by businesses. Ryan also introduced the concept of B-corporations (Beneficial Corporations) and their role in promoting societal value creation as an explicit legal purpose for companies.  

Xavier Arbour, Interim Director of Sustainability, ESG Strategy, and Accountability, CAI Inc., highlighted the shift from traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices to integrated sustainability initiatives within the private sector. He emphasized that sustainability should not be viewed as a separate endeavor but rather integrated into the core operations of companies. Arbour emphasized the importance of companies acting sustainably as part of their identity and operational strategy. 

The event delved into key themes essential for advancing sustainability practices across sectors. Participants explored the evolution of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices and the challenges of integrating them into investment decisions. Moreover, speakers emphasized the critical need for a long-term perspective on sustainability, balancing financial profitability with broader societal impacts. Collaboration emerged as a cornerstone, with stakeholders stressing the importance of public-private sector cooperation to drive meaningful change. Engaging diverse stakeholders, including investors, employees, and customers, was deemed crucial for successful sustainability initiatives. Furthermore, the vital role of policy and regulation in incentivizing sustainable practices was underscored, with a call for coherent and supportive frameworks to facilitate collective efforts towards a more sustainable future. The event was followed by a networking session for graduate students. 


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