The EAC began in 1971. One of our first projects was paper recycling. We bought a little cube van and picked up newspapers. Today, recycling is big business. The Canadian Association of Recycling Industries estimates that 34,000 people are directly employed in recycling. The moral of the story is that if you want tomorrow's business ideas, check out what environmental groups are doing today.
Another early project of ours, which continues today, is that of selling Christmas trees grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This is both a fundraiser and an awareness raiser. Currently, we partner with Christmas tree grower Kevin Veinotte of Lunenburg County and sell approximately 450 trees each December.
In 2005, the Ecology Action Centre, along with other environmental groups, initiated the Colin Stewart Forest Forum. To quote from a provincial report from several years ago:
The Colin Stewart Forest Forum is a protected areas planning process initiated by leading...ENGOs...and the four largest forestry companies operating in Nova Scotia. It formed to resolve conflict among ENGOs and the forestry industry over the future of Nova Scotia’s remaining wilderness....
The industry was looking for more certainty around wood supply and the environmental groups for more certainty around land protection. It worked.
We also partner with the private sector to promote marine conservation and, in particular, better fishing practices. We are a member of SeaChoice, a Canada-wide program that helps businesses and consumers make choices to support the health of marine ecosystems. SeaChoice works closely with seafood suppliers, retailers, and restaurateurs across Canada to help them and consumers purchase sustainably caught seafood.
We also helped launch the Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery. You may have heard of community supported agriculture, or CSA. This is the same thing, but it's for fish, not vegetables. Off the Hook works to connect a co-operative of small-scale bottom-hook-and-line groundfish fishermen from the Bay of Fundy with consumers in Halifax.
Not surprisingly, the Ecology Action Centre is active on mitigating and adapting to the impact of a changing climate and a warming world. In this regard, we have partnered with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and individual insurance companies such as Intact Insurance.
The industry of course has extensive and detailed data on climate impact. To quote from an article in the Financial Post from November 2011:
“What is causing it [climate change] is not our area of expertise but we agree the climate is changing,” says Michael Tremblay, director of research with the Insurance Bureau, which says severe-storm-related water damage now comprises 44% of claims compared to just 22% in 1992.
The insurance industry has a saying: water is the new fire.
The private sector is often the funder of environmental work. The TD friends of the environment program and RBC's blue water project come to mind.
At the Ecology Action Centre, many of our supporters are small to mid-sized businesses. We have 10 companies that are sustainability allies, and they range from a real estate company to a pizzeria, to a landscaper, to a brewery. We are also a member of One Percent for the Planet.
There are other examples, which I have omitted in the interest of time. Following are a few observations, and again, they are by no means inclusive.
The first observation is that we are neither a cheerleader for nor a detractor of the private sector; perhaps “agnostic” is the right word. As described, we work closely with the private sector. Certain segments of the private sector are showing increased leadership on environmental matters. At the same time, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to address and remedy the actions of the private sector, actions that are harming or threatening the environment.
EAC's engagement and partnership with the private sector are increasing, likely due partly to a growth in the capacity and the maturity of our organization, but I think it's also a reflection of external independent factors, a few in particular.
First, the private sector is simply showing more leadership on environmental matters, both because it is good for business and because business people are people and they get that it is the right thing to do.
Second, the private sector is showing more leadership because government isn't. There is a vacuum, and the private sector, along with NGOs and individuals, is trying to fill it.
Third, progress is achieved through the private sector, government, and citizens working together. As a parent, I don't expect government to leave child safety to the discretion of the private sector, nor would I expect protection of the environment to be left up to the private sector alone. The growth of the renewable energy industry is a great example of how the government and the private sector can work together globally. The power of the markets, certain policies of the government, and the application of technology are a powerful combination.
Fourth and last, the debate is often framed in terms of a private remedy versus a state or public remedy. Increasingly we are seeing the integration of market and social goals in the form of social enterprises. A social enterprise is defined as a business created to further a social purpose in a financially sustainable manner.
Thank you. I look forward to taking any of your questions.