2024 Hub for Sustainability Integration Conference: Empowering businesses to harness innovation for a cleaner future

Friday, April 5, 2024
Catherine Mckenna and Vivek Goel

By Rachel Doherty

The Inaugural Hub for Sustainability Integration Conference took place on March 21st at the Delta Hotel in Toronto. The day was filled with informative presentations and panel discussions from some of the country’s most knowledgeable sustainability integration and climate advocates. 

The conference was hosted by The Hub for Sustainability Integration, a joint venture between the Faculty of Environment and the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo. 

Attendees engaged with thoughtful programming and a dynamic and captivating final keynote given by the Honourable Catherine McKenna, former Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada. McKenna was introduced by Dr. Vivek Goel, University of Waterloo president and vice-chancellor, who shared the University’s plans for innovation and a more sustainable future.

Goel remarked that Waterloo has been “an unconventional university from the start,” largely because of its unique cooperative education structure and stand-alone accounting department, also emphasizing its role as one of the first universities to establish a Faculty of Environment. 

McKenna’s presentation “We Can Win the Future," highlighted the importance of reducing global emissions by 2030 and becoming net zero by 2050. The plan is comprised of 10 steps and includes setting interim targets, phasing out fossil fuels, creating transition plans and being transparent throughout the process. 

Elder Henry

“If we are going to tackle climate change, we better deal with the science and the facts,” urged McKenna to conference attendees, consisting of industry professionals and academics. 

Throughout the conference, the significance of Indigenous Peoples' traditional practices was underscored as a key theme aimed at fostering a greater reverence for our planet. Recognizing and embracing their expertise and knowledge sharing allows integration for a more holistic, balanced and sustainable way of life for all. 

Myeengun Henry, Indigenous knowledge keeper and member of the Indigenous Advisory Circle at Waterloo, opened the conference with inspiring words about respecting our land’s precious resources, using only what we need and preserving the planet for future generations. 

Geordie Hungerford at podium

Geordie Hungerford, chief executive officer of the First Nations Financial Management Board also shared sentiments about the importance of businesses consulting and opening their doors to Indigenous People at all levels, asserting that “companies are taking on some material risk if they are not engaging with Indigenous Peoples.” 

There were many informative and inspiring sessions throughout the conference, notably a keynote address from Barbara Zvan, CEO and president of University Pension Plan (UPP) and a session presented by Dr. Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. 

Barbara Zvan

Zvan’s perspective from the investor side focused on risk mitigation in investment portfolios to ensure clients can retire comfortably. This underscores the importance of managing climate risks within all investment portfolios. Zvan’s call to action is for Canada to improve its current climate policies i to attract funding and maintain competitiveness in the market. 

Feltmate delivered impactful insights on recent extreme weather events, illustrating the escalating social and financial toll of climate change. Further emphasized was the critical need for businesses, investors, communities and households to recognize and address their vulnerabilities to physical climate risks.

Additionally, Feltmate highlighted the significance of Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), urging comprehensive participation from government, businesses and industries to implement its recommendations effectively 

To read more about The Hub for Sustainability Integration’s mission to build a brighter, cleaner future, visit the Hub for Sustainability Integration website.