Sustainability Advantage | 2020 Canadian SDG Accelerators Awards Profile

Sustainability Advantage

Industry: Sustainability Education / Consulting


Category: SME

Applicable SDG: SDG 13: Climate Action

Applicable Targets:

  • Target 13.1. Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
  • Target 13.2. Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
  • Target 13.3. Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

Please explain why the selected SDG is a priority for your company

The Purpose of Sustainability Advantage (SA) is: To ensure future generations have the opportunity for at least the quality of life that Bob has enjoyed. Because SA is a sole proprietorship, this purpose is personal. Bob is the 11th generation of Willard’s in North America. His purpose is to ensure the next 11 generations have the opportunity to enjoy as good, or better, quality of life in Mother Nature’s nest on our finite planet. Climate change could sabotage that purpose.

SA’s Vision is: A sustainable world, in which people and businesses flourish within nature’s limits.

This relates to the nested interdependencies model of sustainability: business is nested in society, which is nested in the environment. John Ehrenfeld uses “flourishing” as an uplifting synonym for sustainable living. A sustainable world is defined by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a sustainable business is defined by questions the science-based Future-Fit Business Benchmark and the B Corp Business Impact Assessment (BIA). The biggest threat to SA’s vision is climate change.

SA’s Mission is: To provide resources to sustainability champions to help accelerate our sustainability journey, before it is too late. We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel and recreate tools for our sustainability champion toolkit. Sustainability Advantage “provides resources to accelerate our journey.” Sustainability Advantage’s tools help companies assess how they are contributing to, or inhibiting, those sustainability goals and help them justify improving their performance, especially on addressing climate change. The free and open-source tools are designed to give sustainability champions the competence and confidence to urgently pursue our quest for a sustainable society nested in a sustainable environment with a stabilized climate.

Climate change is an existential threat to humankind. If we don’t halt climate destabilization, the other SDGs won’t matter. Therefore, SDG 13 is the most aligned with SA’s Purpose, Vision and Mission. SA’s top priority is to help private- and public-sector organizations mitigate climate change risks, reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change impacts so that they can capture related opportunities.

Please describe the initiatives/programs that your company is taking to address the TARGETS of your primary SDG

All of SA’s tools and resources are open-source and freely available worldwide. They help achieve targets for SDG 13 in all companies in all countries.

  • Sustainability ROI Workbook: The CFO-friendly Excel workbook frames a cost-benefit analysis to justify investing in climate change-related projects. In particular, it can be used to frame the business case to justify the disclosures and actions recommended by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), as recommended in its guidance documents.
  • 3-in-1 Sustainability Assessment Toolkit: This SME-friendly Excel workbook helps any organization self-assess its contributions to all SDGs and can be used to support prioritizing action on SDG 13. It uses an SDG Ambition-like approach: scores on science-based goals for core ESG issues are proxy scores for company contributions to primary SDGs.
  • 7 Bold Strokes to Save Our World: This white paper (attached) acknowledges that the global climate change crisis is an existential threat to human civilization and uses the SDGs to frame several of the recommended bold strokes for both countries and companies. SA plans, below, are based on two of the bold strokes.
  • Executive briefing on climate change: In 2019, SA worked with CPA Canada to prepare climate change briefings for boards and C-suite executives to spur action on SDG 13. Bob uses that briefing material in the ESG (environment, society, governance) module that he does for the Director’s College, for which the CPA Canada “Climate Change Briefing: Questions For Directors To Ask” document is the prereading.
  • Durham Region Roundtable on Climate Change (DRRCC): Bob served as a citizen representative on the DRRCC for its first five years. He helped ensure that Durham Region used science-based IPCC guidance in its climate change mitigation goals and adaptation efforts. This experience helped shape his strategies and tools for engaging the pubic sector in climate change mitigation and adaption actions.
  • Talks and presentations: Bob does 50-100 presentations every year on the business relevance of sustainability. In 2020, he is on track to do 70 talks in conferences and higher education classes all over the world. He always references two sources to support attention to climate change as the most pressing sustainability issue: the WEF Global Risks report, which has climate change as the most dangerous risk to economies, and the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which reinforces that bankers and investors are pressuring companies to be more transparent and proactive about their climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

13.x: In addition, Sustainability Advantage has a climate action target of zero Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions by 2022, without offsets. SA achieved that target by 2019, with offsets.

Please highlight the key impacts and results of the mentioned initiatives

Thousands of sustainability champions have downloaded the above tools and / or attended one of Bob’s talks. His reach is global. His credibility is reinforced by his six books and his Masters and PhD in sustainability’s relevance to companies. He always uses climate change as the lightning rod for corporate attention to ESG. Sustainability Advantage is a global force for sustainability, especially for climate action (SDG 13).

Please describe how your company is building awareness for the selected SDG

(See above)

Please outline the plans your organization has for being committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in response to COVID-19

SA is working on two of the seven bold strokes outlined in the attached “7 Bold Strokes to Save Our World” white paper.

  • Replace the GDP with an SDG-based GPI for governments.
  • Implement SDG-based sustainable procurement

Here are SA’s short- and long-term plans for them.

Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) Project

Combine SDG environmental and social metrics with the usual GDP (Gross Domestic Product) economic metrics to produce a GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator) akin to Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index and the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Countries are already committed to tracking their progress on the 17 SDGs and their associated 169 targets and 232 indicators. They do Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at High-level Political Forums (HLPFs), so they already have the necessary environmental and social data to incorporate into their GPIs. Launching national SDG-based GPIs signals that environmental and social wellbeing matter, and that all governments are determined to meet the SDG goals by 2030.

Short term plan (1-3 years)

  • Help set up a WEAll Canada Hub: SA belongs to the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). WEAll is a collaboration of organizations, alliances, movements and individuals working towards a wellbeing economy that delivers human and ecological wellbeing. It is affiliated with Wellbeing Economy Govenments (WEGo), which is a collaboration of national and regional governments promoting and sharing expertise and transferrable policy practices. SA’s SDG-based white paper, “7 Bold Strokes to Save Our World,” attached, is being used by WEAll as the basis for policy recommendations that would apply is any jurisdiction. WEAll has regional hubs. This fall, SA participated in the establishment of a WEAll Can Hub and is encouraging its mission to include implementation of a GPI in Canada.
  • Pilot a GPI in Canada: Partner with WEAll Can, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Vital Signs, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) and others to pilot a GPI in at least three Canadian municipalities and two Canadian provinces. Help these provinces and municipalities use their SDG data to build their GPIs.

Medium-term plan (3-5 years)

  • Make the GPI the new wellbeing metric in Canada: Building on the above pilot, help all Canadian provinces, territories and municipalities adopt the GPI to track and report on their progress toward a wellbeing society and economy.
  • Help the Canadian federal government adopt the GPI as its wellbeing metric: Help Canada use the SDG data in the Statistics Canada SDG Data Hub to build a robust GPI for Canada, and regularly report on progress toward a wellbeing economy and society. This would send a strong signal to all sectors that SDG metrics matter.

Long-term plan (5-7 years)

  • Help all countries adopt a GPI: Building on our experience in Canada, and with the help of the UN GC, help all jurisdictions in all UN member countries adopt a GPI to track and report on their progress toward a wellbeing society and economy.

Sustainable Procurement (SP) Project

Sustainable procurement (SP) enables a buyer to obtain the most sustainable products and services from the most sustainable suppliers. While several resources exist to help buyers implement a sustainable procurement system and assess the sustainability attributes of products and services, there is a need for a user-friendly way for suppliers to assess and disclose how sustainable they are ‒ that is, how they are contributing to the SDGS. So, sustainable procurement engages businesses in the attainment of the SDGs because they receive preferential treatment from their buyers / customers when they contribute more to SDGs / sustainability than other bidders. Sustainable procurement is a huge untapped market force that can legitimize the SDGs / sustainability performance as a business metric.

Short-term plan (1-3 years)

  • Pilot a supplier self-assessment tool in Canada: Partner with ECPAR and SupplyShift to pilot a Supplier Sustainability Self-Assessment (3S) Service for ECPAR’s members. Over 98% of companies in Canada are SMEs with less than 100 employees, without staff or expertise to do a complicated sustainability self-assessment. The 3S Service will include an SME-friendly, cloud-based 3S application that enables a supplier to use less than 50 questions to self-assess its overall sustainability and degree of contribution to all the SDGs. Buyers will receive supplier’s scores on the SDGs. The pilot will include buyers from the public and private sector and SME suppliers in various sectors. The design and questions in the online 3S application will be based on SA’s free, open-source, Excel-based “3-in-1 Sustainability Assessment Toolkit.”
  • Make the supplier self-assessment application available as a SupplyShift cloud-based offering: Large buyers may prefer to provide this service directly to their suppliers and tailor it to their needs.
  • Implement this supplier assessment offering in sustainable procurement leaders in Canada: The ECPAR 2020 Barometer identifies the public- and private-sector sustainable procurement leaders in Canada. Help at least five of them implement the suppler sustainability self-assessment approach with their suppliers, as a supplier pre-qualification disclosure requirement and / or as a bid-appraisal criterion worth at least 10% weight.

Medium-term plan (3-5 years)

  • Help governments and corporations in Canada implement an SP system that favors sustainable suppliers: Implement a sustainable procurement (SP) system in Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), in at least half of the provinces and territories, in at least half of FCM member municipalities and at least ten corporate UN GC member corporations in Canada. Ensure they allocate at least 10% weight to the supplier sustainability criteria in bid appraisals
  • Pilot using the supplier assessment tool for other purposes: The supplier sustainability self-assessment application may become the de facto sustainability assessment tool for SMEs, akin to the B Corp Quick Impact Assessment (QIA) tool a few years ago. Suppliers are companies. Any company can use the tool and use its findings as input to an integrated management information system, in disclosures to potential impact investors, or as data in their integrated reports ‒ see SA’s 2019 Annual Integrated Report as an example of what that might look like.

Long-term plan (5-7 years)

  • Implement sustainable procurement in the public sector, globally: Public procurement spending is equivalent to about 12% of GDP in OECD countries. That is a significant market force. Governments at all levels in all jurisdictions can use sustainable public procurement to partner with vendors / suppliers to build a just and resilient economy by achieving their Agenda 2030 global goals.
  • Sustainable procurement in other sectors: Sustainable procurement has already been implemented in the private sector, especially by large corporations. Years ago, Wal-Mart and P&G pioneered a supplier sustainability / “citizenship” qualification for their suppliers. It enabled them to give preferential treatment to their most sustainable suppliers. As this momentum builds, suppliers will continuously measure, manage and improve their sustainability performance because it matters to their customers.

Sustainability procurement is a lynchpin project: it creates a scalable company sustainability self-assessment tool that can be implemented by any-size companies in any sector, anywhere. It could trigger both buyer and supplier leadership to help achieve a just and resilient wellbeing economy as defined by the SDGs, in time.