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May 2012    

Welcome to the May edition of CEGN’s Issues and Updates.

This issue features the remarks delivered by Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation at CEGN’s conference dinner on May 23rd.

Read on for news and updates and please keep us posted (pegi_dover@cegn.org) on program news and staff changes from your own organization so that we can include these in future issues.

Please click on the following links to jump down to the appropriate section:

Conference Spotlight

Remarks to CEGN’s The Times They are a’ Changin’ Conference by Stephen Huddart, President and CEO, The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation

When Bob Dylan wrote The Times They are a’ Changin’ in 1963, it was a rallying call for a generation. There was a shared and growing sense that we were entering a period of broad cultural adjustment on an intergenerational scale. A lot has changed since, but the song’s message still resonates. In the words of economist Robert Theobald, things are changing for the better and better, and getting worse and worse, faster and faster.

Let’s begin with the big picture.

‘The Times They are a Changing’ is a reminder that we’re living through, and trying to influence for the better, a fundamental shift in humanity’s place on Earth. It is as though, having displaced the old gods, we’re now in charge, and our task is nothing less than to create a new operating system for the planet – one that solves not only our environmental issues, but our social and economic challenges too. Mon Dieu!

Many days it seems like a Promethean task – impossibly large, and unfathomably complex. On others, we can see a new world taking shape around us – witness the proliferation of bicycle paths, community gardens, and outlets for electric vehicles. The signs are visible everywhere - people shifting behaviour, companies actually competing to improve their rankings on environmental and social performance, and governments beginning, at least in some cases, to make the long term investments and policy changes needed to transition to sustainability.

But we know that whatever we are doing is not enough. Scientists tell us that atmospheric carbon is now at 390 ppm and accelerating, leaving no doubt that if our time to us is worth saving, we need broader commitment, renewed vision, and smarter strategies to enable this generation to contribute to what James Gustave Speth has called ‘the crossing from crisis to sustainability’.

Here in Canada, as our conference speakers reminded us today, we’re witnessing a tectonic shift in the relationship among citizens, governments, the private sector, academics and the media. Leaders in every sector recognize that our problems are of a scale and complexity that no one can solve on their own.

To illustrate, let me share a quote with you and ask you to consider where it originated.

“As much as we’d all like to see it, there’s simply no such thing as an impact-free, guilt-free, universally affordable energy source that meets all needs in all conditions for all time… That’s why the energy conversation is critical; the decisions we make today will affect our quality of life for generations to come… We believe this conversation needs the constructive participation of all interested parties, whether its […] ENGOs, industry, First Nations, special interest groups, governments, academics, educators or ordinary citizens. We all need to take accountability for creating a quality discussion.”

The quote is from a newsletter sponsored by Suncor. Corporate Knights magazine has recognized this company as a world leader in Aboriginal community relations. The McConnell Family Foundation has been working in partnership with Suncor Foundation, the Assembly of First Nations, ITK and the federal government, on a feasibility project for an Aboriginal youth development project. By doing so, we are not endorsing the company’s commitment to developing the tar sands, but we recognize that as organizations with shared interests in the environment and social development, we can achieve more by working together. Suncor Foundation and several other corporate funders are active and welcome members of CEGN and offer strength, diversity and legitimacy to our work.

Private sector leadership and capacity are essential to the work before us. Among corporate leaders, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is evolving into ‘sharing value’ which refers to deeper engagement with community organizations. This is generating new opportunities for us to collaborate and learn.

An example we all know is the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, the product of foundation, ENGO and industry collaboration. Once implemented and with governments and First Nations on side, it will be the largest conservation agreement in the world. And lest anyone forget, it was preceded by the protection of the Great Bear Rainforest, in which Tides Foundation Canada played a pivotal role in bringing about an historic agreement among US and Canadian foundations, ENGO’s, provincial and federal governments, First Nations and forest companies.

Market transformation in the public interest is an increasingly important part of our work, and one in need of additional attention and resources. We are looking forward to working with the Ivey Foundation and others this fall to convene interested funders and practitioners on this topic.

Working effectively with the private and public sectors on large scale change takes time and special skills. The second presentation of the Waterloo Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation, which begins this fall, is currently recruiting students from all three sectors, to work on clean energy, food systems, and urban sustainability.

We should also highlight the philanthropic sector’s emerging capacity to attract and apply new financial resources to the work of building a just and sustainable economy. Equiterre’s new Maison du developpement durable, the first LEED Platinum office building in Quebec, was built with a combination of public, private and foundation resources, including a loan guarantee from McConnell that enabled a credit union to lend at below market rates. Foundations are now in the remarkable position of being able to work both as grantmakers and impact investors. The field of social finance or impact investing is in its infancy but will grow exponentially as investors realize that low risk and attractive financial returns are achievable at the same time as social and environmental goals are addressed. One early example, the Green Chip Fund, is represented at this conference. At the Centre for Impact Investing at MaRS, McConnell, Rockefeller and other partners, including the TSX, will soon launch the SVX, an exchange running on the TSX trading platform that will raise capital for blended value investments. Environmental impact bonds, green building funds, and funds focussed on renewable power, and sectors like food and health will increasingly become the way that we get things done.

It was just a few short years ago that many of us thought that the world was on the verge of making a meaningful difference on climate change. An Inconvenient Truth had worked its way into public consciousness and ‘the environment’ began polling as the number one issue of concern to Canadians. Today Pembina struggles to keep its Ottawa office open, and climate is nowhere on the federal government’s agenda.

To return to Mr. Dylan for a moment:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall.

At a time when the capacity to innovate is critical, governments are finding it harder to take risks, for fear of failure and public censure. Furthermore, the effect of budgetary constraints and layoffs is reducing their capacity to generate policy or effectively manage complex files. At the political level, we seem to be increasingly vulnerable to short-term or fear-based decision making that effectively ignores scientific evidence, and the need to think and plan long term. By what rationale is the government proposing to invest in a new generation of fighter jets and prisons, while laying off half of Environment Canada’s staff?

Handing any party that wins 35% of the votes in an election the powers of an absolute majority distorts the will and intent of voters.

Governance innovation is thus an area that should concern our movement. The winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics, Elinor Ostrom, was recognized for her pioneering work on ‘polycentric governance systems’ that take effective account of the natural environment and economic interests at multiple levels of scale. Among her ‘eight design principles for managing common pool resources’ there is a focus on participatory economic decision making that engages citizens in co-determining their future, with a specific focus on the long term.

This morning we saw how Quebec’s Action Fund for Sustainable Development takes a polycentric approach to supporting and connecting work being done at the local, regional and provincial levels, in concert with citizen and expert-led councils, private enterprises, and governments. And let us note that Quebec’s per capita GHG emissions are 50% of the Canadian average, and that the province expects to meet Kyoto targets for further reductions by 2020.

It is impossible to speak about these issues in this country at this time, and not mention the Harper government. To give credit where credit is due, Canada under Harper is making laudable progress on land conservation and toxics. And I appreciate that many in the Conservative party deplore some of the recent inflammatory statements made about organizations in this room.

The government’s attack on environmental organizations is regrettable on several levels. First, it displaces the quality discussion that Suncor’s newsletter referred to with the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that we have come to regret during Question Period. Second, it casts a chill right across the voluntary sector. Organizations are now fearful of speaking up on issues of public import lest they be audited. Busy and talented people will be thinking twice about volunteering for organizations that might get sidelined by partisan attack.

We need to remember that this is the sector that has successfully stood up for unpopular causes for decades – in advocating against smoking, in standing up for people with AIDS, for the poor and the rights of women, against racism, and so on. In the end, ill-informed and vicious attacks on the voluntary sector diminish us all.

As Marcel Lauzière of Imagine Canada noted this afternoon, what is happening to some organizations in the environmental sector today could happen to any sector tomorrow. If there is a positive outcome to the current crisis, it is that this campaign has brought sector leaders together, and they have communicated and collaborated effectively. For Imagine Canada, Community Foundations of Canada, Philanthropic Foundations of Canada and the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network this may be the ‘teachable moment’ when they recognize that it is time to reorganize to better anticipate, avoid and if necessary win this type of skirmish.

Is it time that we availed ourselves of new capacity to speak to government and Canadians? What would it mean to have a Chief Economist at Imagine, to articulate the economic impact of our work? Could CEGN use a Chief Scientist? I leave these questions to the boards of these organizations, but closer collaboration would clearly increase their capacity to lead at a time when it is critical to do so.

It is also important to consider those whom we stand with. Looking around the room this evening, it is clear that we still have work to do to reflect Canada’s cultural diversity. But we are a movement, and over half of the environmental organizations in this country are local. They connect us to the grassroots, and are a potent force for change.

Social innovation thrives on association with the vulnerable and the excluded. Environmentalists are sometimes accused of preferring trees over people, but today we are learning that reconciling our relationship with Inuit, First Nations and Metis is central to any consideration of a sustainable future. Who, after all, lives on much of the land that we seek to protect? Given the accelerated rush to develop Canada’s mineral resources, there is a compelling need to strengthen Aboriginal communities’ capacity to negotiate effective participation agreements. This CEGN conference marks the first time to my knowledge that Aboriginal issues have been on the agenda, and we welcome the members of First Nations here today.

Artists are also our allies in imagining a better future. In this very building, there are works by the Quebec abstract expressionists, including Borduas and Riopelle, who in 1948 published Le Refus Global, which in turn presaged the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. A record 250,000 people turned out for Earth Day in Montreal this year – a remarkable expression of civic concern that was inspired in part by the participation of a who’s who of Quebec artists and performers.

This milestone was overshadowed in the media by the continuing demonstrations against tuition fee hikes. Without coming down on one side or the other, let me share a couple of observations:

The conflict is more than a straightforward disagreement about tuition fees. My generation has amassed an enormous public debt while affording itself the best in public services, pensions and perquisites. Now, as we bequeath both the debt and a reduced public sector to the next generation, we shouldn’t be surprised if there’s resentment. Intergenerational equity is central to the notion of sustainability, and one to focus on as we consider a renewed social contract.

The student fee crisis also highlights the fact that many of our current institutional arrangements are either broken or maladaptive, designed for a different era, and urgently in need of updating through a process of renewal and outright replacement. This in turn is about being able to take a systems level view, and working constructively and collaboratively to turn wicked problems into systems of continuous social innovation, operating within environmental limits.

For example, why not put all post secondary curriculum online and make it available for free, as Harvard and MIT are doing? It would certainly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of further subsidizing the 20% of students who make it to university, perhaps resources could be redirected to assisting the 40% of francophone males who don’t complete their secondary studies, or to Aboriginal youth, who as Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations stated at this year’s PFC conference, are statistically more likely to go to prison than graduate from high school?

In conclusion, we have new allies, and new tools with which to accomplish our work. We stand with our fellow citizens, and particularly with the disadvantaged, without whom we cannot imagine, let alone create a just society. We stand on the earth, and for life itself, which requires that we become humble, adaptive and creative before some imposing challenges. And we stand for a just and sustainable future, impatient for the present to arrive.

We have much to do. Thank you for your continuing efforts. You are doing ‘gods’ work’!

CEGN Activities

  • CEGN’s Conference and AGM Many of CEGN’s members gathered on the shores of Lac Delage for our annual conference from May 22nd to May 24th. Strong keynote presentations by Stephen Huddart, Tim Powers and James Hoggan focused the gathering on the issue of how the current changing times are affecting environmental philanthropy. Facilitated discussions, led by Shauna Sylvester, fostered a spirit of collaboration to tackle these challenges and a number of skills-building sessions provided practical tools for going forward.

    CEGN thanks the conference planning committee which was led by Benoit Mercille and Tim Morris and included Allan Northcott, Shelley Uytterhagen, Mark Gifford, Beth Hunter and Meaghan Calcari Campbell. We would also like to salute and thank our conference sponsors: The EJLB Foundation; Ivey Foundation; the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation; Investeco Financial; Greenchip Financial; and Cycle Capital Management. In addition, we are very grateful to those foundations which developed and helped deliver skills-building sessions at this year’s conference: the Alberta Real Estate Foundation; the Max Bell Foundation; the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation; the Catherine Donnelly Foundation; the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation; the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; and the Schad Foundation.

    At CEGN’s AGM, four new directors were appointed to the organization’s Board. These new directors are: Beth Hunter, The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation; Pat Letizia, Alberta Ecotrust Foundation; Megan Tate, Winnipeg Foundation; and Andre Vallillee, Ontario Trillium Foundation. In a meeting following the AGM, the new Board approved the following slate of officers: Chair - Mark Gifford, Vancouver Foundation; Vice-Chair - Tim Morris, Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation; Treasurer – Andre Vallillee, Ontario Trillium Foundation; and Secretary – Meaghan Calcari Campbell, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

    At the AGM, we extended our thanks to Allan Northcott for his excellent leadership of the network as Chair for the past three years. Allan will continue on the Board in the position of Past-Chair for the coming year. We also extended our thanks to Betsy Martin for her dedicated work to the network as a director and as Treasurer. In particular, Betsy has played an integral role in building the knowledge base of members around impact investing.

  • Something Fishy is Going On – May 30th Webinar This webinar looked at the changes to the Fisheries Act with presentations by Tony Maas, WWF Canada; Will Amos, Ecojustice; and Lois Corbett, consultant to the Blue Economy Initiative. Andrew Stegemann, of Mountain Equipment Co-op, facilitated the call.
    Please click here  to view a backgrounder, prepared by Ecojustice, on the changes to the Fisheries Act.  If you didn’t attend the webinar, but would like to keep connected with developments in this area, please contact CEGN.

  • Climate and Energy Funders Webinar (June 21, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. EST)
    Please note the new date for this webinar that will feature work by Tides Canada and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund in developing climate and energy solutions. An invitation to the webinar will be sent over the CEGN listserv. For more information, contact CEGN.

  • Being Active Owners: Advancing Foundations’ Missions through Responsible Investment Practices – A Workshop co-hosted by CEGN, Ivey Foundation and SHARE (June 13th from 2-4 p.m. in Toronto, with a conference call option) This workshop will explore the critical role that Foundations can play in advancing their missions and helping build a more sustainable and resilient economy by becoming more active shareholders of the companies in their investment portfolios, while meeting their financial objectives. For more information, contact CEGN.

News and Resources

  • What Bill C-38 Means for the Environment (West Coast Environmental Law and Ecojustice) This analysis lists the top 10 areas of environmental concern with respect to the 2012 Budget bill. As noted by the two organizations, the changes will result in:

    • weakened protection for fish and species at risk;
    • an entirely new - and less comprehensive - environmental assessment law;
    • broad decision making powers for Cabinet and Ministers; and
    • less accountability and fewer opportunities for public participation.

    To access the report, click here.

  • Elizabeth May: Bill C38? You have to be kidding (Elizabeth May in rabble.ca, May 3, 2012) In this blog, Elizabeth May expresses her strong concerns about Bill C38 and its implications on changes to environmental laws. You can read her post by clicking here.

  • 2012 Spring Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (Spring 2012) The spring report covers five major themes which are highlighted in the “Commissioner’s Perspective”: 1) Two decades after the Earth Summit, revisiting the debate around jobs versus the environment leading up to the June 2012 meeting in Rio; 2) Contaminated sites and environmental liabilities, the challenges of addressing more than 14,000 contaminated sites given declines in funding and capacity; 3) Design and cost of environmental regulations, concerns around how the government will meet its national target of greenhouse gas reductions by 2020; 4) Business and the environment, taking stock of the changing relationship between business and the environment; and 5) Measuring costs and benefits, finding innovative ways to understand the costs and benefits of a clean and healthy environment. To access the report, click here.

  • Don’t Call Me an Environmentalist (Lisa Curtis in grist, May 7, 2012)
    This is a personal perspective on the disconnect between the public’s interest in environmental issues and their disinterest in being part of the environmental movement. The writer looks at the environmental movement’s inability to appeal to the current generation and the changing relationship between people and the environment in the face of increasing poverty. Read the article by clicking here.

  • Taking Action on Clean Energy and Climate Protection in 2012 (Centre for American Progress, April 2012) This report from the Center for American Progress looks at solutions to be taken today to work towards achieving three goals – 1) producing more clean energy to grow the economy, 2) reducing pollution while saving energy and dollars, and 3) building more resilient and balanced economies and communities. The paper identifies achievable clean energy and climate solutions that will work towards a clean energy economy with stronger industries, better infrastructure and a growing middle class. To access the report, click here.

  • Beyond Boom and Bust: Putting Clean Tech On a Path to Subsidy Independence (Mark Muro, Brookings Institute, April 18, 2012)
    Read about concerns around the future of the US clean tech industry in the wake of the expiration of subsidies and policies which have been critical to the industry’s recent success. The report looks at the upcoming changes to clean tech subsidies and programs, their impact on the industry, and policy reform that could advance the industry beyond the current cycle of boom and bust. Read the report by clicking here.

  • America the Possible: A Manifesto, Part II (James Gustave Speth in May/June 2012 issue of Orion Magazine) Always interesting, Speth delivers the second chapter of his analysis on the need for a “new politics for a new dream”. If you missed Part I in a previous issue of the newsletter, you can access both chapters by clicking here.
  • A Market (Rather Than Civil) Society A book review by Standford Social Innovation Review of Michael Sandal’s most recent book, “A Market (Rather Than Civil) Society” which examines the moral limits of the marketplace and questions the commodification of all aspects of life through a series of case studies. To read the review, click here.

Upcoming Activities

  • Blackout/Speakout Campaign – June 4th Canada’s major environmental organizations are urging Canadians to speak up in support of nature and democracy and protest the federal government’s recent steps which are leading to a chill and/or directly impinging on charitable sector’s legitimate participation in the public policy process. On June 4th, websites of organizations participating in the campaign will be darkening their websites to protest the government’s actions. For more information about the campaign and to receive details about how your organization can participate on June 4th, please click here.

    For an overview of the key issues involved, click here to read a recent opinion piece by David Suzuki.

  • Environmental Capacity Building Opportunities (Sustainability Network) Check out these upcoming learning and networking opportunities provided by the Sustainability Network. Topics include “the war in the woods”; diversity and the environmental movement; and a look at new NGO governance laws.

CEGN Member and Partner News

  • The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) has announced the appointment of Andrea Cohen as their new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Andrea comes to the OTF after making significant contributions to community-based healthcare in Toronto and globally and currently serves as the CEO of Unison Health and Community Services. Andrea joins the OTF on July 30, 2012. For more information about the announcement, click here.

  • Congratulations to Tides Canada and the Vancouver Foundation which, in conjunction with 15 other charitable organizations, were recently recognized by Imagine Canada for their best practices across the key areas of board governance; financial accountability and transparency; ethical fundraising; staff management; and volunteer involvement. Both organizations participated in the pilot of Imagine Canada’s new Standards Program and have now received accreditation through the Program. To view the news release which announced the new Standards Program and recognized our two members, please click here.

    For information on how organizations can participate in the Standards Program, click here.

  • Community Foundations of Canada has announced a new movement, inspired by their patron, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada’s opening address at the CFC 2011 conference where he asked community foundations to consider ways to contribute to his mission to make Canada a smarter and more caring nation. The movement – Smart & Caring Communities – rallies Canada’s 180 community foundations to ensure that every community is served by a community foundation by 2017 and to connect the country through a fund that allows community foundations to take advantage of local opportunities. For more information, click here.

  • The Calgary Community Foundation is hosting their Vital Conversations 2012: Parks 2040 – Envisioning the Future of Calgary’s Public Parks on Friday, June 8. The event will bring people together to create a vision for public parks, including community parks and playgrounds, pathways and trails, and wetlands and natural areas. Visit their website for more information.

  • The Vancouver Foundation and Vancouver City recently launched their $2 million Greenest City Fund, a partnership to to help Vancouver become the greenest city by 2020. The fund will support youth, residents, and charities on a number of activities ranging from increasing the local food supply to supporting social enterprises and green business. For more information, click here.

  • Presentations from the recent International Scientific Symposium: Planning the Conservation of Quebec’s Northern Ecosystems: The Challenge of the Decade sponsored by the Canadian Boreal Initiative, among others, are now available online. Click here to access the presentations.

  • The Donner Canadian Foundation recently announced their 14th annual Donner prize winner, an annual award for the best public policy book by a Canadian. The award was presented to Peter Aucoin, Mark D. Jarvis and Lori Turnbull for their book, Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responsible Government. For more information, click here.

  • The Real Estate Foundation of B.C. has opened nominations for the 2012 Land Awards. These awards recognize initiatives demonstrating leadership, innovation, and collaboration in sustainable land use in B.C. Click here to learn more about the awards and how to submit a nomination.

  • The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) recently brought 100 partners and colleagues together at City Hall in Toronto for its annual meeting. The theme of the night was “working with others” and a series of poster profiled TAF’s eight key initiatives, partners, sponsors and results. In addition, TAF recently developed a report on the ClimateSpark Social Venture highlighting the different components of the initiative and providing insights into how a similar venture might be improved in the future. For more information, click here.

  • The W. Garfield Weston Foundation accounced the expansion of their Weston Family Leaders of Tomorrow Program which will now reach students in Windsor, Sarnia and London, expanding the program to 4,500 students from urban communities across Ontario. The Weston Family Leaders of Tomorrow Program brings together a wide range of partners to support student leadership and environmental learning. Read more about the expansion by clicking here.

CEGN’s Issues and Updates thrives on both input and feedback from Members! Please let us know if you have suggestions for resources, updates or other items that we might include in future issues. Suggestions can be emailed to Pegi at: pegi_dover@cegn.org

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