From Scarcity to Prosperity


Eliane Ubalijoro is our Better Society Keynote Speaker. Read about her work below, and read her bio here.  

"As a scientist working at the interface of research, policy and business, my work involves tackling the challenges of moving discoveries to innovations that have value to society environmentally, socially and economically." - Eliane Ubalijoro


Eliane Ubalijoro's talk "Reimaging the world from scarcity to prosperity" at TEDxConcordia, Montreal, Canada on May 3rd, 2014:  




Read about how Eliane is bridging the gap from women in science and technology.



Eliane is advocating for increased involvement of women in science and technology. She is convinced that "When women are absent from the innovation space, their lived experiences, challenges and dreams are likely to be excluded in the design of research, products and services that matter most to them. ... Innovation adapted to the needs of rural and urban populations allows access to education, energy and economic opportunity to be a right for all. Protecting forests, oceans and wildlife while producing affordable safe nutritious food, clean water and sustainable energy sources require innovative solutions. Respect of the planet while we create these enabling conditions for all our descendants to thrive requires harnessing STEM to address climate change, pollution driven economic growth, depletion of biodiversity and proliferation of diseases that still affect billions of people." 

A Study in Contradictions


It's fair to say that Kleos, as an organization, is not comfortable with being confined. As a charitable organization, it seeks to be involved with the business community. As an international development organization, it promotes local progress. Even as an organization with a clear mandate and goal, it allows for autonomy in program creation at overseas satellite offices. These presumed contradictions are a point of pride for the Kleos model and are the driving force behind the current and future direction of the organization.

These first two contradictions have come together with Kleos’ involvement in Canada’s first Gender Equality Week. Rather than opt for a traditional gala type event this year, Kleos took the opportunity to instead celebrate gender equality on the broader scale. While Kleos programming has always centred around women’s development, the key to celebrating gender equality more broadly meant also reaching out to the local business community. The solution laid in the creation of Kleos first ever crowdfunding competition – where local businesses can compete to raise money for causes that support gender equality. In this regard, an opportunity arose to support women locally as well – this was through choosing Dress for Success Calgary as the charity of choice for the Gender Equality Week wrap up party. The charity, that works to support women as they enter the workforce in Calgary, aligns with the heart of what Kleos does. While neither of these factors necessarily benefit Kleos directly, they do agree with the broader vision of Kleos while broadening the range of potential supporters for programs that support Kleos’ vision.

Innovative thinking is central to the growth and future of Kleos as a whole. It is, in fact, central to the structure of Kleos itself. By creating satellite offices with independent boards of directors and their own constitutions, the goal was always for local organizations with local staff to assess the needs and design the solutions to the issues in their own communities. This dispersed expertise has already shown great innovations – most recently with the launch of Kleos scholarship programs earlier this year. While the original conception of this was to offer one university level scholarship per year to an eligible youth in the northern Uganda community where Kleos opened its first satellite office. However, the team on the ground asserted that the greater need in the community was not higher education, but employable skills. With that, a partnership with a local technical college was formed and the new Kleos scholarship program was born. Earlier this year, the program launched, sending five undereducated and unemployed youth to vocational school to learn skills varying from tailoring to automotive repair.

Of course, the program was then funded through a crowdfunding campaign that again, involved local businesses. Like with all things Kleos takes part in, both the impact and support are set to be lasting, even if they seem contradictory at first glance.


Read more about Kleos here: https://www.kleosmfg.org/

Community Innovation Challenge Inspires Entrepreneurial Thinking

An interview with Peter Fenwick, Sessional Instructor at Ambrose University

1. Tell us how Ambrose University encourages its students to develop entrepreneurial thinking.

Calgary’s post secondary schools are working hard to make experience in entrepreneurial thinking mandatory for students. Ambrose requires that all students take a course called Business 390: New Ventures and Social Entrepreneurship as part of the business program. Ambrose focuses on encouraging students to build companies that can make a difference in the world by confronting local or global issues, creating social and economic impact - for profit, for purpose. In addition to teaching entrepreneurial thinking throughout the stages of commercialization this course discusses business model reinvention and models of intra-preneurial thinking within larger organizations.

Every post secondary has evolved their business program in a different way as they consider what they teach and how they teach it. Ambrose’s program emphasizes living and leading by your values. As an evangelical Christian university, we are more forward in the way we embrace this value set.

2. What is the Community Innovation Challenge?

The Community Innovation Challenge brings together people who are passionate about solving social issues. Students begin the course with minimal knowledge about fundraising, start-up culture or working in small teams that drive fast. Unless they have seen it in their family life, they typically don’t understand the realities of entrepreneurship.

The goal of the Community Innovation Challenge is for students to experience the emotions of discomfort that come with putting yourself out there, “on stage”, preparing for a public presentation, collecting information through interviews and working on something you care about.

3. How do students prepare for the Community Innovation Challenge?

Students get introduced to participating organizations, go through a matching process with those organizations, and then work within student teams of three to four. In the sessions leading up to the Soul Forum students get to meet the start-up at least twice and go through ideation to help them iterate on aspects of their business to increase its potential impact and feasibility of achieving that impact. We updated the format for this year so that it’s focused on allowing students to engage with community agencies and entrepreneurs in Calgary, rather than creating a one-time (often theoretical) student pitch. The goal is to leave the experience open ended and see how the student + community entrepreneur teams naturally evolve afterwards.

4. What is your ideal outcome for the students? How can students maximize the benefits from participating?

For the past two years, students were allowed to take turn their idea from the Soul Forum and turn it into their term project. This year is the same, but we are looking for opportunities to make it more of a cooperative learning experience if the social enterprises see value in the students’ participation. Students who then want to continue moving forward and build companies move on to Business 492 which is essentially our incubator program where they get access to me and anyone else they need help from so they are well prepared upon graduation to keep running with their own company.

5. Is there an outcome from previous a challenge that you are most proud of?

The People’s Choice Winner from two years ago was a group called Care Styling, run by students Nicholas Newnes and Lizzy Dornian. Their idea stemmed from their experience in the hair salon and aesthetics world and realization that a stylists’ chair is like a therapist’s chair that becomes a very intimate setting in an unassuming environment. After winning the People’s Choice Award, they decided to pursue the idea further and came up with the idea to develop a curriculum to coach stylists on mental health awareness. This led them to ATB Student Booster Stage where they successfully raised start-up capital. The Care Styling curriculum encourages stylists to be aware of the clients’ mental health by asking questions and also sharing information on the resources that are available in the community.

Want to participate in the Community Innovation Challenge? Buy tickets for the Soul of the Next Economy Forum.

Innovation for a new economy

Written by Centaine Tyler, Vibrant Communities Calgary

Innovation is at the core of doing business differently, which is why the Forum chose “Innovation for all” as the overarching theme for this year’s Soul of the Next Economy Forum.

“We don’t think oil is going to come back to what it used to be anytime soon, so we have to innovate and work differently in order to keep moving forward,” Franco Savoia, Executive Director of Vibrant Communities Calgary explains.

The Forum brings together people from across various sectors – government, education, business, and non-profit alike – for discussions on how each sector can work together to create a positive impact on society and the “next economy” in Calgary.

“It’s about those hot topics like corporate social responsibility and triple bottom lines,” says Franco. “But the forum is really about getting these topics discussed and getting those people that are trying to accomplish these things the opportunity to spotlight their successes and struggles.”

New this year, the Soul of the Next Economy Forum will run for one day only (instead of a day and a half) on Friday September 28. Franco explains that they made this decision in an effort to encourage more participation from the business sector while keeping attendees from giving up their weekend.

Vibrant Communities Calgary has been cohosting the forum for five years running, alongside Ambrose University – which has a robust poverty studies program and a socially-conscious focus in its business school curriculum and the Fig Tree Foundation that fosters local solutions and ownership to international efforts to reduce poverty.

As this year’s forum fast approaches, Franco is most looking forward to the keynote speakers: Lynda Kuhn, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Purpose Champion at Maple Leaf Foods; and Dr Éliane Ubalijoro, Executive Director of C.L.E.A.R. International Development Inc.

“Maple Leaf Foods has taken on a goal to end food insecurity in Canada by forming an institute to study it and fund initiatives across the country,” Franco explains. “So, they’re a business, but they’ve taken it upon themselves to solve a social issue.”

“Dr Ubalijoro’s keynote will have an international focus, looking at international development and assistance, and how you can do so with greater sustainable impact. Not bringing solutions to people, but working directly with those you want to help to come up with their own solution.”

“You really have to listen to people to help solve their challenges – and I think that applies here at home as well.” Tickets for the Soul of the Next Economy Forum are available now, with early-bird pricing until the end of August.


  1. Click here to purchase your tickets to the Soul of the Next Economy Forum. Save $50 if you buy before August 31.
  2. Click here to check out the speakers and workshops – including a presentation by REAP Founder Stephanie Jackman. She’ll be speaking about integrating market and social approaches through social procurement as part of the Innovations in Development workshop.
  3. Learn more about Vibrant Communities Calgary’s regular body of work here.
  4. Connect with Vibrant Communities Calgary on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
  5. Check out Vibrant Communities Calgary’s Sustainability Profile on the REAP website.

SkyFire Energy on Becoming a B Corp


An interview with David Vonesch COO at SkyFire Energy 1. Tell us a bit about SkyFire Energy and why you decided to become a certified B Corp?

SkyFire Energy is a solar EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) company that designs and builds solar electric systems - everything from residential to small utility scale projects. I first learned about the B Corp certification at Social Venture Institute Hollyhock which is a gathering of social enterprises on a small island in coastal British Columbia. I thought that the certification spoke to our values and desire to measure what is meaningful to us, as well as our desire to continuously improve. I worked through the application between 2012 and 2013 and realized we weren’t quite ready. After making some changes, we reapplied and became certified in December, 2017.

2. What are some of the changes you implemented before becoming certified?  

We started by measuring everything from our energy consumption to our waste to see where there was room for improvement. We also launched an employee share ownership plan and offered the opportunity to sixteen of our employees (we currently have five owners). We also partnered with nonprofits in the community and started supporting them through various means.

3. What key initiatives have been driving innovation in your company within the past year?

The biggest driver of innovation has been tied to our growth. Within the last two years, we grew from fifteen to fifty employees which brought several challenges and issues to the forefront. We had to make structural changes so that we could transition from a small business to an SME. We have always attracted fantastic people who are passionate about solar and the new green economy, which helped us maintain our culture despite our rapid growth. We are now focused on encouraging our staff to transition into leadership roles, helping us build out teams and provide opportunities for growth both within the business and as individuals.

4. The theme of this year’s Soul Forum is Innovation for All. How does your company “innovate for all”?

Through our referral program, we donate to one of three charities on behalf of our clients. We have been helping Heart and Solar with Horizon Housing, which is a low income housing project in southwest Calgary. We are working with them to install solar in order to reduce operating expenses in the building and drive down the cost of living. Solar is typically only accessible to high income individuals because of the upfront cost, but this relationship allows us to extend the long-term benefits of solar energy to Calgary’s most vulnerable.

5. What do you think it means to do business like a Canadian and how is your company carrying this out?

The first thing that came to mind was “radical candor”. A big part of what we do is educate people since the technology is still new to Canadians. We talk about everything from how it works to economics and forecasting, and make an effort to be honest and present the information in the most candid way possible. We demonstrate radical candor internally as well because we don’t sweep any problems under the rug. We deal with things head on in a positive way, allowing us to move quickly and deal with problems fast and efficiently.

6. How is your company collaborating with other sectors, in particular the business sector?

We have worked on some very cool projects with Imaginea. Suzanne West’s idea of carbon neutral oil production is very innovative and we were honoured to be a part of her project. We saw collaboration within the industry evolve under her leadership and legacy, leading to larger projects with companies like Crescent Point.

Learn more about SkyFire Energy: http://www.skyfireenergy.com/

Mountain Equipment Co-op: Embracing change & building community


An interview with Brad Clute, Regional Sustainability and Community Investment Coordinator at Mountain Equipment Co-op.  1.    What key changes did Mountain Equipment Co-op make over the last year?

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has always been a nimble organization. Because we are a retail business structured as a co-operative, it is easier to embrace change. To say we are change friendly is probably an understatement! We are constantly adapting to consumer shifts as well as shifts in our industry and community. Our Board of Directors are not financially invested in the business which means that they are dedicated to achieving positive outcomes for the organization, without being plagued by self-interest.

From a community investment and sustainability perspective, the common theme is impact. We constantly review our programs and initiatives to evaluate whether they are supporting the business and members of the community the way that we intended. Our social purpose is to inspire and enable everyone to lead active outdoor lifestyles. Our social purpose hasn’t changed, but our focus has. Not everything worth measuring is based on sales, so we are working to establish stronger KPIs that measure our impact in the community and our supply chain.

We have also made some major changes within our Human Resources department, starting with changing the name to People Experience. We have been taking a deeper dive into the quality of our member experience and are working to analyze our employee experience in a similar way.

2.    How is Mountain Equipment Co-op seeking to “innovate for all”?

Inclusivity is a huge priority for MEC (as it should be for everyone) and we are leading the charge in the outdoor community. We prioritize inclusivity which drives innovation at all levels of the organization. We work with our partners to work towards bringing inclusivity into our community and the industry. We also look at product design and purchasing to ensure that we are providing gear at novice, intermediate and expert levels at different price points and offer rentals, gear swaps and product donations.

It’s also important to ensure you are not operating within a bubble. People think of innovation as a few crazy scientists in a lab somewhere coming up with the next best thing, but that’s not always the case. We know we don’t have the all of the answers for innovation or inclusivity, which is why we rely and lean on our stakeholders to help us strategize. The flip side of that is ensuring that we are transparent about our missteps and who we are working with.

3.    This year's Executive Roundtable, hosted by Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR), will focus on what it means to do business like a Canadian. What do you think it means to do business like a Canadian and how is Mountain Equipment Co-op carrying this out?

When I think about doing business like a Canadian, I think about operating ethically with a strong moral compass that is driven by values and fulfills social and environmental responsibilities. There is also nothing more Canadian than humble confidence. The key to running business in an ethical way is being a thought leader and an innovator that challenges the status quo with an equal dose of humility and transparency. Never assume you have nailed it and work with stakeholders who don’t have the same blind spots as you do. Yes, we are leaders who are pushing the boundaries. But, we are not going to say that we have all the answers and shouldn’t be afraid that we don’t. Consumers don’t expect businesses to be perfect anymore but they are weary of the ones who try to say that they are - transparency is key.

4.    How is Mountain Equipment Co-op is seeking to innovate for good?

MEC is values based at its core, with a social purpose to get everyone to benefit from an active outdoor lifestyle. We have a retail business model which pays for the other ways we address that social purpose. We are here to be a part of the community, not a business who feeds off of it. We want to leave the community in a better place than where we found it.

Mountain Equipment Co-op

5.    How is Mountain Equipment Co-op collaborating with other sectors, in particular the business sector?

We leverage relationships to ensure that we can focus on ethical sourcing or social compliance in our supply chain. When we audit factories and work with the Fair Labour Association and are constantly seeking improvements. Although we might not always be able to provide the financial incentive to push for those changes, we work to build relationships and offer our loyalty in exchange for continuous improvement of working conditions.

One of our partnerships that we are extremely proud of is with Parkbus. This initiative, which started in Ontario and is now expanding across Canada, provides transportation from major cities into national parks to remove barriers and get people outside. Whether the barrier is access, location or culture, we are working with organizations to start removing those barriers.

6.    You will be speaking about Changing Culture in Today’s Businesses at the Soul of the Next Economy Forum. What is one piece of advice you would give in advance of your talk?

I would reiterate the humble confidence piece. Don’t assume you have all the answers and don’t assume that you don’t have blind spots. So many business relationships are one-sided and it is so important to engage your stakeholders and community. Understand who your customer base is, including what they want and what they expect. Stay engaged with your stakeholders and build strategies supported by their feedback and opinions.

Learn more about why Mountain Equipment Co-op was named the most reputable Canadian company: https://biv.com/article/2018/05/mec-most-reputable-canadian-company-reptrak

Better Business Profile: Enbridge’s Approach to Energy Efficiency

Written by Sarah Naiman.

As part of CBSR's "Do Business Like a Canadian" campaign, they interviewed Enbridge, a Canadian company who has become a leader in today's global energy industry. Linda Coady, Enbridge's Chief Sustainability Officer, moderated last year's Executive Roundtable. Leor Rotchild, Executive Director of CBSR, will be hosting this year's Executive Roundtable.


"There is a pressing need for the big transformative ideas that can dramatically move the dial and, at the same time, the more nimble ones that enable everyday change in the right direction.”

Linda Coady - Chief Sustainability Officer, Enbridge Inc. (at the 2017 Executive Roundtable)

At Enbridge, moving toward a low-carbon energy future is about more than just growing the company’s already sizeable investments in renewable energy and electrical transmission. It also means considering the big picture on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction across some of North America’s largest transportation and distribution systems for oil and natural gas. In 2016 Enbridge adopted a new climate policy that mandates all of its different business units to develop and implement multi-year plans and goals for carbon reduction and energy efficiency.

Setting Goals

Integrating the potential risks and opportunities from current and emerging carbon pricing policies, building codes and efficiency mandates, among other inputs from both Canada and the US, takes significant time and attention. For example, Enbridge’s natural gas utilities – Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas – are involved in demand side management programs in which they must work within their respective regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So how does an enterprise transition to a lower carbon future, and develop climate goals and strategies?

Working Together

Enbridge put together a sustainability team that works closely with each of the company’s business units to develop their carbon and energy performance plans. Driven by the objective to reduce Enbridge’s carbon footprint and improve the company’s energy efficiency, the sustainability team is collaborating with business units to develop plans and goals specific to their current and proposed operations and facilities, focusing on the unique circumstances of each individual business unit.

Advice for Other Companies

The sustainability team shared some advice for other companies who are looking to undertake their own company-wide energy efficiency targets.

  1. Gain executive leadership support. It is essential that top-level leaders are on board with setting realistic goals. Some business units may need capital to adjust their regular programs or integrate new processes to achieve their goals, and the company needs to be in a position where senior executives support these efforts.
  1. Elect a champion. Each of Enbridge’s business units has a “champion” for goal-setting efforts.  This gives the business units accountability for their successes, and a representative from the business unit instead of executive leadership helps to motivate the team.
  2. Facilitate collaboration and ownership. Allowing the business units to set their own goals and objectives using a bottom-up approach – instead of imposing them from the top-down – encourages teams to work together and take true ownership of their work. This creates high levels of buy-in from the members of these teams. Makkinga, Suta and Talwar are instrumental in this initiative through their coaching and consultation and by providing Enbridge’s business units with new tools to evaluate costs and benefits of different approaches to carbon reduction and energy efficiency.

Enbridge’s purpose is to provide North Americans with the energy they want and need. The company believes that its commitment to emissions reduction and supporting the transition to a lower carbon future provides a unique opportunity to remain competitive and adaptable as the company responds to changing consumer and societal expectations.

Watch Leor Rotchild's Walrus Talk: Do Business Like a Canadian
Are you doing business like a Canadian? We want to share your story and feature your business as Better Business Profile.
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Shifting the Conversation: 5 examples


A review of the 2017 Executive Roundtable Session. In the first round, we discussed ways that organizations have shifted the discussion of CSR to include sustainable business in social innovation, as well discussing changing practices or creative initiatives they have seen in their industries in recent years.

Why have there been shifts and changing practices?

  • Increased awareness of CSR and social responsibility leading to cultural shifts and changing expectations by job seekers, employees, communities investors and influencers
  • Seeing obvious benefits and impacts both financially and through work satisfaction, including positive mental health
  • Some organizations shifting to maintain or build their reputation/image and to improve accountability


1. The empowerment of workers and communities: City of Calgary and United Way providing funding to Poverty Talks!

2. Companies moving away from hand-outs (or short-term donations) and thinking of ways to have a more long-term impact: Enbridge establishing a CSR committee and entering the early phases of improving sustainability in their supply chains. Read Enbridge’s 2016 CSR & Sustainability Report.

3. The willingness of companies to give employees time off for volunteering: LNG Canada educating their workers about CSR and supporting employees as community volunteers.

4. Making giving back part of the way individuals make a living: BDC developing their “What Matters Most” tool and promoting businesses involved in social entrepreneurship.

5. Increasing diversity and listening to multiple voices in the community: CRIEC working on programs that aim to retrain rather than replace immigrant professionals and implementing mentorship programs.

Has your organization shifted its discussion of CSR to include a purposeful emphasis on sustainable business and social innovation or is it still primarily about philanthropy and compliance?


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