Youth and Truth
This demand can be summed up in one sentence: Canada’s young consumers are tired of “greenwashing”. If you make a green claim about your product, manufacturing process, supply chain, or use of proceeds, you need to prove it. When marketing is used deceptively to persuade the public that an organization’s products or policies are environmentally friendly, that’s greenwashing.
Young Canadians are a savvy and media-literate group, unwilling to take things at face value or believe messaging from large corporations without evidence, and in this day and age, it’s especially hard to hide information from these digital super sleuths. While companies may want to jump on the ‘sustainability bandwagon’, messaging without action is seen as increasingly empty, and Greenwashing campaigns can often backfire. This Curious Earth post discusses a recent message from Shell that sparked a negative reaction.
Millennials, who grew up learning to reduce, reuse and recycle, want a circular economy. They understand what’s the climate challenge and what’s at risk, and they insist that you tell the truth about it. They will check up on you, too – a company’s environmental impact and sustainability claims can easily be verified through resources like the Good on You app, which rates the ethics of fashion brands, or the OceanWise seafood website, which tracks local sustainable seafood options.
It’s not just consumer brands that are being challenged to tell the truth. In the cleantech sector, particular attention is being paid now to another form of misleading consumers: Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) Greenwashing.
Advances have been made in this area. For example, the growth of environmental, social and governance (ESG) bonds that are driving cleantech investment. But more disclosure is needed, including transparency in companies’ carbon footprint by revealing outsourced parts of their product processes to other companies or jurisdictions (who don’t report on Scope 3 emissions). Without that, it’s impossible to gauge the actual environmental impact or benefit. This is a legitimate concern that Canadian youth are bringing forth and demanding answers on.
Cluster Organizations Support Transparency and Impact
Cluster organizations can be a critical support in advancing the dialogue and sharing best practices. The mandate of the BC CORE Cleantech Cluster, led by Foresight, includes bringing people together, forging connections, and energizing an industry. One of the key ways that’s done is through shortening innovation cycles and accelerating technologies to market. When large corporations have the technologies they need to be more green, the hope is that it will inspire authentic change.
ESG reporting is an essential innovation. By hosting roundtables, facilitating expert panels and cross-industry engagement events, sharing information, and providing companies with access to recognized certification programs, the BC CORE Cleantech Cluster is helping bring ESG reporting programs to the mainstream market.
Impact & Investing
Along with the demand for transparency, clusters also help organizations achieve impact by attracting investment. As a connection-driven organization, the BC CORE Cleantech Cluster plays a critical role in ensuring real impact through its export development work and investment attraction programs. Impact Investing (investments made with “the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return”), is a growing trend across the world. Investors want to see measurable social and environmental impact.
By connecting these pre-vetted companies to investors, potential customers, and overseas markets, we build the brand of BC cleantech companies as a place to put your money if you want to make a real impact.
Impact & Education
Impact is also an emerging discussion point in academia, particularly in business education and workplace training. This is another area where Canadian youth are leading the discussion. The Canadian Business Youth Council for Sustainable Development is currently circulating a manifesto asking that sustainability and sustainable principles are taught more extensively in business schools across Canada – an initiative that’s exciting to see. Signatories to date include a number of well-known business student clubs and groups at major universities in Canada, including UBC, McGill, and Trent.
Foresight, Canada’s cleantech accelerator, has signed the manifesto on behalf of CORE and will address these issues through accelerator programs and embedding training on impact planning into the Launch program for emerging cleantech companies. Through its outreach and ecosystem building work, Foresight is connecting industry and later stage SMEs to post-secondary institutions and helping to build a talent pipeline of cleantech skilled workers that understand the importance of planning for, measuring, and communicating impact.
Fostering talent development for the cleantech industry and developing cleantech leadership skills is a core component of the strategy laid out in the recently published report “Accelerating British Columbia’s Clean Economy, A Cleantech Cluster Strategy for the Province of British Columbia”.
Authentic Communication – a CORE Value
The BC CORE Cleantech Cluster is an organization founded on values of connection, collaboration and authentic communication. It’s encouraging and exciting to see the same drive in Canadian youth.
Through protests, speeches, organizations, and inspiring communication campaigns, Canada’s young people are speaking out about their desire for accountability, their hope for clean air, clean water, and a viable future economy. They are driving change, and we are happy to follow their lead.