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Accelerating the Clean Economy

 

Jonathan Hackett is joined by Elizabeth Shirt, Managing Director from GLOBE Series, to talk about working towards a more sustainable, prosperous, and socially just future. In this interview, hear about how GLOBE Series is part of a group of organizations, each of which brings something different to the table, creating a powerful drive toward a common vision.

In this episode:

  • What are the key challenges that GLOBE Series is aiming to solve for?

  • How can we ensure that economic recovery investments are channeled towards cleaner, more resilient infrastructure?

  • What role do corporate and other partners have to accelerate cleantech adoption?

  • How do we balance the need to solve environmental challenges with the impacts on society?

  • How will commitments to net zero translate into actions?


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Elizabeth Shirt:

For us it's not about the why anymore, we're past why. It's about how. We all agree that that net-zero economy, that more resilient economy, is the goal. So now it's about how do we get there and how we take the action. So how can we ensure that our economic recovery investments are channeled towards cleaner, more resilient infrastructure? What are the financial tools, mechanisms, models that are going to help us meet our net-zero commitments? How do we find ways to ensure that cutting edge cleantech solutions we're developing in Canada are scaled up and they're globally deployed?

Michael Torrance:

Welcome to Sustainability Leaders. I'm Michael Torrance, Chief Sustainability Officer with BMO Financial Group. On this show, we will talk with leading sustainability practitioners from the corporate, investor, academic, and NGO communities to explore how this rapidly evolving field of sustainability is impacting global investment, business practices, and our world.

Legal disclaimer:

The views expressed here are those other participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates or subsidiaries.

Jonathan Hackett:

Hi. I'm Jonathan Hackett, Managing Director and Head of Sustainable Finance for BMO. Joining us today is Elizabeth Shirt from the GLOBE Series. Elizabeth is an energy, sustainability, and clean technology expert with nearly 20 years of experience across a variety of policy and innovation roles. As the Managing Director for the GLOBE Series, she leads a team to convene innovators and change makers accelerating the clean economy. Thank you for joining us, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Shirt:

Thanks so much, Jonathan. It's great to be here.

Jonathan Hackett:

So to start, can you take us through what the GLOBE Series is?

Elizabeth Shirt:

Yeah. I'm happy to do that. So GLOBE Series at the highest level convenes, as you said, innovators and change makers who are accelerating that clean economy. We do that under a vision of accelerating towards a more sustainable, prosperous, and socially just future. So for the last 30 years, we've been known best for our flagship or our event in Vancouver called GLOBE Forum, that we've been doing on the even years so 2020, 2018, for over three decades.

Elizabeth Shirt:

More recently, we've been convening GLOBE Capital, usually held in Toronto on odd years, but of course this year it will be virtual. We've also been leading ongoing event series like Destination, that zero initiative with our partners, the Delphi Group, Clean Recovery Breakthrough Series, which is in partnership with Corporate Knights, Circular Economy Solutions Series with the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition. Effectively, we put on our own signature events, we work with partners and even more recently working with clients to convene, to bring together the right people around the right questions to really drive action towards that cleaner, more sustainable, more resilient future.

Elizabeth Shirt:

And I should say we're part of a group of organizations working towards that same vision that I mentioned. And each organization really brings something different to the table. So other members of the group are the Delphi Group, which is a leading sustainability consulting firm, Leading Change Canada, which is a youth-oriented not-for-profit that really brings together the sustainability leaders of the future, that next generation, the EXCEL Partnership, which is a learning partnership network for senior leaders in sustainability and corporate Canada. And most recently, the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility or CBSR is now part of our group of organizations working together. So it's a pretty powerful group of companies that I get a chance to work with to drive towards that vision.

Jonathan Hackett:

Interesting. And you joined from Emissions Reduction Alberta just over a year ago, and that was just as the pandemic was really redefining what convening meant. How has GLOBE pivoted over the last year to respond to that?

Elizabeth Shirt:

Yeah. Thanks Johnathan. It's a great question because it's been a pretty interesting last 10 months or so. I did accept that role of managing director just before pandemic. But even then the GLOBE Series team was already recognizing that that business model of thousands of people descending on a single city for many days wasn't necessarily the only way that we should be bringing people together from both a environmental sustainability standpoint, as well as an accessibility standpoint. So we already knew that the events' industry needed to pivot. We needed to be expanding our model of how we convene and how we bring people together. So pandemic really accelerated the need to look at that pivot and pushed us to get more creative and really hone those virtual convening skills.

Elizabeth Shirt:

And I mean, for me, interestingly, I'm not an event planner by background. My educational background is in economics. I've spent a career in policy funding, advocacy and spaces like energy, climate, innovation, and cleantech. But as you mentioned in my previous role at ERA, and prior to that, working with the Government of Alberta, I played a strong role in mapping out sort of strategic direction funding priorities for ERA, and then with the government, I had the opportunity to work on Alberta's Climate Leadership Plan. And so it's sort of been a theme throughout my career, that notion of bringing people together to drive action, to identify solutions. So joining the GLOBE team and having that opportunity to really reimagine how we're doing that has been pretty cool.

Jonathan Hackett:

Yeah. And you touched on this earlier, but the key challenges that the GLOBE Series is aiming to solve, what are those exactly?

Elizabeth Shirt:

Great question. But I think I'll sort of flip it on its head where it's about sort of, what are the solutions we're looking to find? Because to me it's about the 'yes, and' opportunities. It's about those opportunities where the E and the S and the G of ESG intersect. It's about those actions we can take to ensure economic prosperity and environmental sustainability and community resiliency.

Elizabeth Shirt:

So for GLOBE, we've been known for decades for our big tent. We bring together the corporates, investors, governments, and civil society, and we create spaces for leaders in those areas to hold the tough conversations that led us drive towards action. For our GLOBE Capital event coming up, we think of three Is, investment, infrastructure, and innovation. And we need growth in all three of those areas to scale the clean economy.

Elizabeth Shirt:

I would say though for GLOBE Capital and the challenges that we're looking to solve, the solutions that we're looking to identify, for us it's not about the why anymore, we're past why. It's about how. We all agree that that net-zero economy, that more resilient economy is the goal. So now it's about how do we get there and how we take the action. So how can we ensure that our economic recovery investments are channeled towards cleaner, more resilient infrastructure? What are the financial tools, mechanisms, models that are going to help us meet our net-zero commitments? How do we find ways to ensure that cutting edge cleantech solutions we're developing in Canada are scaled up and they're globally deployed?

Jonathan Hackett:

And diving into that, as you think about scaling cleantech solutions, are there obstacles to adoption of those today in Canada?

Elizabeth Shirt:

Yeah. I mean, listen, this is a huge opportunity from an economic and an environmental perspective. We're talking about trillions of dollars worth of market opportunity, which is exciting. But yeah, I mean, I would say there's definitely, we've seen the barriers and obstacles to seeing that. It isn't just about sort of how do I get my idea off from the lab bench and give it a try pilot in the real world? It's about that, how do we scale? How do we adopt? How do we see that massive deployment? And so for GLOBE, our deliberate work on scaling clean technology, when we really started to lean in, was back at GLOBE Capital in 2019, and we held our inaugural Scaling Cleantech in Canada workshop in that area.

Elizabeth Shirt:

Since then, we've seen a lot more financing tools emerge. We see scaling and growth funds. We see public offerings for cleantech ventures. We see new commercial bank mechanisms coming into play. But the key piece of the puzzle that continues to prove challenging is that market adoption piece. And I'll never forget the words one of our speakers that we had Scaling Cleantech in Canada Advance workshop at GLOBE 2020, and GLOBE Advance is a theme that we're running, we ran at Forum and we'll run again at Capital, was really about digging in workshop style to advance action and outcome. So GLOBE 2020, we had a Scaling Cleantech in Canada Advance session, and Jonathan Rhone, who's a well-known cleantech entrepreneurial veteran told the over 100 people we had in this workshop that customers are more important than investors. Point being that securing those buyers not only guarantees returns for investors, but it helps to ensure that the environmental and the economic potential of that clean innovation is made real.

Elizabeth Shirt:

So we're continuing on this journey at GLOBE Capital. We'll host the next installment of the Scaling Cleantech in Canada series through an Advance workshop that'll really dig into the barriers in the Canadian buyer market. So how do we drive adoption in that way?

Jonathan Hackett:

And those buyers, I assume, are primarily corporates. How do you think about the role for corporates and other partners to accelerate cleantech adoption?

Elizabeth Shirt:

Yeah, it's one of the questions we'll look to unpack at the session of course. But I mean, on the one hand, I think, we need to see a shift in corporate risk appetites. We need to see more first triers and first buyers of cleantech innovation. We need to see innovation procurement processes that are accessible to the innovators. On the flip side, a technology solution that doesn't solve an industry problem isn't the solution. So innovators need to be ensuring that the cleantech solutions they're advancing are meeting a market need or solving a problem. So I think of initiatives like the Clean Resource Innovation Network, CRIN, organizations like the Natural Gas Innovation, and of course my former employer, Emissions Reduction Alberta. These are a few examples of models that are working to overcome these barriers. So helping to define challenges industries need to solve so that we can work to identify the solutions. And then working to de-risk those innovations through funding or other means so that those solutions they're tested and they're cost competitive.

Jonathan Hackett:

And you touched on this earlier, but the question of how we balance needing to solve these environmental challenges with the impact on society and the concept of a just transition, this is something you said GLOBE was working on. How do you see that fitting in with the imperative of rapidly scaling those cleantech solutions?

Elizabeth Shirt:

To me, they have to go hand in hand. I mean, in simplest terms, the just transition means nobody gets left behind. It's about ensuring that our actions to move to net neutral greenhouse gas emissions are inclusive. So for some people, that transformation to a clean economy raises questions about what might happen to jobs in what have in Canada traditionally been high emitting sectors like the energy industry. We know that to reach our net-zero emission goals, we need to see fundamental changes to how our traditional electricity and oil and gas sectors do business. And these have been critical components of Canada's economy for decades.

Elizabeth Shirt:

So what this can mean is significant opportunities in renewable energy sectors, like solar and wind, which are growing for jobs and for growth. It also means, from a cleantech perspective, we need to look at opportunities to shift traditional skillsets in our energy sectors towards cleantech opportunities so we don't see this talent fall through the cracks, but that can be in opportunities like carbon capture, storage and utilization, advancement of a hydrogen economy. So I think, like I say, they really have to go hand in hand.

Elizabeth Shirt:

On the other hand, women and people of color, Indigenous peoples, there are groups in Canada and around the world that will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change as a result of where they live and other factors. And these same demographics are also currently underemployed in energy sector and some of the traditional sectors that have made up Canada's economy. So the just transition has potential to empower and enrich some of these historically underprivileged communities. So it's about how do we ensure, in fact, not just that nobody's left behind, but that these people, individuals, communities are benefiting and they're better off as a result of this transformation from an economic, from a community, and from an environmental standpoint?

Jonathan Hackett:

Looking at the concept of that shift towards net zero, many organizations are making commitments about a path to a net-zero future. How do you think about the transition from those commitments to action?

Elizabeth Shirt:

Yeah. I mean, getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, it's like our generational moonshot, but it's our most urgent imperative. I mean, the exciting thing to me is you can feel the momentum. It's going in the right direction. So many countries are committing to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and net zero by 2050. We're seeing leading corporations making increasingly ambitious commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But you're right. Commitments are not the same as action. So commitments like the ones BMO just made, to me, those are meaningful. Announcing the ambition is one piece, but it has to come with action. So things like doubling down on the deployment of funds towards sustainable finance goals, establishing the climate institute, the commitment to building climate analytics, capabilities for your clients, because measuring and reporting on how organizations are contributing to climate change is a critical part of success.

Elizabeth Shirt:

We're seeing calls to action and actions being taken by leaders like Larry Fink and BlackRock calling on corporations globally to take action and to demonstrate and to measure what they're doing. That said, the COVID crisis has given us a window into what climate crisis can look like. And I feel like if there's one lesson we need to take away, it's that no one organization or government or initiative can go it alone. So I mean, it sounds trite, but collaboration and working together is going to be critical to success, whether we're talking about scaling clean technology, ensuring our most vulnerable populations are protected from the impacts of climate or the tough policy choices or innovative financing tools that we're going to need to move forward on pathways to net zero.

Elizabeth Shirt:

So what excites me about being with GLOBE and the role that GLOBE can play is we can bring together that diversity of players that need to be involved in turning commitment into action. That big tent that I talked about earlier is exactly what we need. We can hold those tough conversations that are going to depolarize and depoliticize and get away from rhetoric and move towards the real outcomes and the action that we need.

Jonathan Hackett:

Thank you, Elizabeth. I think it's really encouraging to know that you and GLOBE are pushing on this and creating a forum to bring people together to have these discussions.

Elizabeth Shirt:

Thanks, Jonathan. Thanks for having me. And of course, in that regard, we're pleased to offer listeners of the show a discount on GLOBE Capital passes. So you can go to capital.globeseries.com and use the code BMO10, that's B-M-O-1-0, in capital letters for a 10% discount. And I'll also just throw out there that if listeners want to know more about GLOBE and about GLOBE Capital, you can follow me on Twitter. I'm @ElizabethShirt. And I'm also on LinkedIn under Elizabeth Shirt. And I hope we see everybody at GLOBE Capital.

Jonathan Hackett:

Fantastic, Elizabeth. Looking forward to it.

Elizabeth Shirt:

Thanks so much.

Michael Torrance:

Thanks for listening to Sustainability Leaders. This podcast is presented by BMO Financial Group. To access all the resources we discussed in today's episode and to see our other podcasts, visit us at bmo.com/sustainabilityleaders. You can listen and subscribe free to our show on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider and we'll greatly appreciate a rating and review and any feedback that you might have. Our show and resources are produced with support from BMO's marketing team and Puddle Creative. Until next time, I'm Michael Torrance. Have a great week.

Legal disclaimer:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry, strategy or security. This presentation may contain forward looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements as actual results could vary. This presentation is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal or tax advice, and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors should consult with an investment, tax, and/or legal professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

 

Jonathan Hackett Managing Director and Head, Sustainable Finance Group

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