What does sustainability mean to you?
It’s a question that may be difficult to answer, as sustainability can be conceptualised in many different ways. To me, I envision sustainability as a means of cooperation among people aimed towards any shared long-term goal that will (hopefully) endure for many, many years. This cooperation may be in terms of economics, social programs, politics, development, the environment, and more.
Cooperation is not something that is developed out of thin air; rather, effective cooperation is a relationship between individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of trust and value that both parties will be able to provide to the relationship. I think trust is the key component here: though both parties may not be on equal footing, having faith that those you are cooperating with will hold up their end of the bargain is important.
Unfortunately, for much of Canadian history, this trust has faltered and certain parties involved have not held up their ends of the bargain. In order to move forward in cooperation and sustainable pathways for the future of Canada, it is necessary to recognize these historical processes that have not been as cooperative or equitable. Particularly, acknowledging the legacies of colonialism that continue to persist today is paramount to secure a sustainable and positive future for Canada in which all parties can be represented equally and be on board. Acknowledging these legacies will further draw attention to the many inequalities still present in Canadian society, which also must be addressed in order to pave a path for a more sustainable future for all.
What does this mean for organizations and businesses aiming for sustainable practices? I think it means acknowledging these histories, recognizing the inequalities present, and working in collaboration with communities to overcome these inequalities. Doing so may manifest in many different forms, and unfortunately I don’t have all the answers, but I think acknowledgement and collaborating in equal terms is a good starting point.
Ultimately, a sustainable society starts with an equal society. Though it may seem that we are already there in Canada under the guise of multiculturalism and ‘equality’, the truth is that we still have a long way to go. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t get there. I firmly believe that if everyone in our society is able to come together and seek to cooperate towards a shared positive future, we can create a more equal society, and in turn, a sustainable Canada.