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Pioneering a Just Transition: Collaborative Pathways to a Low-Carbon Canada

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The UN Global Compact Network Canada remains committed to advancing the dialogue on Navigating the Just Transition with the private sector, specifically focusing on benchmarking experiences, understanding challenges, and promoting progress towards Net Zero emissions and a low-carbon economy. Our most recent peer-to-peer roundtable discussion targeted Canada's Supportive Industries, comprising participant companies from various sectors including legal, financial, educational, consultative, and supply chain management. The roundtable discussion, held on 14 September 2023, underscored the intricate nature of the Just Transition process and emphasized the critical role of collaboration, skills development, and policy support in ensuring a successful transition toward sustainability while adhering to the principle of Leaving No One Behind.

Upholding the "leave no one behind" principle is crucial in developing and supporting inclusive public policies, with a spotlight on empowering disadvantaged individuals with the skills needed for a green economy.

Skills and Workforce Development

Embracing a just transition requires a dual focus – we must navigate the Transition OUT as we shift away from unsustainable extractive practices and simultaneously embark on a journey toward the Transition IN of sustainable and innovative alternatives. This is particularly important when considering Canada’s Critical Mining Strategy and the natural resources required to create clean energy production and storage. 

This path to a just transition begins internally, with companies fostering awareness and understanding, building capacity, and expanding their vocabulary before assisting clients and engaging with external stakeholders. There is ongoing rapid innovation in Research and Development which is promising, but ensuring that all communities are well-equipped with access to power, and jobs, and align with government policies is crucial.

Many industries are looking to promote and support the acquisition of specific skills to facilitate a smooth transition, and, once again, government policies are needed to support this process, especially regarding the implementation and reskilling/retraining of new technologies. Some HR departments have started to offer tools to map employee skills for identifying training needs. Software companies, in particular, provide such tools to support transitions. And new industries like waste diversion are seeing huge opportunities in this area. Rapid growth and workforces with diverse skills and backgrounds necessitate internal training for new technologies.

Legal firms are actively embracing ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) practices and focusing on building awareness and skills related to just transition and ESG principles. Local initiatives, encompassing both grassroots efforts and top-down strategies, are also essential for driving change. 

Transforming conceptual ideas into operational practices marks a critical milestone in the journey towards a just transition.

Collaboration and Inclusivity

Regulatory bodies grapple with the need to adapt to rapid technological change, demanding multilateral cooperation and social dialogue among governments, businesses, educational institutions, and communities. SMEs play a significant role in shaping sustainable supply chains, especially in areas like procurement and gender equity, and service industries must engage in collaborative efforts with other companies to navigate uncertainty and fulfill sustainability goals. 

However, in all of this rapid transition and the need to start driving large-scale systemic change, overcoming the feeling of being overwhelmed is a common hurdle and guidance on how to prioritize sustainability efforts is crucial. Robust data collection is foundational, especially when it comes to tracking company impacts, and managing sustainability requires accurate measurements and assessments. 

When conversations of a Just Transition occur only amongst those who specialize in Sustainability and #ESG, the progression and advancement of effectual change becomes stunted. Social dialogue, both within and beyond the workplace, emerges as a catalyst for change, breaking down silos and fostering inclusivity among diverse workforces, and within larger society. To this end, mainstreaming Just Transition concepts in everyday interactions, beyond just "the converted," is vital, and supporting Just Transition in rural areas, SMEs, and reskilling/upskilling initiatives demands regionally and industry-specific tailoring for a comprehensive approach.

However, navigating the complexities posed by controversial governments remains a significant concern across many industries.

Ultimately, Supportive and Service Industries are calling to broaden the scope of collaboration and diversity within the Just Transition, especially concerning government-industry relations and supporting inclusive, fair policies that will drive innovation and inclusion as Canada continues to pave the way towards a low-carbon economy. 

The UN Global Compact Network Canada intends to continue providing support for our participant companies in understanding the Just Transition and guidance on best practices. Please stay tuned for more opportunities to engage in peer discussions as well as upcoming educational programmes on the Just Transition.

Written by Megan Grace Halferty, Sustainability Coordinator, UN Global Compact Network Canada

21 September 2023

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