2020 was a year like no other

With the Canadian onset of a global pandemic, the rise of justice issues and movements like Black Lives Matter, the major transformation of our communities and our lives, 2020 brought to the forefront the issues that we as Canadians, and global citizens, must pay attention to and address.

And it was a year that clearly demonstrated just how possible transformational change is – when we recognize something as a clear, immediate, and existential threat to our lives and our way of living.

Just before the Covid-19 virus arrived in Canada, climate change was a major focus and priority for citizens and all levels of government. Understandably, the focus changed for a short while as we all planned and implemented ways to keep each other safe during this historic time.

Quickly though, the conversation returned to integrate the need for a green recovery. It became clear that this is our opportunity to change the way we work. Now that we have shifted our paradigms, “going back” to the old ways of operating is returning to an unsustainable way of working and living.

At Sustainable Waterloo Region, we saw this shift, as well as the deeper integration of the understanding of the intersectionality of work in the environment sector. In our programs and in our community engagement, this became central to the work that we do.

Reporting for 2020 has been a challenge. All the data is unusual, to say the least. Our members and partners are operating differently. For some, this has created great strides forward to reduce their material impact in all areas, including operations, building emissions, and transportation. For others, it created greater environmental challenges such as increased waste and/or water use, more energy spent for fewer employees in workplaces, and many others.

As you read this year’s report, we hope you recognize some of the ways that 2020 is an anomaly, and at the same time, how it is a beacon for the change we can accomplish, when we really need to. The work ahead of us is critical. We are in a time when change can no longer wait. The team, programs, projects, and board of SWR are focusing on the ways we work to move our community forward, both step-wise and in giant leaps and bounds.

We hope you enjoy this Year End Report. There are stories of inspiration, of challenges, of mind-shifting changes. It is an honour and a privilege to be able to work to build a more fully and truly sustainable Waterloo region. Join us to create a better future and stronger economy together. Now is the time, and we can do it – together. 

Our Regional Sustainability Initiative shifted our third milestone to include all the UN Sustainable Development Goals, going beyond environmental reporting.

We hosted an event with Future Ancestors to talk about race and sustainability in Waterloo region specifically, to help build the understanding of how these issues correlate.

The ClimateActionWR team joined a justice research project from Wilfrid Laurier University to strive to design a transition to an equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon future.

We are at the System’s Change Champions table of Wellbeing Waterloo Region to help envision the full integration of the changes we need for people and the environment, and  drive forward community-level systemic change.