Part 1: Why Build a Case for a Sustainable Future?

The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay > 2021 Events > Part 1: Why Build a Case for a Sustainable Future?

7-Part Online Discussion Series, February – November, 2021

2020 Events Inspire Sustainability Series

In May of 2020, during the early stage of the COVID-19 crisis, the Institute of Southern Georgian Bay hosted a 4-part online discussion series called Mapping Our Road to Recovery. Approximately 200 people participated in the series, and speakers included leaders in business, the not-for-profit sector, government, and philanthropy. Through the series, the community identified four key outcomes that would build back better through the pandemic and beyond: a Regional Arts and Culture Strategy for this important sector, exploring the development of a social investment strategy to accelerate access to capital, continuing the new regional discussions platform, and identifying key data points to measure progress.

UN Habitat in Towns: Collingwood World Summit

Following the Mapping Our Road to Recovery series, the Town of Collingwood, in collaboration with the United Nations (UN) Habitat Initiative and the Urban Economy Forum, presented the inaugural Habitat in Towns: Collingwood World Summit. Speakers and participants shared their views about the challenges and opportunities affecting a sustainable future. The focus of the event was UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #11- Sustainable Cities and Communities.

The SDGs were agreed to by Canada and the other 192 countries of the UN. They are a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the primary global challenges we collectively face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. The 17 Goals are interconnected with an ethos of “leaving no one behind”, and they rally communities, organizations, and companies towards achieving milestone targets by 2030.

We look forward to the next Collingwood World Summit in the fall of 2021, and hope that this will become an annual event that will continue to carry our region forward towards the goal of becoming a model for SDG #11

 Bringing it all together: Our Sustainable Future series

The purpose of the series is to continue cultivating valuable input, building connections and knowledge, and accelerating action through collaborative pilot projects.

Part 1: Why Build a Case for a Sustainable Future?

February 10, 2021


  • The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
  • Brian Saunderson, Mayor – Town of Collingwood
  • Sonya Skinner – CAO, Town of Collingwood
  • Shawn Everitt – CAO, Town of The Blue Mountains

In this first session of the series, we were thrilled to welcome The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. She shared her perspective through her “bird’s-eye view” of Ontario and through the lens of what COVID-19 has shown us about how interconnected we really are. She stated that although Ontarians may not all use the term “sustainability”, we are generally attuned to the concept of it. Her conversations with Ontarians have given her confidence that collectively we are convinced of the importance of shared economic prosperity, responsible environmental stewardship, and social and cultural inclusion.

Key insights:

  • SDGs provide an effective blueprint and policy framework for addressing our many challenges,
  • Developing resilience is vitally important in the face of amazing change,
  • We need to think and act holistically and systemically by bringing sectors together in creative collaboration,
  • For the first time, we will come to realize that the distinction between economic and social sectors is somewhat of an artificial construct,
  • People feel most closely connected to local government and this is crucial to building cohesive communities, and
  • It’s important to maintain community spirit through local arts and culture.

Ms. Dowdeswell finished her address by saluting the leadership and the members of The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay, and all affiliated organizations, for taking this initiative to learn, discuss, and implement sustainable programs. She called it “an inspiring example” of “thinking globally and acting locally”.

Click here for the full presentation:

Collingwood Mayor, Brian Saunderson’s comments focused largely on the question of “why make a case for a sustainable future?” through the lens of the “triple bottom line” – people, environment, and economy. He stressed that disruptive situations, including COVID-19, high water levels, climate change, housing prices, poverty issues, and disparity of income, are extreme driving forces making it immediate and important that we focus on sustainability moving forward.

He shared that the three facets of the triple bottom line are interconnected and dependent on each other. From an economic perspective, centres that make sustainability-related goals their priority will attract investment, talented work forces, and economic growth. That includes focusing on renewable energy sources, protecting our ecology and natural features like our waterfront, ensuring that we house all people, and fostering a thriving socio-cultural community.

Mayor Saunderson said that “We’ve got the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and now the responsibility for us locally and regionally is to figure out the ‘how’, so that we move forward progressively and in a sustainable way for the seven generations to come”.

Sonya Skinner, Chief Administration Officer (CAO) for the Town of Collingwood began her presentation with a strong assertion… “there is no path forward without sustainability”. She shed some light on how responsibilities are divided among local government municipalities and counties. There are good reasons for this segregation, but it can make it more challenging to take sustainable action. One of her suggestions – that we need to build bridges between private and government initiatives – would make it easier for decision-makers to know which items are broadly supported while not giving up accountability for public funds.

Other key points that Ms. Skinner shared included the importance of getting clear on our goals and creating effective ways to measure success; the fact that change must happen at the local level; and the importance of groups like TISGB that help to think things through and lead conversations that create collaboration between various stakeholders across our municipalities.

Shawn Everitt, CAO for the Town of The Blue Mountains (TOBM) began his presentation talking about the major challenge faced by the Town…. a growing community faced with significant pressure from development, and how it ties into the natural environment of Georgian Bay, the Niagara Escarpment, and the tributaries/rivers in the area.

He shared that the TOBM corporate strategic plan contains the directive that all Town decisions must be tested against the defined “Pillars of Sustainability”. He maintains that sustainability must be at the forefront of all that we do, and that we must focus on regional discussions that cross geographic boundaries. The key is in finding common challenges so that we know each town/municipality/county are not alone in their challenges. Shawn believes the most important tools for moving forward sustainably are communication and community engagement.

What You Had to Say

While our speakers were presenting, we welcomed input from our attendees, moderated through the chat function. Some of the questions posed by our moderators were:

What are the two most important things you heard that would make our communities more sustainable? Why do they matter? What stands out for you? What should we do next in our communities?

The graphic below shows the responses from our attendees, and the top 3 themes were:

  • The need for communication and collaboration.
  • Social, environmental, and economic balance.
  • The need to act regionally.

Some final words and inspiration from our speakers…

“….re: SDGs… I love referring to them as the world’s to-do list” ~ Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell

“ What gets measured gets done” ~ Mayor Brian Sauderson

“ In the words of Oprah… goodwill and relationships are the foundation of exeptional collaboration” ~ Sonya Skinner, CAO, Collingwood

“…there is definitely a commitment and a momentum that I’ve never seen before of a regional approach” ~ Shawn Everitt, CAO, The Blue Mountains

Where you joined us from for event #1

Resource links:

Urban Economy Forum:

UN Sustainable Development Goal #11:

Three Pillars of Sustainability, Town of The Blue Mountains:

Mapping Our Road to Recovery, Final report:

Want to be involved in the Our Sustainable Future discussion?

  • Watch the recordings and read the summary notes of past sessions of the Our Sustainable Future series on our website
  • Register for the next session on our homepage
  • Join us on our social media channels
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  • Share widely – together we can learn more about creating a sustainable future in our beautiful region of Southern Georgian Bay!