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Meet the Canadian creative company powering Great Lakes sustainability

Toronto-based agency Juniper Park\TBWA has joined forces with the Council of the Great Lakes Region to harness an attitude of “human endeavour.”

Advertising and communications agencies have consistently demonstrated their ability to mobilize thought and action on sustainability issues. But we’re starting to see recognition within the agency sector, in Canada and the US, that it’s time to look beyond specific “green” initiatives for brands, and to think bigger.

This ambition explains Juniper Park\TBWA’s decision, alongside Porter Novelli, to partner with the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR), a binational group of non-profits that is working towards responsible economic growth, stronger environmental protections, and improved individual well-being in the Great Lakes area of North America.

The collaboration is a big deal because the CGLR convenes government, business, academic, and non-profit interests across the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec and eight US states, from New York to Minnesota, which combined are home to 107 million people, 51 million jobs, and a GDP of US$6 trillion. The five Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater system on the planet, is in the middle of this dynamic economic region.

Des Jones, chief strategy officer at Juniper Park\TBWA, says: “We’re here to support the CGLR and its initiatives because we believe in its mission to create the first sustainable region in North America and the world. We’re a communications company and solving for sustainability in this region is a massive communications task in a region that roughly equates to the third largest economy in the world if it were a country.”

Size really does matter in mobilizing consumer, corporate and government action on sustainability issues, Jones argues. While the agency is proud of its work for individual causes and businesses in this space, “the ability to deliver a true difference at scale in the Great Lakes region, the North America’s economic engine and a globally significant bioregion, is what makes this a really important area. No single initiative could do as much as a combined multi-party effort.”

People-based focus

It helps that CGLR is ambitious in the goals it has set. Mark Fisher, chief executive of the CGLR group of non-profits, explains that its remit is to both improve the region’s economic competitiveness and to protect the environmental splendour of the region and the Great Lakes, the largest surface fresh water system in the world, for future generations.

Among CGLR’s major sustainability initiatives so far include the Circular Great Lakes initiative, its program for forging a future without plastic waste or pollution. It has also recently launched Great Lakes WISE (Water Innovation and Stewardship Exchange), which encourages companies to accelerate their water conservation initiatives and become more active in protecting watersheds. And, it is working with diverse stakeholders through the new Great Lakes Carbon Collaborative to drive action on achieving substantial greenhouse gas reductions while supporting economic activity.

But what will Juniper Park\TBWA bring to the table? Des Jones says that one aspect is to use its communications expertise to inject a tone of “human endeavour” into the organization’s brand and its activities because people have to be at the heart of change and sustainable development.”

Fisher believes that the agency can also help in terms of connecting CGLR with the wider business community, initially through the annual Great Lakes Sustainable Growth Forum, which takes place in Toronto in late June. “We have a lot of corporations from different sectors participating in the Forum to talk about the intersection between business strategy, consumers, and public policy and how we can bring everyone along together in the pursuit of a more sustainable future?”

Reaching business decision-makers

Fisher adds that there is a chance here to build on the successes achieved already by CGLR: “For example, we’ve been doing a lot of work to understand the scale of plastic waste in our region and litter along the Great Lakes coastline. That has led to a region-wide understanding of the problem we face.”

He continues: “But, like so many other global sustainability challenges the region is confronting, by facilitating dialogue and awareness, the CGLR then serves as a critical platform to bring the region’s companies, governments, scientists, and environmentalists together as one to identify and accelerate the achievement of solutions at scale.”

With action in mind, attention is turning to June’s forum. Juniper Park\TBWA will speak at the event, as will Bob Rae, Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, and representatives from non-governmental organizations, higher education, and  companies such as Veolia North America, Ontario Power Generation, McCain Foods, WM, AECOM, Algoma Steel, Amtrak and ExxonMobil.

Jones says that the Forum can help CGLR to build a strong element of distinctiveness as a neutral body that brings people representing different sectors and perspectives together to focus on ” integrating the economy and environment in our business strategies, policy decisions, regional planning, and public-private- philanthropic investments.”

“We are on track to only meet 18% of the global sustainable development goals by 2030,” Jones adds. “It’s time to stop talking about sustainability and start acting together, and the Great Lakes region of North America can lead the way.”

CGLR’s Sustainable Growth Forum takes place in Toronto from June 25th to June 27th. More information and registration for the event is available here.

Juniper Park\TBWA is a member of the Institute of Canadian Agencies. Report on Marketing is where leading Canadian agencies showcase their insights, cutting-edge research and client successes. The Report on Marketing provides a valuable source of thought leadership for Canadian marketers to draw inspiration from. Find more articles like this at the Report on Marketing.

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