Canadian Environment Week: An Opportunity to Learn, Celebrate and Drive Change

By Meaghan Langille

Canadian Environment Week is upon us and given the theme of this year’s environment week is “Strengthening Our Environment Today for Tomorrow” it has me reflecting on the types of positive disruption I can contribute to in creating a resilient future.

After doing some thinking I have come to the assumption that promoting a healthy future for our planet and communities can be done through three channels:

  • Change from within
  • Organizational Change
  • Systems Change

Change from Within

I've often heard the expression "change starts within"- a very true statement that demonstrates the importance behaviour, words, and ultimately individual actions play in promoting a resilient future. A more technical term often cited is "behaviour change." But what are we talking about when we say the change within or behavioural change?

Behaviour change ultimately means cultivating and sustaining an alternative way of doing things. In the world of sustainability behaviour change examples range from improved waste diversion practices such as recycling and composting to using alternative transportation on a regular basis and much more.

Now if you are wondering what are some behavioural changes you yourself can adopt for a more resilient future the answer is both simple and complicated at the same time.

What's simple about it is that ultimately comes down to asking yourself what goals are ambitious yet attainable of reaching in transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle. In practice this involves a mixture of personal reflection and planning followed by sharing these aspirations with other people for some accountability.

What's complicated about it is that there isn't necessarily a catch-all list that every single person can do? Sure there are the standard practices we've been hearing for years such as conserving electricity, carpooling, buying local food, recycling, and more. However listing of all of the things you could possibly do can get overwhelming and impersonal. Change from within is really about connecting your actions to your values. When that connection is made the rest will flow and you will likely inspire those around you in the process.

Organizational Change

Organizations are made of people so organizational change flows quite naturally from the change within, however with two key additional caveats.

The first caveat is you need to share the personal transformation you are working on with others within your organizational- this also includes the failures and hiccups encountered on the way. Demonstrating your personal commitment to a sustainable life and future can serve as an excellent catalyst within your organization. As was seen just last week, with Scott's post on Bike to Work week. Scott led by example and it enabled the team here at SVS to celebrate Bike to Work in style.

The SVS team getting into the spirit of Bike to Work week

What the example of Bike to Work shows is that when someone in your organization is passionate about something and shares that passion it can have a ripple effect on your colleagues and over the long term positively disrupt the culture of your organization.

The second caveat that enables this is the idea of leading by example. The technical term often tossed around for this is "upper management buy-in." Though incredibly important for driving organizational change another approach to leading by example referred to as intrapreneurship provides members at all levels of the organization with the opportunity to put creative ideas into action that can influence the organization's culture and values. Now I could go on and on about the merits of intrapreneurship but that post will have to be for another day. When organizational change is happening it has the potential to lead to the third and final channel of systems change.

Systems Change

When the change happening within people and organizations begins to have a truly magnificent ripple- reaching different sectors, scales and stakeholders that's when you've hit the really sweet spot of systems change. Systems change ultimately comes down to a fundamental transformation occurring that is typically leading to a positive change as a result of adapting, learning, and collaborating in making this change occur.

Systems change also means its change that happens in sometimes messy and surprising ways. But also change that builds over a period of time as a result of small incremental adaptations. Social movements are a prime example of systems change as they demonstrate that big changes don't happen over night and often require people coming from various backgrounds, perspectives and levels of power to come to fruition.

As has been articulated throughout this post the three channels are highly dependent on each other and have the potential to act as catalysts for powerful transformation when we work towards collective impact.

That is why we are particularly excited for the upcoming GroundSwell Conference on Groundwater Innovation. This conference is going to be an amazing opportunity to both witness and participate in systems change work as it is happening. Driving systemic change means convening stakeholders around complex issues to design creative and novel solutions. In the case of the GroundSwell Conference that means gathering innovators working in the water resource space to learn, share, and design solutions to some of our most pressing groundwater challenges.

If you’re interested in contributing to this unique opportunity please go to to register and learn more!

Register for the conference, or buy a ticket for Cousteau’s keynote address here:

Alexandra Cousteau – National Geographic Explorer, RBC Blue Water Ambassador, founder of Blue Legacy and granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau: Keynote Speaker, Evening of June 16, 2014, University of Guelph


Click here for more information on GroundSwell: Conference on Groundwater Innovation

Aim: to create shared value for groundwater communities, researchers and technical innovators.

Goal: to encourage learning, collaboration, and identification of new opportunities for groundwater innovation across sectors.

Participants: groundwater experts, accomplished scientists, researchers, practitioners, private sector suppliers, students, policy-makers from all levels of government and representatives from indigenous and rural communities.

Conference themes:

1. Social and Governance Innovations – including ways that people have been innovative in cross-community collaboration for water management, policies, and regulations, and lessons from First Nations and rural communities
2. Technological Innovations – showcasing innovative technology and processes both large and small
3. Ecosystem Resilience Innovations – understanding surface water, ground water interactions, sources and movement of contaminants and adapting to the uncertainty of climate change with limited resources require innovative approaches and are critical to long term resilience of communities

About Shared Value Solutions Ltd.

At Shared Value Solutions Ltd. we bring the best environmental peer review, strategic advice, community engagement and traditional knowledge, land use, and socio-economic research expertise to address your challenges and opportunities.


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