Blueprint for a blue brand
Antony Watanabe is the President and CEO of the Innovolve Group. Follow him on twitter, or view his TED Talk here.
My recent participation in international environmental forums in India and Brazil gave me a front row seat to the changing perceptions around the world regarding Canada’s commitment to sustainability.
In December in India, my role as unofficial spokesperson for the Canadian government took flight as delegate after delegate asked me why in the world Canada would renege on its Kyoto obligations. In Brazil in March the trend continued as delegates inquired as to why Canada, with the dubious honour of being the first country to withdraw from Kyoto, would be supporting energy efficiency in Brazil, or in any country for that matter.
After fielding these tough questions abroad I came home to hear the news that the Government of Canada would be ‘streamlining’ environmental assessment standards, amending the Fisheries Act, cancelling funding for the National Roundtable on the Economy and the Environment (NRTEE) and significantly reducing funding for Environment Canada.
Let’s hope that Canada uses its participation in the upcoming Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development June 20 to reignite the spirit of the conservative government that led in the creation of the first Rio conference in 1992.
If not, and the Canadian Government continues with business as usual, our green reputation will continue to fade away.
The good news is that in the wake of a fading green brand, we can build a blue one.
Canada has much to gain by stringing together the numerous water initiatives and innovative projects from across the country to build a blue brand for the 21st Century.
For better or worse all eyes are on us and that presents us with an opportunity to make a splash.
Global calls for water solutions and the international experiences outlined above have solidified my desire to help realize Canada’s water opportunity.
In May, in preparation for our upcoming Canadian Water Summit, I was speaking to the Environmental Head of the World Economic Forum. As our luncheon keynote speaker, I felt he needed to understand the true forces driving our Summit: a mission to build this blue brand for Canada.
Upon hearing my vision of a Blue Canada, he exclaimed, “Building a blue brand seems like a good idea, particularly in light of your fading green brand on the world stage.”
Perhaps we are on to something.
But what exactly is at stake in building a blue brand and how should we go about it?
Well, jobs, prosperity and international recognition to name a few.
Some estimates peg the size of the global water market at over USD$400 billion with 4-5 per cent annual growth. Others claim it will grow twice as fast as oil between now and 2030. When you consider ageing infrastructure in developed markets and population growth in developing markets, it’s clear the demand for water solutions is only going to increase in pace and scope.
To serve these markets, and create some wealth in the process, XPV Capital Corporation manages a $150 million fund, the largest devoted exclusively to water, and it’s right here in Toronto.
In Ontario alone, there are over 22,000 water jobs, and under the Water Opportunities Act, the province has a deliberate goal to increase that number.
Canada's freshwater resources help drive the nation's economy, contributing directly to its agriculture, forestry, inland fisheries, hydroelectric energy, mining, hydrocarbon extraction, and transportation, as well as recreation and tourism. These primary industries accounted for nearly 6 per cent of the GDP in 2000, accounting for over $45 billion and employing more than 650 000 people.
Further to the economic impact of water leadership in Canada building up expertise in technology, infrastructure renewal and innovative business practices in water use and reuse can also actually do significant environmental good.
For instance, over a 10-year period, Moriyama & Teshima Planners Limited, a Canadian firm, restored the Wadi Hanifa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They transformed a toxic dump into a 120-kilometre stretch of beautiful wetlands. The project continues to bring clean water to businesses and recreation to families winning the 2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture along the way.
Water, its protection, its valorization and yes, its smarter exploitation through technology and innovation, holds the potential to build an enduring blue brand for our beloved nation.
Jurisdictions such as Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia are carving exciting paths that, while imperfect in isolation, could be just what the water world needs in their totality. From policy to technology market development to municipal efficiency to fostering business innovation – these are the constituent parts of Canada’s blueprint for a blue brand.
We just need to connect the drops.
To take this further would require unprecedented collaboration and determination from a host of agencies. Indeed, a number of them are converging in Calgary on June 28 for the Canadian Water Summit. Sustainable Development Technology Canada, municipal utilities and economic development agencies, the Council of the Federation, Canadian industry, elected officials, universities, farmers, NGO’s and others are getting the ball rolling. This is a reasonable start but positioning Canada to lead in the blue economy of the future will take many more coming to the table.
I invite you to join us on our journey to build a blue brand for Canada to redefine our position in the world.
With this and a dash of Canadian water ambassadorship to promote and celebrate our leadership in the protection, valorization and smart exploitation of Canada’s – and the world’s – most precious resource, Canada can lead like never before.