The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), a Canadian leader in municipal sustainability and supporter of the Green Municipal Fund, has recently been exploring how sustainability is being integrated into local economic development initiatives across Canada.
Working in conjunction with the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC), FCM engaged McSweeney & Associates, in partnership with Grant Consulting, to conduct further research on the topic in March 2012. Based upon the results of interviews with a variety of sustainable economic development champions from across the country, findings were compiled in an Overview of Trends and Best Practices in Sustainable Economic Development.
This overview report then acted as a primer for a facilitated focus group session of participants from across Canada. The session topics included the barriers to integration of sustainability and economic development, what is working well now, and the potential solutions to overcome the identified barriers based upon the real world experiences of the participants in implementing the sustainability concept into the daily operations of their municipalities and communities.
A few of the identified challenges to integrating economic development and sustainability included:
- Aligning stakeholders in order to obtain buy-in, while ensuring varied regions and attitudes towards sustainability received adequate attention and consideration;
- Meeting the expectations of all stakeholders; and
- Selling the concept of sustainability to municipal leadership and the community itself.
Tips from participants on successful integration included:
- Keep an open mind with regards to sustainability and what it can bring to the community in the future;
- Look at sustainability from a longer-term perspective and know where you want to go;
- Ensure all stakeholders have a role to play in the implementation of sustainability;
- Make sustainability a part of the municipal culture; and
- Follow through on the implementation of sustainable economic development in the community and its day-to-day operations.