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Networking - Learning - Mentorship

Hey Whistler, Let’s Talk Sustainability!

An Interview with Upcoming WOW Guest Speaker, Ann Duffy

For over 25 years, Ann Duffy, President of The Ann Duffy Group and Whistler local, has engaged teams and organizations to create compelling and practical strategies that enhance their overall environmental performance and social impact. Ann helped to spearhead the creation and execution of sustainability initiatives for events and organizations including the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, FIFA, and MEC. Women of Whistler is excited to welcome Ann as our keynote speaker at our Feb 11 WOW event; Ann Duffy: Sustainability in Practice.

She continues to engage with progressive and sustainable business leaders, has served as an expert member of the IOC Sustainability and Legacy Commission, and has chaired the Canadian Standards Association – Technical Committee for Sustainable Event Management. Ann’s team-work is recognized by industry peers including the North American and the Canadian Green Building Councils, the Globe Foundation, and CERES. 

On Feb 11, Ann is eager to empower WOW event attendees with ideas to help improve the social, environmental, and economic performance of local businesses. This is going to be a great event so we highly recommend grabbing your tickets today!

Our team recently sat down with Ann Duffy to discuss her career in sustainability and gather some more information about her upcoming talk on February 11.

WOW: Hi Ann! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. We are so excited for you to speak at our Feb 11 event. Let’s jump right into some questions though!

How did you get introduced to the sustainability landscape? Have you always been passionate about it? When do you first remember being guided in that direction?

Ann Duffy: My father loved the outdoors and his career. His enthusiasm was infectious. We grew up in the country, explored in the great outdoors, and had a massive vegetable garden. This combination certainly influenced me from a young age. Like many, I have always been drawn to nature and am passionate about finding ways people, businesses, and communities can thrive in balance with environment and each other.

WOW: We know that you have worked with many clients trying to win Olympic bids. In the Olympic organization and the sport event industry as a whole, do you believe there is enough consideration and weight held on sustainability?

AD: Yes, I would say big event owners are moving in the right direction! I have worked with mega sport event bidders and organizers like the Olympics, FIFA and definitely see an upswing in attention, commitment, and action toward making these sport events more sustainable and in leaving positive legacies for sport and host regions. Vancouver 2010’s efforts in sustainability have been recognized globally for raising the bar on hosting Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Moving forward, the good news is that athletes and fans are young (and young at heart) and spanning a lifetime. The youth of today are more aware and knowledgeable about the environmental and social challenges in their own backyard and around the world. They live it and many demand responsible action! Many adults do, too. Sport event owners and sponsors are responding by stepping up their efforts. But that being said, we still have a long way to go.

WOW: We know that innovation is very important for sustainability and the work you and your teams produce. How does The Ann Duffy Group create a work environment that supports innovation?

AD: As a consultant, advisor, and workshop leader, my work is inherently collaborative. Teams come together for a project whether it’s creating new strategies, new programs, or improving existing ones. Innovation is inspired by four things:

  1. discovering what has been created, worked well or failed in other and similar situations
  2. brainstorming with project members and stakeholders
  3. having sufficient resources and support from the team leaders to support innovative solutions.
  4. appreciating that some failures will be a part of starting or building on something new.

WOW: Often in Whistler, we get the opportunity for fresh youthful talent but struggle to retain them long term. If you think of team sustainability, what elements do you think are checklist must-haves?

AD: In my experience, young talent stays with organizations for longer time periods when their voices are heard and they have opportunities to develop their ideas and skills in ways that align their own goals and their employers’/businesses’ goals. I notice with the Millennials and Gen Z’s in my life (individuals I have worked with as well as in my own family) that we all want to find our own connections to what is meaningful. It’s inspiring to be a part of something bigger than any one individual, and it’s authentic when team leaders genuinely care. When these attributes are experienced and palpable there is usually greater loyalty.

WOW: As a community, how does Whistler rank in terms of sustainability? 

AD: I see many examples of leadership that reflect strong sustainability in Whistler. Our municipal plans, policies, and programs are strong. The same goes for many of the large corporations and many small businesses in this town.

Where we are today is a result of “the shoulders we stand on” in terms of the sustainability-oriented community and business leaders in the past 20 years. The Fairmont’s hotel greening programs and certification levels are some of the best in class in the hotel industry. The same can be said for Whistler Blackcomb’s work over the past 20 years on waste reduction, renewable energy, and mountain habitat conservation. The RMOW and community collaboration around The Natural Step (http://www.naturalstep.ca/) in 2000 really pivoted this town and resort onto a more focused and community-wide sustainability path. The RMOW’s Whistler2020 community sustainability plan is the follow on to this effort. The range of small business,’ as well as, start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures that have sprung up in the corridor and reflect environmental and social innovations is also worth noting.

I definitely sense renewed interest and commitment by many in Whistler on ways we can become a leader in sustainable tourism, and as a sustainable community in this next critical decade.  Thanks to the activism of our youth (including the 2019 climate strikes), the bold and talented entrepreneurs and start-ups in this town, and the many champions and volunteers who support environmental and community causes – I think we are poised to innovate and demonstrate and yes, evolve to a leadership position in this decade. This will take leadership, a shared plan and collaboration with many throughout this community and corridor.

WOW: Where are the best places to start if you would like to create a strong sustainability plan within your business and lifestyle?

AD: The best place to start is with a mini-self or business sustainability audit.

You can start by inviting your family or your work team along with your key customers or clients to determine what matters most to you and them. Some might really care about saving money and/or reducing waste and/or energy consumption and/or protecting nature and/or supporting human development and/or community causes.

Then you review all the activities you have decision-making power over. Maybe it’s things like purchasing and/or heating and cooling your place or hiring and managing teams and/or getting around (transportation).

From there, you look at what you can do to reduce the environmental impact and/or increase a social and economic benefit. Maybe you choose to eat a plant-based meal an extra day in the week or purchase something re-used or made locally/regionally, take transit one extra day in the week, or maybe you make it easier for employees to work part-time or full-time with flexible hours. Maybe you reach out to nearby communities like First Nations, people reflecting diversity and the like? I like the Greenhub’s quote: “I’m just one person, said 7 billion people.”

As momentum develops, you can expand your actions to reduce your environmental impact even further and increase your social impact. I think this can be especially challenging for small business owners. This is where the power of collaboration and partnerships in expected and unusual ways can be really powerful and compelling. 

Finally, in this new decade, it is as important as ever to engage with our democracy – locally, regionally and nationally. Whether its voting in elections and/or providing feedback or speaking up on issues that matter to you, your family, your customers and your community. This is where the multiplier effect helps to drive change and desired action on a larger scale beyond our own spheres of influence.

WOW: What are some key points you would like to share regarding your upcoming speaking event with WOW?

AD: Well, exactly 10 years after the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we find ourselves embarking on a new and pivotal decade. Change is happening and some challenges are getting bigger – especially related to our climate change.

I will be threading key sustainability highlights and stories from the 2010 Games especially around climate action that were significant and many of these kinds of approaches will be especially relevant for the kind of actions we need to adapt and take on over these next 10 years. My tips and stories are designed to support the business owners, managers and curious people in general on ways to improve their own business with simple yet strategic (long term) practical action. Some of these actions lead to more economic success, other actions definitely generate employee loyalty and community pride, and some generate measurable positive environmental and social impact.

Underpinning much of this is the power of partnerships – formal and informal. I will share some inspiring examples and ideas on how sometimes unusual partnerships lead to scaling up and accelerating success towards shared goals.

I believe the majority of people in Whistler care about the environment, care about the people in our community and want to do the right thing. The world is changing quickly and some of the “right things” are changing. There’s a lot to consider and we can all learn from each other. It is time to up our game and we are in this together! So, let’s go!

Ann will be speaking at our Feb 11 WOW Event, taking place at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Attendees will walk away feeling empowered with ideas to help them improve the social, environmental and economic performance of their business’.

For more information about Ann Duffy, Women of Whistler, and this event, please visit http://womenofwhistler.com/ann-duffy-sustainability-in-practice/

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