Responding to Changing Economic Times: Is Your Organization Ready and Resilient?

A conversation about the role of sustainability in business

By Jess Hua & Megan Zimmerman

A few weeks ago Calgary Economic Development joined Conscious Brands in hosting a conversation titled: Responding to Changing Economic Times: Is Your Organization Ready and Resilient?

The conversation brought together a diverse and seasoned group of business leaders to share their thoughts on:

  • Where we see the needle moving in building more sustainable and future-proof organizations;
  • The bottom line benefits to building more sustainable and resilient organizations

A note on resilience: Being resilient implies that an organization can deal with uncertainty as it comes, and can pivot to respond to changing conditions. It is a state of being, rooted in sustainability and serving as an adaptive approach to capacity-building. In times of economic downturn, those organizations that have a built-in capacity to respond are more armed to weather the storm. Below are some of the highlights from the event.


Houston Peschl, Instructor for MBA of Haskayne School of Business

“Resilience means…making it ‘less complicated’ and boiling it down to something manageable to share across your organization.”

We’re seeing a cultural change happening in leaders to promote empowering, long-term thinking, and build resilience through a lens of sustainability. This lends to developing a clear strategic plan and knowing how to measure success — by focusing on specific metrics that are high-value add.


Mary-Ann Kenney, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, Enbridge

“Resilience means…socializing concepts of sustainability.”

For Enbridge, it has been an on-going journey in moving sustainability from the sideline to the forefront, driven by a need to reduce risk, and address changing attitudes toward accountability and responsibility. Enbridge has approached building resilience through initiatives such as diversifying its energy portfolio, tightening up regulations, and engaging community stakeholders in dialogue around specific projects.

Kenny was clear that organizations need to be more proactive and seek permission in having that social license to operate — in order to maintain viability. “And remember, it has to be economical to be sustainable!”

It is necessary to pay attention to what is changing and be able to effectively innovate around those changes… and to work in collaboration rather than going solo.


Bruce Martin, General Manager of Community Natural Foods

“Resilience means to shop with values in-mind and become champions.”… “We are at a tipping point and the sustainability discussion is now table stakes. Have a purpose, embrace that purpose and be bold with carrying it forward.”

Named as one of Deloitte’s Top 50 Best Managed Companies, Community Natural Foods has built resilience by embracing sustainability as the strategy. Amid broad economic downturns, Community Natural Foods has not receded, maintaining neutral growth.

The culture at Community Natural Foods (CNF) was built on hiring people for passion first, as they’re the ones who propel the success. From there, CNF didn’t have to add sustainability to the business, they had to add business to the sustainability. Martin maintains that it’s important for an organization to identify its core purpose and core values. These provide that guiding framework for understanding who to work with, and how to align with their passion.

It was certainly an enlightening and purposeful panel discussion, illuminating three very different perspectives on the roots of resiliency. But regardless of the approach, one theme rang clear — resilience stems from “failing forward” — innovating, taking risks, and continually learning from each action. Embedding this mindset into the organizational culture allows it to adapt more quickly, absorbing the shocks of change, and strengthening as it goes.

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