Although responsibility for responding to climate change and other sustainability problems (such as biodiversity conservation, social equity, air quality and water quality) is commonly placed squarely on the shoulders of government, the technical skills and potential for innovation required to design effective responses are often located in the private sector. Small businesses, in particular, are responsible for approximately 40–60 percent of commercial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada, but they are rarely engaged by government, due to their incredible diversity and abundance. Small and medium-sized enterprises possess an array of assets — including a close link between the vision of the entrepreneur and the firm’s operations, and a nimble organizational structure that allows the firm to recognize market opportunities and capitalize on them — that make them ideal sustainability innovators.

This policy brief aims to address the potential gap between Canada’s ambitions and the realities of creating resilient, low-carbon communities by proposing a collaborative and creative avenue to achieving both GHG reduction and a more transformative approach to sustainability.