Welcome to the TSSS Series on Canadian Women in CSR. Learn about their journeys, discover what inspires them and explore how they’re making a difference through their careers in sustainability. Please follow the link to read about other exceptional Canadian Women in CSR.
TSSS: Briefly describe the evolution of your journey in the realm of sustainability.
Ann Duffy: My career has oscillated between running my own consulting practice (The Ann Duffy Group Inc.) and being a leader within a company (VP Sustainable Development, CH2M HILL Canada; Corporate Sustainability Officer, Vancouver 2010). In both cases, the evolution of sustainability in my work has involved finessing the development and engagement of integrated strategies, partnerships, environmental stewardship, social inclusion and responsibility, economic development and good governance. I see it as two sides of a coin – the art (connecting to our passions, values and stakeholders) and the science (bringing technical and business savvy to strategies, operations and programs).
TSSS: What is your current sustainability role?
AD: I am an international advisor and speaker on sport, CSR, sustainability and legacies. Most of my work focuses on major sport events like the Olympics, Pan Am Games, FIFA World Cup, and Canada Games Council. I help bid committees, organizing committees and companies identify and deliver strategic and collaborative solutions that focus on delivering excellent sport events by embracing smart business savvy principles and including a sustainability ethos. I have over 25 years of experience and over 8 years with the sport sector.
TSSS: Have you always been concerned about environmental and social issues – where/when did your passion begin?
AD: My concern was born at a young age, I suspect through a combination of nature and nurture. My father shared his passion and ideas with me and I was hooked. I distinctly remember a conversation when I was a young teenager. We spoke about the challenges and impacts of overpopulation and I was struck by the expansive issue and probably a bit daunted by it, as well. Throughout my life, my education and career have included a curiosity for the art and science of systemic change.
TSSS: What opportunity do you feel most passionate about that gets you up in the morning?
AD: Probably the potential to effect good decision-making that will positively impact upon the reality of climate change. To borrow from Maya Angelou “When we know better, we (usually) do better!” With awareness and will – leaders and organizations can make a significant positive contribution. I feel jazzed when I am working with that possibility with clients and colleagues. CSR and sustainability don’t have to involve rocket science. They are achieved with practical and thoughtful decision making.
TSSS: Can you share a recent accomplishment that you’re especially proud of?
AD: The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are quickly receding into history and yet they represent one of my most significant career lifetime accomplishments. It was an incredible opportunity to be a part of the leadership team that developed and delivered excellent Games; we showed Canada and the world how sometimes strange and unique partnerships can evolve and deliver strong sustainability and legacy benefits and outcomes. From these Games there arose a series of accomplishments that would ripple on and include the creation of new national and international standards for sustainable event management and reporting which I was involved with directly. A recent accomplishment would be the experience of right-sizing my experience with sustainability and legacy planning to fit smaller Games or single sport events like Canada Winter Games 2015 in Prince George and FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.
TSSS: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey and how.
AD: I have been fortunate to have a few wonderful mentors. I really have to name the top three. Number 1: my father. He has been an inspiration and a model for me in choosing interesting opportunities and blending technical savvy with great relationships near and far in the field of sustainable development. He led the process to develop Canada’s Environmental Impact Assessment Policy and process in the 70’s and 80’s. Number 2: Nicholas Sonntag. We knew each other during the 1992 Earth Summit years in Switzerland (he led the process of developing the United Nations Agenda 21 for Sustainable Development) and later he would hire me as VP Sustainable Development when he was CEO of CH2M HILL Canada. He provided a worldly lens of sustainability, innovation, business, and empowerment to my career. Number 3: Luc Deslarzes, of WWF International (World Wide Fund for Nature). He is passionate about conservation and education and is a great mentor especially around thoughtful and respectful international development, cultural diversity, and practical “get-er-done and do-it-well” project management and program evaluation.
TSSS: What is the best advice you have ever received?
AD: “Throw a wide net” “Go for it” “Network early and often”“Learn from mistakes” (as well as, the many more successes!)
TSSS: What one piece of wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of female sustainability leaders?
AD: Trust your intuition, seek opportunities to support, collaborate and network, pace yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek a mentor. There is a strong multi-generational network of women out there!
TSSS: If you had the power to make one major change at your company, in your sector or in Canada as a whole, so that we could wake up tomorrow with that change as the new status quo, what would it be?
AD: If I had the power to make one major change in my industry it would be simple: Inspire sport event organizers to commit to sustainability and meaningful legacies in the host region – do it, communicate it, and celebrate it. Period! It’s a rare opportunity to expedite strategic and long-terms plans for government, business and civil society. Work hard for a few years and celebrate success both along the way and at the end when the whole country or world is watching how you helped to make a great event great and leave a place better than you found it!
TSSS: Describe your perfect day.
AD: A perfect day for me is any day where I have had a decent sleep, some exercise and I am working on a cool local or global project or idea with a range of colleagues – whether it is a talk, an initiative or a deliverable. If a close friend or family member calls or visits – then that really makes the perfect day complete!