Canadian initiative for manufacturing SMEs to navigate the transition to a low carbon economy

Canadian initiative for manufacturing SMEs to navigate the transition to a low carbon economy

Quebec Net Positive, an independent not for profit think tank, has launched SMEs in Transition, a new collaborative action research initiative for Quebec’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector and the business ecosystem that supports them. This initiative, conducted in collaboration with regional collaborators, practitioners, experts and academic researchers, will continue through to January 2025 and aims to evaluate the relevance and impact of various engagement approaches to sustainability.

The initiative aims to; strengthen the willingness and capacity of manufacturing SMEs to implement climate action; and activate a business ecosystem conducive to accelerating the transition to a low carbon and net positive economy.

As the transition to a low carbon economy accelerates, manufacturing companies feel challenged but are slow to act. Eighty-seven percent of Quebec manufacturing companies believe it is urgent to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 81% agree that companies have a central role to play in reducing GHGs. Yet, 49% say they are not implementing any climate action in their operations, according to the results of the Business Transition Barometer – Manufacturing Sector, released by Québec Net Positif in April.

“Achieving carbon neutrality for Quebec and Canada by 2050 and the Quebec government’s GHG emission reduction targets of 37.5% by 2030, below the 1990 level, will result in a profound transformation of the economic fabric of all regions of Quebec,” said Anne-Josée Laquerre, Executive Director & Co-founder of Quebec Net Positive. “It is vital for the Quebec economy as a whole that its 250,000 or so SMEs, which employ more than two million workers, are aware of the risks and opportunities of this transition and engage in it successfully.”

According to the Business Transition Barometer – Manufacturing Sector, manufacturing businesses actually perceive more benefits and opportunities related to climate action and the transition to a low carbon economy than Quebec businesses overall (30% vs. 21%). They identify the main business opportunities as being the creation and offering of products, solutions and services that meet new needs and market expectations (60% vs. 42%), followed by strengthening the company’s brand image and reputation (40% vs. 34%) and being positioned as a supplier of choice, preserving and consolidating business relationships with customers and major clients (40% vs. 26%).

“In addition to our mapping of the low carbon economy and the data from our Businesses Transition Barometers, the business intelligence and new knowledge that will emerge from SMEs in Transition will guide us collectively on the best ways to strengthen and activate a business ecosystem that is increasingly conducive to the transition of all SMEs,” said Anne-Josée Laquerre, Executive Director & Co-founder of Quebec Net Positive.

Three pillars for collaborative action research

Funded by the Government of Canada, with the support of the Laurentian Bank, the SMEs in Transition initiative will allow participating SMEs and their ecosystems to establish new contacts, beyond their usual networks, to reveal and co-create innovative approaches to navigate the transition to a low carbon economy. The initiative is structured in three pillars:

• Regional and sectoral mobilisation: Identify the appropriate means and key moments to promote the measurement of GHG emissions, establish reduction targets and trigger climate action, with mobilisation partners: ADDERE Service-conseil (Eastern Townships), Conseil régional de l’environnement de la Montérégie and Excellence industrielle Saint-Laurent (Montréal).

• Communities of practice: Identify mechanisms to optimise the added value for leaders and participants in joining collective learning spaces on climate action and the transition, with expert collaborators: Brav. and Projet Collectif.

• Transition pathways, foresight, monitoring and business intelligence: To bring together leaders of manufacturing SMEs – and the ecosystem of those who accompany them – to create a place for exchange and reflection with the aim of increasing collective awareness of the needs and possibilities for change in their sector, develop a transformative vision that will help identify business opportunities and favourably orient short-term decisions towards a likely transition pathway, and be on the lookout for best practices in Quebec and beyond, with expert collaborators: Ciblexpert, Chemins de transition and PHAR.

The project is also supported by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), and the Centre for sustainable development (Maison du développement durable).

SMEs in Transition is one of 16 new research projects announced by Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB) at Americana 2023, with total funding of nearly US$10 million, supported by the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund, through the Climate Action and Awareness Fund. These projects will address knowledge gaps and enable NZAB to continue its critical mission to help Canada achieve GHG neutrality by 2050.
Dan Wicklum, NZAB Co-chair, said: “A robust base of evidence and forward-looking research is integral to drive Canada’s progress towards net zero by 2050. NZAB is proud of catalysing this agenda for the Canadian net zero research community.”

While Marie-Pierre Ippersiel, NZAB Co-chair, added: “These research projects will spark new conversations and insights on Canada’s pathways to net zero. The NZAB looks forward to learning from these research projects to inform our advice.”

Laurentian Bank is supporting the initiative. Éric Provost, Executive Vice President, Business Services and President, Quebec Market, Laurentian Bank, said: “At Laurentian Bank, we put our customers first and are constantly committed to helping them see beyond numbers. We integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects into our operations and have started to engage in constructive dialogue on ESG issues with our clients.

“We are proud to support this new collaborative action research initiated by Quebec Net Positive and to join a group of leaders committed to helping Quebec SMEs make a successful transition, implement climate actions and get ready to thrive in a low carbon, more just and sustainable economy.”

Leesa Hodgson, Executive Director, Industrial Excellence Saint-Laurent (Montreal Region), said: “Companies are increasingly aware of the importance of integrating sustainability into their operations. In recent years, we have developed services to better inform and support manufacturing SMEs and encourage their sustainable transition. We have done this through industrial ecology workshops and eco-networking between companies to integrate climate change, better manage energy, waste, promote the circular economy and other eco-responsible practices in the borough of Saint-Laurent. We applaud the vision developed by Québec Net Positif for this project, which can only have a positive impact on the Montréal region.”

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