Who We Are
Sustainable Toronto will promote community sustainability
and facilitate the transition to a sustainable society by challenging
and working with all sectors including governments, researchers,
educators, businesses, non-profits and other community members.
Sustainable Toronto is a consortium between two academic
units: the Environmental
Studies Program of Innis College, University of Toronto; and
the York Centre for Applied
Sustainability, York University. We are also linked with the
following key agencies: City
of Toronto; the Canadian Institute
for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP); and the Toronto
Environmental Alliance (TEA) - as well as several other non-profit
groups - in a unique and innovative partnership to promote community
Our primary goal is to foster the application of sustainability
practices by joint efforts on the part of community and university
Sustainable Toronto has adopted the vision from the
City of Toronto's Environmental Plan, Clean, Green and Healthy:
A Plan for an Environmentally Sustainable Toronto as its vision
for the City. It begins:
"In the year 2025, Toronto is a world leader in sustainable
urban living. It is a city that is renowned for the quality of
life experienced by its residents. Civic leaders credit the city's
thriving economy to measures taken to protect the environment.
Decision-makers and residents understand that long term sustainability
requires a healthy natural environment, a healthy economy, and
healthy communities. Planning considers the needs of future generations,
the need to build in a way that supports sustainable transportation,
and the need to protect and enhance Toronto's green infrastructure."
Building on this vision for the future, the Sustainable Toronto
recognizes that meaningful societal change can only come about if
it is community-led and government-supported. Our community groups
are the catalyst for this change - informed and supported by the
participation of our university partners and researchers, and working
in collaboration with the City - as they build their skills and
improve their knowledge base, as they further connect with each
other, and eventually as they then transform governance in our community.
Through their actions and the ensuing waves that ripple through
the community, a critical mass of people will acknowledge that it
is within our power to make the necessary changes to society to
ensure its survival, and will demand that these changes be made.
Sustainable Toronto builds the coalitions that connect this community
action with diverse groups of businesses, non-profits, governments,
researchers, educators and concerned individuals through participation
in collaborative projects that promote community sustainability.
Sustainable Toronto's vision for our project is:
"Working with our many partners across all sectors, Sustainable
Toronto is actively influencing decisions and actions in Toronto.
We at Sustainable Toronto are helping to promote sustainability
across Canada and beyond through our networks across Canada and
linkages with other sustainable communities, many of which have
based their successful efforts on our model."
The term "sustainability" means different things to different
people. Therefore, it is important to define sustainability (and
its variations) in the context of its use by Sustainable Toronto.
The following definitions stress that sustainable development is
a "process" rather than an "outcome". The process
is an on-going critical analysis that stresses efficiency and limits
to growth. It is an alternative decision-making tool that encourages
experimental thinking over the status quo and which can and should
be used by all sectors. We recognize that the notion of sustainability
has limitations: it does not consider historical factors; it is
anthropocentric rather than biocentric; and it does not incorporate
non-Western perspectives. We expect that, as the process of sustainable
development becomes more widely used, and as our knowledge and understanding
of the concept improve, our definitions will evolve accordingly.
With these notions in mind, we propose the following definitions:
Sustainability is an approach to decision making that incorporates
the interconnections and impacts of economic, social and environmental
factors on the quality of life of today's and future generations.
It is a dynamic and evolving notion, and as a process, it strives
to be participatory, transparent, equitable, informed, and accountable.
Sustainable development is development (economic or otherwise) that
incorporates the notion of sustainability into the decision-making
A sustainable community is a community, or group of connected individuals,
that employ sustainability principles in the activities that create
or contribute to the functioning of their community.
Community sustainability means a new way of thinking about our
relations with other people in our own community and in others,
about our jobs, about our natural environment and the human needs
it serves, about the future of our children and their children,
and about the governance of our communities on every scale. This
new way of thinking stresses cooperation in the search for common
goals that will replace competition in promoting individual interests.
To help individuals and groups promote the transition to sustainable
communities, there is a need to work across sectors and forge alliances
with governments, researchers, educators, businesses, non-profits
and other community members.
|A New Paradigm
In effect, sustainable development is a new paradigm
of decision making for all sectors of society: it entails developing
a new perspective on present-day issues and challenges and requires
a better appreciation of the complex interconnections between the
economic, social and environmental aspects of these issues. Sustainable
development recognizes that in order to be effective, environmental
policies need to be socially and economically feasible; social policies
need to be environmentally and economically feasible; and economic
policies need to be socially and environmentally feasible.
The relevance of sustainability can be established
by its prevalence in policy discourses, private sector strategic
planning, university curricula and the marked growth in recent years
of environmental non-profits aiming to achieve sustainable communities.
What has been missing from these initiatives, however, is
cross-sectoral collaboration, despite the varied resources
that each sector has to offer for promoting a transition to a more
sustainable society. Sustainable Toronto therefore seeks to encourage
and support collaborative efforts between these sectors with special
emphasis on non-profit organizations, local government and universities.
It proposes to achieve this objective through a series of complementary
projects, each of which aims to link research and action.
Implementation of the collaborative projects and
the ongoing discourse around sustainability issues is achieving
the following benefits:
- improved knowledge, problem-solving and decision-making
capacity of community organizations and university partners to
provide insights into how sustainability practices work and how
they can successfully combine economic development, environmental
protection and social equity;
- opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students
to undertake unique research, training and work experiences that
will inform and implement sustainability in a variety of settings;
- a framework for increased networking amongst universities
and community organizations which are investing in initiatives
for the promotion of sustainability in order to ensure enhanced
alliance-building, mutual learning through complementary research
and action agendas, and shared dissemination efforts; and
- enhanced social and economic community development
characterized by action and research initiatives that promote
and achieve tangible gains for sustainability, long-lasting community-university
linkages and increased opportunities for hands-on experience for
university students and researchers as well as for non-governmental
organizations and other local leaders.
a Community University Research Alliance (CURA)
and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)
other CURA projects: