reThink Green reflects on the value of networks

By Rebecca Danard, Executive Director, reThink Green

reThink Green is an organization built around networks. In our community of Sudbury, we have led the creation of Green Connect: a network of local environmental groups; and The Forge: an eco-friendly co-working network space. We are also members of several networks: the Sustainability Network, the Ontario Environment Network, and most recently in early 2015, we became an Emerging Member of the CoLab Network.

Today, with the support of Sustainability CoLab we are in the process of creating Green Economy North: a target-based sustainability program that will support a network of local businesses and organizations setting targets to improve sustainability.

There’s a reason why reThink Green has taken a networked approach to how we operate: networks bring added value that is so much greater than the sum of their parts. The value we will be offering to the Sudbury community and members of Green Economy North is paralleled to the value we get from Sustainability CoLab, which I’ve broken down into three broad categories:

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reThink Green volunteers with Executive Director Rebecca Danard, at a 2015 Earth Day Event in Sudbury

1. Credibility, Accountability and Recognition

The members of Green Economy North aren’t just names on a list; they are serious about taking meaningful action to become more sustainable. We ensure this through measuring, recording and reporting real data pertaining to environmental and economic results. When a business sets a target, that target will be reported on publicly and their progress will be monitored.  We’ll support them when challenges occur and celebrate with them when they reach important milestones along the way.

As a member of Sustainability CoLab, reThink Green benefits from the reputation and credibility of work that has been done in other places and on a broader scale. Alone, reThink Green would struggle to bring provincial and national recognition to this program, but as part of a network we are more enabled to do so. At the same time, we’re also accountable for creating a program that lives up to the standards set by Sustainability CoLab and the wider CoLab Network.

2. Collaboration & Cooperation

When working to address a difficult (and complex!) problem like climate change it is good to know you are not alone. The Sudbury business community can unite, learn from one another and work together to become more sustainable. Because we are part of the CoLab Network, they have access to ideas and innovations and can make strategic connections across the province.

It is easy to feel isolated working in a small non-profit, particularly in Northern Ontario. It is  inspiring to think of other Network Members in other parts of the province working away at many of the same problems we are tackling in Sudbury. We can learn so much through supporting one another in our unique and common challenges.

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Rebecca Danard presents to fellow members of the CoLab Network at the CoLab Connects 2015 Peer to Peer Session in June 2015

3. Support

Since the Regional Carbon Initiative began in Waterloo Region in 2009, much has been done by other businesses and organizations on the path to sustainability across the CoLab Network. CoLab is sharing those stories and resources so no one has to reinvent the wheel. Because of this, everyone can devote their time and energy to solving the next problem and the next. We can use our forward momentum to keep raising the bar of what it means to be sustainable, and as we continue to test and innovate in Sudbury, our stories will help support others in the CoLab Network as it continues to scale.

The support we receive from CoLab is beyond anything I would have expected. From the very small tasks – Mike Morrice, CoLab’s Executive Director, has been seen sweeping our hallway in preparation for a community meeting – to larger undertakings, such as discussing our overall organizational structure and priorities. It is clear that Sustainability CoLab is willing to do almost anything to help us succeed. I wish I had equivalent support for all the other projects and networks I work on!

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Discussion at reThink Green’s first community workshop, March 2015

As one of the newest members of the CoLab Network, we are benefiting and learning from the successes and challenges of our fellow Network Members. Our path towards launching Green Economy North has been smoothed and streamlined by those who have come before us. I am looking forward to a time when reThink Green can begin to reciprocate and share the successes, innovations and challenges we face here in Sudbury with the CoLab Network, and someday help another community accomplish their goals.

reThink Green joined the CoLab Network in January 2015, and is currently in the midst of completing CoLab’s 10 Milestone Launch Process to become an Affiliate Member. Their target-based sustainability program, Green Economy North, is expected to launch in early 2016. To learn more about reThink Green and the work they do, visit or follow them on Twitter: @rethinkgreen

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