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For Alberta, harnessing new opportunity for business and workers starts with realigning corporate purpose

May 1, 2021
Catherine Bell
Catherine Bell | Expert Panelist
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Roxanna Benoit
Roxanna Benoit | Expert Panelist
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It is nothing new to say that Alberta is hurting.

But for all the challenges of the past year, we remain ultimately optimistic about the future. The key to success lies with businesses’ ability to realign their purpose — and bring their employees along with them.

Alberta is resilient. But resilience no longer means waiting for the wind to change, buckling down while the worst of our crisis comes to pass. Rather the opposite — this time, Albertans need to focus on recognizing change, harnessing new opportunity and realigning our purpose to meet the moment. It is time to catalyze and galvanize on our entrepreneurial spirit. This type of energy cannot be manufactured.

The demand for change in Alberta’s core industries has never been higher, or more necessary. Across Canada and around the world, governments and businesses are taking up the mantle to fight for a global clean energy transition. In so doing, they risk leaving millions of people behind without the right approach to policy.

For Alberta, the challenge is real. A recent report from TD Economics suggests that 50–75 per cent of energy workers in Canada could lose their jobs from the energy transition.

At the same time, this transition provides an opportunity to innovate and potentially address certain long-standing employment challenges in our province. It’s time we got off of the roller-coaster.

This means reaching young people in Alberta, who are an untapped resource right now. The energy sector in particular faces an identity crisis as some young people turn away from what they perceive as a “dirty” industry that contributes to climate change.

It is not just young people driving this identity crisis. The core of the workforce is feeling it too. Challenges with retention have been impacting companies, and longtime employees are being left behind as the energy landscape changes.

These issues pose the following question: How does Alberta pivot its energy sector, without leaving behind its current workforce, whilst attracting young talent?

A cross-Canada survey from the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation recently showed that 50 per cent of Albertans want capitalism reformed to be more inclusive, fairer and more sustainable. This means communities, longtime employees and future Albertans need to be represented in the energy sector as we change. By taking up a people-first, purpose-driven mandate, businesses can not only provide commercial success but make Alberta a better place to work and live.

It is a difficult task, even for those companies already committed to real change. But solutions like harnessing or offsetting hydrocarbons can be baked into a gradual energy transition, creating jobs and fostering opportunity as we implement the necessary change.

Certain firms, including many large players, have already taken up this work, like Canary Biofuels, an Alberta-based firm working to reduce carbon emissions with its cleaner energy alternative.

Founder George Wadsworth spent over 20 years in the oil and gas sector before starting the company. In his words, “Canary is a company that contributes to helping Canadians and Albertans reduce GHG emissions while slowly transitioning away from fossil fuels. This creates a better Alberta by blending the old fossil fuel-driven Alberta with the new world of renewables.”

Wadsworth’s perspective speaks to the crucial role that oil and gas expertise can bring to a successful transition, if existing energy sector workers are included.

Albertan companies need to look at “why” we are shifting to green energy, not just “how.” Defining the purpose of the work, mobilizing the current workforce and investing in our community is the first step. Leadership in the industry will be competitive in the coming years. The companies focused on their responsibility to key stakeholders — their employees and communities — will come out on top. If it’s done right, so will Alberta.

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About the author:

Catherine Bell | Expert Panelist
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Catherine Bell is a member of the expert panel of the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation (CCPC) and a Senior Advisor with Navigator working out of the Calgary office. Catherine is a successful entrepreneur, business leader and award winning,  best-selling author. Catherine’s experience in building effective leaders and impactful businesses will drive her work with the CCPC. 

Catherine founded  BluEra, a Profit 500 executive search firm that was named a top 200 growing company in Canada and a top ten growing firm in Alberta. As Founder of The Awakened Company, Catherine focuses on building transformative organizations that merge wisdom traditions, business research and practical know how to empower leaders. Catherine is the best-selling author of  The Awakened Company  and has been published in  Fortune,  Harvard Business Review  and  Profit—among many other publications.    

Catherine recently served as the  Jarislowsky  Co-Fellow at the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. Catherine has served on the board of Distress Centre Calgary and Open to Grow, is currently serving on the Advisory Council to the Impact  Society, and  has completed the Not for Profit Essentials Program offered by the Institute of Corporate Directors and has an MBA from Queens School of Business.

Roxanna Benoit | Expert Panelist
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Roxanna Benoit is a member of the expert panel of the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation (CCPC) and Senior Counsel to Navigator based in Calgary.  Roxanna has had an extensive career in law, government and public policy.  Roxanna’s  experience in navigating complex regulatory environments and delivering  eco-social benefits through business will drive the work that she does.   

Roxanna recently retired from Enbridge Inc. where she was Vice President Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability.  In that role Roxanna was accountable for ESG and climate policies, reporting and disclosure; government, community and indigenous relationships and engagement; all external and internal communications; and reputation and brand management.  

Before joining Enbridge in 2013 Roxanna  was  with the Province of Alberta where she held the positions of Deputy Minister International and Intergovernmental Relations (2012-2013), Deputy Minister International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations (2011-2012), Deputy Chief Policy Coordination Executive Council (2009-2011) and Managing Director Public Affairs Bureau Executive Council (2007-2009).  

Roxanna has a diverse background in law, government and public policy.  Prior to her public and private sector experience she held various executive level positions in national not for profit and political organizations.  Roxanna has served on the boards of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Alberta Chamber of Resources and chaired the Business Environment Executive Committee of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.  Roxanna is a member of the Law Society of Alberta and resides in Calgary.