On September 14, Geoff Cape, CEO of Evergreen, will hit the stage at MaRS for the MaRS Global Leadership to reflect on the past 25 years of work led by Evergreen and propose ways we can move toward a more sustainable state. Register here.

Working at Social Innovation Generation in the MaRS building exposes you to many cool projects and companies. Some days you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re only days away from the tipping point to true social and environmental sustainability.

A quick scan of the many organizations moving us toward a clean, green environment reveals companies such as SunFarmer, Nanoleaf and Avalon Battery. Then there are transformational urban design projects such as Cities for People and Jane’s Walk, two programs I’ve been privileged to work with on a day-to-day basis. Today I learned about QUIO Learning Map, an educational technology application created by a company based in Winnipeg that develops solutions to improve student learning and teacher effectiveness. The company was part of the third cohort of the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing’s Impact8 program. And the list goes on.

All of the exciting new developments and the stories of those who have been at the front edge of innovation for some time remind us that the road to transformation is long. There is rich knowledge to be found in these tales of failure, effort and success. Getting something started is one thing; keeping it growing is another.

Evergreen has been at the forefront of sustainability innovation for 25 years. The organization has expanded from a small charity focused on community and school-ground greening to an innovative non-profit organization with global reach. It is now tackling a whole series of challenges and opportunities related to the broader issues of urban sustainability.

Evergreen has evolved dramatically over the years with a series of projects and programs that—more often than not—have enabled strategic leaps forward. It has been a wild ride and Evergreen has progressed from an organization with a simple idea to an institutional leader on subjects ranging from restoration ecology and the design of children’s learning environments to transit planning and laneway housing.

Today, 85% of Canadians and half of the world’s seven billion people live in urban centres, which means that the transition to greener, more sustainable cities is imperative. Evergreen doesn’t look for the hardest problems to solve; rather, they look for ideas that are stuck, but that are ready to move.

Leading all of this work is Geoff Cape, the founder and CEO of Evergreen. Geoff is a founding member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum and a regular participant at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He was also the founding chair of the Sustainability Network. Geoff is an Ashoka Fellow and was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 in 1999. He won a Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation in 1996 and was also awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal. In 2007, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship named him the Canadian Social Entrepreneur of the Year and, in 2010, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Sustainable Buildings Canada. That’s some serious cred!

On September 14, Geoff will return to MaRS for our next Global Leadership event to talk about strategies that work and opportunities for change. Join us for Greening Cities, Healthy Planet: Strategies that Work, Opportunities for Change on Monday September 14, at 5:30 p.m. in the MaRS Auditorium. Students receive half-price admission with the code: GLSTUDENT15.

Photo credit: John Salvino under CC BY-SA 2.0

Geraldine Cahill

Geraldine is the Communications Manager for Social Innovation Generation, a group that addresses Canada’s social and ecological challenges by creating a culture of continuous social innovation. See more…