Canada and the Green Transition: Perspectives on the Way Forward

Chapter 5: Business and Multi-Sectoral Collaboration for Sustainability Transitions

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Key Messages




  • Each of the three sectoral spheres – the market, the state and civil society – has a logic defined by its governance norms, or the intentions, functions, and rules of interaction by which it operates – and these logics are in conflict
  • However, the rise of communication technologies and a much more highly connected civil society, shareholder activism, and the shift toward responsible investment have forced higher levels of transparency on corporations and changed perspectives on what makes for a ‘good corporate citizen’, with the result that the competing ‘logics’ of market, state, and civil society are converging
  • The Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) is a descriptive, historically-derived framework for thinking about how socio-technical systems can evolve. Under MLP, the aim is to foster ‘micro-level’ innovation niches (incubation spaces for radical novelties) that can disrupt ‘meso-level’ factors in the socio-technical regime (established patterns of interaction and shared cognitive routines among science & technology development, corporations, policy makers, citizens, consumers) while taking account of changes within the exogenous environment (the broader socio-technical landscape) that influences both niche and regime actors.




  • A co-creative process, where diverse perspectives of sectors are integrated, can lead to policy that accelerates sustainability transitions and builds social-ecological resilience. Tri-partite partnerships are becoming more common, wherein all parties – business, the state and CSOs – are invited to the collaboration table
  • CSOs are increasingly acting as the chief convenor and meaning-maker, as they are the ‘voice’ of societal well-being, they have moral authority, and they are best placed to coax the other two outside of the bounds of their logics and into a larger conversation to co-create problem definition and proposed solutions.
  • CSOs work at all six leverage points to disrupt in influence changes at the regime level (policy, industry, culture, technology, finance, and consumer preferences), and can bring longer term landscape level factors into the field of salience and the conversational space for tripartite discussions




  • National policies such as Canada’s commitment to net-zero by 2050, and the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan set out the national framework for provincial and regional policy planning. The language and targets are being folded into ESG ratings to which companies must respond via corporate policy
  • Programs such as NRCANs $100 million Code Acceleration Fund are helping to push provincial and municipal governments to raise expectations and regulations on green building codes, and it explicitly invites non-governmental and business actors who can influence and engage governments in raising ambition and building capacity.




  • All sectors (business, civil society, and governments) are feeling the imperative to engage more deeply and meaningfully with grand global challenges. With such converging interests and obligations, the default mode should be tripartite collaboration. Every government program, corporate initiative, or NGO campaign should be interrogated for opportunities to engage other two sectors in tripartite partnership
  • Drive change and re-invention via learning-focused design questions, such as:
    • How might we engage a full spectrum of stakeholders in addressing this problem?
    • How could the Multi-level Perspective on sustainability transitions help accelerate our engagement process?
    • How might we move the needle on regime-level factors, and consider how they work together (i.e. technology, industry, policy, culture, consumer preferences, and investment) in progressing to a more sustainable place?
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