How Canada’s finance and insurance hubs are prioritising the planet over profit

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How Canada’s finance and insurance hubs are prioritising the planet over profit

With the dust settling on COP 26, unfettered capitalism is now persona non grata, and, in the world of business, there is a refocusing on long-term, big picture thinking that melds the pursuit of profit with a desire to radically reduce environmental costs. When it comes to finance and insurance, this takes the form of “sustainable finance”. As an element of “responsible growth”, sustainable – or green – finance is described as “a set of financial regulations, standards, norms and products that pursue an environmental objective..”

And that’s good news for Canada, bearing in mind their commitment to the new – financial – normal. As an energy superpower, and one of the world’s top ten trading nations, Canada has placed 14th (out of 76) among leading nations and territories on the Green Future Index, which ranks global economies on their progress and commitment towards building a more sustainable and low-carbon future.

Credit: Ben Jaworskyj

Performed by MIT Technology Review Insights, this new index measures the extent to which the economies of ranked nations are pivoting towards clean energy, industry, agriculture and society through investment in innovation, renewables, and green finance. 

But making the move to a more sustainable future will require massive investment, harnessing the global money machine in a new direction. The world’s finance and insurance sector (F&I) is bounding back to pre-Covid levels, but the new focus is on sustainability, with an increasing number of consumers and investors looking for an honest profit, and both shareholders and governments putting pressure on business to create a reduced carbon world.

This new approach suits Canada, a global leader in the F&I sector, as many of the country’s dispersed sector hubs have been thinking about sustainable finance for quite some time. On a federal level, the Bank of Canada announced its climate change commitments for COP 26, whilst the nation’s six largest banks have signed onto the UN’s NZBA (Net Zero Banking Alliance), a global sustainability focused banking initiative striving to put pressure on businesses to prioritise planet over profit.

In the months leading up to COP 26, Canada launched the Sustainable Finance Action Council, with the aim of bringing together  ‘public and private sector financial expertise to support the growth of a strong, well-functioning, sustainable finance market.’ At the launch in May, Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance said: “The global economy is turning swiftly, decisively, and irreversibly green… the only choice for Canada is to be in the vanguard – and prioritising sustainable finance is central to this objective.” 

Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change added, “as financial systems around the world are increasingly looking to measure, price and disclose climate risk, the Sustainable Finance Action Council will help ensure Canada stays ahead of the curve. This is what global investors are looking for, what Canadians expect, and what will set our businesses up for success in the 21st century.”

And there are actions to support the words: from 2015 to 2019, the federal government has invested $60 billion towards climate action. Since October 2020, the federal government has committed an additional $53.6 billion towards a green recovery that will build a clean economy, fight and protect against climate change, and create good middle-class jobs.

Canada’s established focus and commitment to this increasingly important aspect of the F&I sector positions it as the perfect place to hold industry events. Planners – whether from corporates, agencies or associations – have the opportunity to leverage the country’s extensive knowledge capital, while taking advantage of the many inherent benefits of hosting an event in Canada.

The Words into Action

Credit: Jean François Savaria – Tourisme Montréal

Montréal boasts the second largest economy amongst Canadian cities and today is an important centre of commerce, finance, industry, technology, culture and world affairs. It is also home to the Montréal Exchange, as well as MCeX, the Montréal Climate Exchange, Canada’s first regulated environmental market.

The city is globally recognised as a finance and insurance  hub and is at the cutting edge of innovation. Montréal is a leader in the fintech space and boasts a world-class sustainable finance ecosystem. Montréal’s finance institutions were the first to adopt sustainably-focused best practices inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and the city is a member of the Financial Centres for Sustainability Network – part of the UN Environment Program.

Across the province, more than 20 Quebec based institutions, managing over $900 billion in assets, signed onto the Quebec Financial Centre’s Declaration on Sustainable Finance, committing themselves to investment and capital allocation decision-making based on the principles of responsible investment. This is the first statement of its sort in North America. The city was also a pioneer in decarbonising investment portfolios in North America. 

There are more firsts: Montréal ranks #1 in Canada in the Global Green Finance Index 7 Ranking.

While, to some, there may be the concern that these are just hollow words, it’s worth noting that the province of Quebec has a history of sustainable practices. The province has one of the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rates per capita in North America due to, among other reasons, its hydropower production, a reliable, renewable, and affordable energy source.”

The city’s commitment to sustainability is also apparent in the meetings infrastructure. It’s worth noting that Montréal’s Palais de congrés has achieved the environmental BOMA BEST certification, and in 2022 the new Réseau Express Metropolitan (REM) light rail system will even extend to the international airport. For planners and delegates alike the opportunity exists to minimise their carbon footprint.

The province, specifically Montréal, is also home to the Sustainable Finance Summit. The high profile event, supported by more than 20 of the city’s biggest financial players, held its inaugural event in 2021 to huge success, despite the challenging circumstances, and will returning in May 2022, again fielding an speaker schedule with some of the industry’s biggest names. It’s just one of many high-profile events that the province hosts and, for meeting planners wishing to ensure sustainability runs through every aspect of their events.

Opposite coasts, same aim

They may be on opposite sides of the country, but in the F&I arena Toronto and Vancouver share many similarities. Both are major sector hubs. Toronto is Canada’s largest finance hub and is one of the biggest players in North America. Meanwhile Vancouver has been a top 25 Global Financial Centre for over a decade and is developing an important niche in international treasury and financial functions.

Credit: Destination Toronto

Both cities also share a forward-thinking approach, both in terms of sector innovation and a sustainable approach to the industry.

In Toronto, academia is working with industry to build a more sustainable approach to finance. Rotman School of Management, part of the University of Toronto’s business school, has established itself as a thought leader in the sustainable finance space. Additionally, Toronto was the first government in Canada to establish a Social Debenture Program, furthering its leadership in sustainable finance, and prompting positive and equitable socioeconomic outcomes. Eligible projects are capital projects for various social initiatives, including social and affordable housing; affordable basic infrastructure (access to clean drinking water, sewage and sanitation systems and transit); access to essential services (long-term care, senior services, and emergency shelters) and socioeconomic advancement and empowerment (public libraries and community hubs). The 2020 initiative followed on from Toronto’s Green Debenture Program two years earlier, with net proceeds to finance capital projects that mitigate, and adapt to, the effects of climate change.

Similarly, Vancouver recently launched first $100m sustainability bond, unsurprising, as the province which is home to Greenpeace is a pioneer of ethical and sustainable investing. The fund supports and invests in carefully selected projects, while offering investors competitive returns. This is the first sustainability bond issued by any Canadian government entity and the investment community responded positively, with the initiative being over-subscribed by 400%.

Credit: Destination Canada

Despite being on opposite coasts, F&I organizations in both Toronto and Vancouver are both committed to a sustainable approach to business,. The commitment to “sustainable finance” that runs from coast to coast sees environmental protection working hard in hand with the drive to an honest profit, when cleaning up environmentally can mean cleaning up financially!

Learning From The Best

Canada’s innovation, world-class research facilities, globally recognized universities and industry experts make the country the ideal place to host F&I business events, and the Destination Canada Business Events team are skilled in enabling unique connections with industry leaders, securing access to exceptional sites, and facilitating meetings with global experts local.

So, what does this mean for business event planners? Well, for starters, they’ll have access to the Canada’s immense sector specific knowledge capital and industry experts. This can lead to exceptional additions to speaking schedules, as well as local champions for events.

Event planners will also have the opportunity for site visits to local research institutions, innovative start-ups and establish sector leaders. These excursions can lead to increased sponsorship opportunities, effective business collaborations and knowledge transfer. 

Canada’s natural beauty ranges from mountains, to oceans, to prairies, to lakes and features multiple vibrant urban centres close to nature giving business event attendees the opportunity to have once in a lifetime experiences both inside and outside of the meeting room. This can be of particular importance for events focused on sustainable finance and protecting the natural environment. It’s also seen as an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming nation, factors which are becoming ever-more important to organisers.

Credit: Maurice Li, British Columbia

For international conferences, events, and association meetings, the new normal is for a destination that can seamlessly support the needs of delegates, organisers, and sponsors. And, thanks to Canada’s conference-friendly visa requirements and depth of intellectual capital, global organisations are looking to Canadian cities as ideal host destinations for their conferences and events. That translates to better delegate numbers and increased revenue and impact opportunities.  

The Destination Canada Business Events team will help make choosing Canada as your event destination an easy decision. Picking where in Canada could prove a little harder…

Destination Canada Business Events
Natalia Filemonowicz , business development manager, Economic Sectors
+1 514-229-3493,

Featured Image by Destination Vancouver/Barbershop Films

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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