Panel discussion at First Evening of Recognition in 2013.

The organization was originally launched as Sustainable Hamilton in June 2011 by Sandi Stride with the help of a Founding Board of Directors and small team of volunteers.

One of the first actions was to recruit a cross-sectoral advisory committee to gain input from sustainability experts in academia, municipal and provincial government, NGOs, and businesses large and small.  Over the summer of 2011 this committee reviewed several sustainability measurement frameworks to provide guidance on a program that would meet the needs of organizations in the Hamilton and Burlington area, as well as one that would help address the key local environmental, social and economic issues. The committee decided on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the de-facto world standard in corporate sustainability reporting for its world-wide acceptance and suitability for a wide range of organizations and sectors. The newly formed Sustainable Hamilton Operations Team then went to work on creating a comprehensive toolkit and other support programs. The Sustainable Hamilton Reporting Initiative was launched in early 2012.

Promotional image for First Evening of Recognition in 2013

In June 2013, the first annual Evening of Recognition was held at the Royal Botanical Gardens . The 2012 accomplishments of the first eight Sustainable Hamilton Reporting Partners were celebrated with 175 business and community leaders from across Burlington, Hamilton and the Golden Horseshoe. Membership grew to 14 organizations by June 2014.

In the meantime the Sustainable Hamilton Volunteer Operations Team grew, consisting of local sustainability professionals, university students and recent graduates. Many of these volunteers have since moved on to sustainability-related positions in government and industry, aided by the experience gained with Sustainable Hamilton.

Sustainable Hamilton also created the Sustainable Hamilton Experiential Learning (SHEL) program, to extend its mission of mentoring the next generation of sustainable business leaders. Through this program, 77 McMaster University students benefited from 17 group projects with local businesses where they gained hands-on sustainability project experience that also benefited the company and the community. The work started with the SHEL program now continues with the new Collaborative Experiential Learning (CEL) program, that includes Mohawk college students as well as those from McMaster.

Sustainable Hamilton was invited by the City of Hamilton in 2014 to sit on the Steering Committee of the Community Climate Change Action Plan, where Sandi Stride also co-chaired the Local Economy and Business Task Force to engage the business sector in the climate change discussion.  Climate Change became a key focus of Sustainable Hamilton programming.

In fall of 2014 the organization moved into a new office at The Seedworks on Catharine Street North in Hamilton, Ontario providing a home for volunteer meetings and office space for staff and volunteers.

The mayors of Hamilton (Fred Eisenberger, right) and Burlington (Rick Goldring, left) take part in a panel at SHB’s 2016 Evening of Recognition.

By 2014 it became evident that there was a growing interest in Burlington, Ontario as well, but the name Sustainable Hamilton was proving to be a deterrent to Burlington-based organizations. The decision was made to re-brand as Sustainable Hamilton Burlington, and the new name and logo were launched at the June 2015 Evening of Recognition.

Over 670 organizations have learned about best practices in sustainability through 17 Learning Forums since launching in 2011.  There are currently 29 businesses and other organizations participating in the Sustainable Business Initiative: committing to measuring and reporting on their triple bottom-line progress.

On a wider scale, Sustainable Hamilton Burlington’s CEO, Sandi Stride chairs the Burlington Chamber of Commerce Environment Committee and spearheaded the development and submission of a Climate Change resolution in 2014. This resolution was successfully adopted into the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CC of C) policy in September 2014 and is forming part of the CC of C advocacy efforts with the federal government.

Through its programs and many community partnerships, Sustainable Hamilton Burlington is inspiring the two city’s organizations to do well by doing good – and contributing to a positive, sustainable future for Hamilton and Burlington.