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Achieving sustainability through the market



Coro Strandberg says the power to change the world relies on consumers and investors making better choices

What: Whistler Sustainability Speaker Series presents Coro Strandberg

Where: Telus Whistler Conference Centre

When: Thursday, Jan. 22, 7 p.m.

The concept of sustainability is often described as a stool with three legs of equal importance – social sustainability, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability. If one of the legs isn’t there, it’s impossible to achieve a balance.

In the past, companies were mainly concerned with economics, and paid little attention to the other two legs of the stool. That is starting to change as a growing number of educated and concerned consumers, businesses and investors are making their presence felt.

"Every time you make a purchase your make a vote in the marketplace," said Coro Strandberg, a Vancouver-based consultant who has helped to pioneer the concept of corporate social and environmental responsibility.

"If we were more conscious of our role in the marketplace we might make better choices.

Consumers have the power to do that, and companies are taking notice.

On Thursday Strandberg launches the 2004 Sustainability Speaker Series, which is presented by the Whistler Early Adopters of the Natural Step framework for sustainability. The Early Adopters include the RMOW, Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, AWARE, and Whistler One Hour Photo.

Although she focuses mainly on social and environmental planning for companies and corporations, her almost 20 years of experience has given Strandberg some unique insight into the role of consumers in the sustainability equation. Her presentation is entitled Achieving Sustainability Through the Market: Our role as investors, consumers and concerned citizens.

Strandberg believes that the case for more ethical purchasing and investing has already been made, and says she will focus her talk on specific things that people can do to reduce their own ecological footprint, and how individuals can help to influence corporations towards sustainability. She has compiled a list of Web sites, books, newsletters and other sources consumers and businesses can use to look at companies and products and help them make better purchasing decisions.

"I give some context, but I’m really more focused on how people can apply this to their daily lives. I’ll talk about tools, and look at buying local, and some alternatives to shopping, called un-shopping," said Strandberg.

Unshopping is about changing our consumer patterns, whether that means buying less, buying only what’s really needed, observing Buy Nothing Day and Buy Nothing Christmas, asking questions about the quality, life and disposal of products before making purchases, and examining other options – such as leasing, buying used, buying co-operatively, and buying locally.

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