Whistler’s innovative approach to sustainability has attracted a leader in the field to the new board of directors of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability (WCS).
“I have to admit the main thing that interested me in addition to the topic is the innovative aspect of this,” said Deborah Curran, a senior instructor at the Environmental Law Centre in the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria.
“There are very few local governments who have taken the learning that they have done and then spun it out for benefits to, not only the wider community, but back to Whistler itself, if (the WCS) is then a money generator for a local government.
“So in that sense I think it is highly innovative and I think it helps us to put Whistler even more on the map than it already is from a variety of perspectives and it also, down the road, will come back significantly to benefit the residents of Whistler.”
The Resort Municipality of Whistler reached a milestone for the WCS this week with the announcement of its new board. Joining Curran are Bruce Dewar, CEO, 2010 LegaciesNow; Doug Forseth, senior vice president of operations for Whistler-Blackcomb; Esther Speck, sustainability director for Mountain Equipment Co-op; Charles Steele, president Ziptrek Ecotours Inc.; and Tim Wake, RMOW councilor and affordable housing consultant.
The board has a corporate structure with members offering insights and experience in key sectors, including business, environment, sustainability and organizational structure.
There is also a search underway, nationally and internationally, by professional search firm Ray and Berndtson for an executive director for the WCS said Shannon Gordon, the RMOW’s Whistler2020 Community Engagement Manager.
“I really think once an executive director is here and puts their nose down, starts on more detailed business planning, ramps up staff and creates the direction then I think we will really see the movement,” said Gordon.
Not content to wait for that though staff at the WCS, which is currently housed at the offices of the municipality, is already partnering to produce programs.
At least one corporate client, Corix, a water products, water system and utilities company, has chosen Whistler for its strategic planning getaway so that the WCS team can offer leadership to senior management said Gordon.
And the WCS is considering bidding on a RFP from Victoria to help the city develop an integrated community sustainability plan.
“We are looking at whether or not that will work for us,” said Gordon.
“It just makes sense to get going and delivering on this rather than just a whole bunch more planning to the end of 2008.”
In the long term the WCS, which hopes to be gifted a new physical home as part of the Lot1/9 development, plans on offering consulting services to a host of paying clients and then using the revenue to continue Whistler’s quest to be sustainable, and educate and lead community groups.
It is also looking at partnering with post secondary institutions to offer courses in the field and plans to cater to tourism, both corporate and private, as the desire for more education and leadership in this field continues to grow.
The municipality has been putting aside $120,000 for the WCS for the past few years.
Initially staff for the WCS will come from the municipality, but more staff will be brought on board in the coming years.
Curran is also co-founder of Smart Growth B.C. (www.smartgrowth.bc.ca) a non-governmental organization devoted to fiscally, socially and environmentally responsible land use and development. It works throughout the province with community groups, businesses, developers, planners, municipalities and the public to create more livable communities in British Columbia.
The smart growth project is intended to nurture and mobilize a growing citizen movement addressing growth and sprawl issues around the province, and to provide sound alternative policy solutions to these issues.
This organizational and governance experience is likely to be invaluable as the WCS continues to grow.