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Whistler needs to think about big picture, says Carstedt

Friday night meeting on community leadership in tough times draws 140 people

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What is Whistler good for?

“This question of why we do what we do is very important in any leadership context,” management expert Göran Carstedt said to over 140 people during Friday evening’s public forum on community leadership during troubled times.

Carstedt, who has led some of the largest organizations in the world, said it is important for companies and governments to place themselves in the “big picture” if they want to survive the economic and environmental turmoil that lies ahead.

For example, Wal-Mart and Ikea have set their own goals to reduce their green house gas emissions in order to remain competitive in the changing market.

Whistler can benefit by continuing to solidify its sustainability goals, said Carstedt. He also stressed community collaboration and the importance of planning for both the short and long-term.

“You are a sustainable champion in the world, whether you know it or not, and so many people are looking at what are you are doing,” said Carstedt.

“You are hosting the biggest event in the world (the 2010 Olympics), and you will be the centre of everyone’s attention… The role you can play and will play cannot be underestimated. You are in a very special place.”

The free forum was arranged by members of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability and the Whistler2020 Partners.

Four major players in Whistler’s landscape — Mayor Ken Melamed; president and COO of Whistler Blackcomb David Brownlie; Barrett Fisher, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler; and Fiona Famulak, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce — were part of a panel session following Carstedt’s presentation.

The four Whistler leaders took different slants on the forum’s broad theme.

Brownlie said regardless of the global economic slump, Whistler Blackcomb representatives want to forge ahead with their mission of creating good memories. Remaining a good community partner and protecting the environment are also paramount.

“If we do a good job, I think we’ll be successful in bringing people back,” said Brownlie.

“The next 18 months we’ll have to work hard to protect our product, but the future of this place is beyond incredible… I think we are poised to be successful.”

Fisher, on the other hand, reminded the audience that Whistler has weathered tough times before. It is important that the resort town remain competitive and offers good value to customers.

“In a tough economy, you have two choices: no business or some business,” said Fisher.

“We know the competitive markets are ferocious, not just the ski resorts but the hot spot resorts…. We are not going to get what we always got. We need to be equally as ferocious.”

The mayor said he will continue to “raise the bar” and promote Whistler’s sustainability brand.

And Famulak said she will continue to work with the chamber to find better ways of reaching out to their membership.

“It should not be the chamber giving information, but the chamber inviting people to collaborate,” said Famulak.

The four leaders also had a private meeting with Carstedt prior to the forum to talk nuts-and-bolts about how the Whistler community can better organize itself to tackle upcoming challenges.

Carstedt leads the Society for Organizational Learning and is the senior director for C40 (Large Cities) of the Clinton Climate Initiative. He is also a former senior executive of both Ikea and Volvo.

“I was very excited that Whistler as a resort and as a community has been doing so much to try and identify sustainability,” said Carstedt after the event.

He added, however, that Whistler — and the world — still has a lot of work to do.

“We don’t see all the answers yet.”

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