Sustainability Network

Our mission is to enrich Canadian environmental leaders and non-profit organizations through programs, services and support that help them increase their capacity to lead, manage and strategize. The Sustainability Network works with environmental non-profits to make them more effective and efficient. By improving management and leadership skills and fostering organizational development, we help to strengthen the environmental community. We are about sustaining the organizations that work on sustainability.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

For over 16 years, the Sustainability Network has organized hundreds of high-quality training events with relevant content. Our programs, including public forums, workshops, Learning Networks, and webinars, have given environmental leaders opportunities to learn from experts and their peers, and space to explore ways of strengthening their organizations. By improving skills in key NGO management areas, we help environmental non-profits become stronger and more effective.

Over the last few years, we have engaged under-represented communities through our Environment and Diversity Project (EDP) and helped ENGOs become more diverse and partner with ethno-cultural communities. Currently we are in the third consecutive year of running our Good to Great Program and we have begun organizing a new initiative, titled the Economic Literacy Project (ELP).

Accolades and Accomplishments

The Sustainability Network has provided environmental non-profit leaders with the skills that are needed to become more effective, efficient, vibrant and self-reliant. By continuously taking the pulse of our stakeholders' needs, we have successfully evolved to become a more intensive and collaborative capacity builder via customized programs such as the Environment & Diversity Project, the Good to Great Program and the Economic Literacy Project.

To date, participation in our events and programs include:

Forums – Over 8,000 individuals

Workshops – Over 3,200 individuals

Learning Networks – Over 900 individuals

Direct Management Assistance - 32 organizations

Mini-grants – 22 organizations

Network reach (including Social Media):

Facebook – 1,785 supporters

Twitter – 625 followers

Vimeo – 480 Video loads/week in 2014 (on average)

Sustainability Digest Monthly Subscribers – 1,281 people

Our Programs How We Do It

We connect with our community through workshops, webinars, public forums, our monthly e-newsletter, and specialized programs.

The Sustainability Network organizes all-day, customized workshops to help leaders of environmental non-profits develop their management skills. Session topics cover the scope on non-profit managed issues ranging from fundraising to project management and from communications to collaboration. Similarly, our webinars are a great way to virtually convene environmental leaders for brief learning opportunities.

We host public forums in Toronto bringing together the ENGO community. Speakers have included: Michael Adams, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Elizabeth May.

Our capacity building monthly e-newsletter is distributed to Canada’s environmental non-profit community. Our newsletter includes: Sustainability Network events, regional training and workshops, as well as articles and reports, which can be requested from us for free.

Environment and Diversity Project (2008-2012)

The Environment & Diversity Project (EDP) is a collaborative that helps environmental NGOs change to better reflect and engage under-represented communities. EDP strategically addresses this challenge by providing customized, ongoing coaching, training and resources to help ENGOs set realistic diversity goals and embark on an organizational change process that includes embracing diversity at the board, staff and volunteer levels as well as through effective engagement of diverse communities. The project brings a diversity of voices to the forefront, helping bridge the gap in understanding between ENGOs and cultural groups and promotes a two-way dialogue where learning between ENGOs and cultural groups is mutually beneficial.

Funding and Program Partners

EDP was successfully implemented due to the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, YMCA Eco-Internships and ECO Canada.

Program Impact

Throughout the four year project, EDP has been successful in promoting diversity within organizations and helping ENGOs reach out to ethno-cultural communities through:

1. Diversity Action Planning - Three ENGOs have successfully used this process to set and achieve their diversity goals.

2. Internships - Six ENGOs learned to work with newcomers in carrying out diversity initiatives.

3. Mini-grants - Twelve ENGOs successfully implemented diversity outreach projects through support from EDP and Sustainability Network staff (mentoring/coaching).

4. Forums/Workshops/Conferences - 357 individuals learned how to embrace diversity through our events, and how to go about implementing diversity goals in their own organizations. These events included: two board diversity training sessions, an ethnic media and communication workshop, a First Nations Awareness Training Workshop, a Native Bus Tour of Toronto, a Diversity in Governance for ENGOs workshop, and a Conference entitled "The Environment and Our Diverse Society".

Participant Vignette

Dan McDermott, Chapter Director for Sierra Club Ontario, has been in the environmental sector for over 30 years, and he remembers numerous times over the years when discussions about diversity have surfaced. According to Dan, everyone knew diversity in the sector was an issue, but no one knew how to address it. That’s where EDP came in: Dan was optimistic that the customized training, coaching and peer-to-peer learning could make a difference in his long-term commitment to organizational change. The interventions created and implemented were tailored to his organization’s specific needs – not an off-the-shelf module without follow-up. The allocation of time, resources and coordination of efforts from Sustainability Network staff and consultants went a long way in making inroads in what seemed to be a secondary issue.“My Executive Committee surprised me last night with their commitment to the board [diversity training] session…Counting Emma and myself, we will have 8 people there! We’ve succeeded in capturing the attention of our leadership in addressing the broad organizational issue of diversity, which is more than I thought possible at this stage; we’re excited about new tools such as DiversityCity onBoard and the website!”

Good to Great Program

Good to Great is a year-long organizational capacity building program that provides an opportunity for a handful of environmental non-profit organizations to consider, develop and implement strategies to significantly increase their impact through Direct Management Assistance (DMA) and Learning Networks.

DMA supports organization-specific efforts and helps participating ENGOs to sustain themselves and meet their mission over the long term. Participants work with experienced consultants on processes that build organization capacity and enhance organization effectiveness.

Learning Network gatherings provide an opportunity to learn from peers, share DMA project challenges and results and build a peer network. Board/staff teams assemble at retreat centres three times for multi-day learning, sharing and relationship-building workshops.

Funding and Program Partners

Our Good to Great Program is supported and funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Program Impact

The Good to Great Program has graduated 12 ENGOs and is in the midst of a cohort of six ENGOs that wrap up in June 2015. Each leadership team has received expert instruction in non-profit management, an opportunity to reflect with peers and counterparts, as well as customized consulting assistance on an organization-specific capacity challenge.

Participant Vignette

"The opportunity to strengthen the bones of our organization has been a real gift. In our case, we have used our direct management assistance project to reconnect our organization with our network's members, using member surveys, focus group work, and a board retreat. It's been a terrific "reality check" that is helping us realign our mission, program, and communicatons more closely with the needs of the communities we serve.

Our project represents the kind of deep organization work that we know we have needed to do for some time. The support and coaching that the Good to Great program provided moved this project to the front burner for us. Where it should have been."

Lucy Cummings, Ph.D., Executive Director, Faith & the Common Good

Economic Literacy Project

The Economic Literacy Project supports a deeper understanding of macroeconomics and enables a richer and more confident sense of economic citizenships and engagement among the ENGO community. The project involves a set of instructional workshops of ecological macroeconomics specifically for ENGO leaders, along with a number of forums and events about key emerging green economy initiatives.

One key initiative will focus on instructional training to build capacity, knowledge, and understanding of economic concepts and their role in supporting a green economy at the municipal, provincial, and federal level. A series of half-day classroom style workshops, developed in cooperation with the Canadian Society of Ecological Economics, will be delivered several times to small cohorts of ENGO leaders. A separate but complementary event series will build awareness through speaker forums and briefings focused on new and innovative approaches being put forward as possible solutions by thought leaders, and leading NGOs.

Funding and Program Partners

The Economic Literacy Project is supported and funded by the Ivey Foundation.

Program Impact

The Economic Literacy Project will be launched in 2015 and will aim to create a more sustainable and prosperous economy at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels by providing NGOs with the tools and knowledge they need to contribute to a green economy.

What You Can Do

Environment and Diversity Project

Activities a donation will support

Over the past four years, the Sustainability Network has heard time and again: “When will you be able to support our organization’s diversity efforts?” and “We want to learn about what did and didn’t work for your partners.” Our networking and training events have attracted more people than expected, both from ENGOs, food organizations and people representing ethno-cultural groups who want help with environmental programming. Additional financial support will help us in developing a new Environment and Diversity initiative: a cross-cultural and inter-generational mentorship program in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The mentorship program would see mentees in their twenties who could soon be entering or have recently entered the professional workforce paired with seasoned, established environmental NGO professionals (the mentors), over a 12-18 month period. The mentorship would involve a two-way exchange of knowledge where both parties learn from one another, grow, and become stronger leaders.

Donation impact

With additional funding, Sustainability Network will be able to further bring ENGOs, organizations and diverse communities together and reach new levels of engagement, thus promoting the health of the environment and the community.

Economic Literacy Project

Activities a donation will support

A donation could support a Toronto ENGO leader's participation in training programs set for Spring 2014, Fall 2015, and Summer 2016. Support could also be directed toward any of the 'Green Forums' we will be organizing in Toronto through 2015 and 2016 to highlight leading edge green economy initiatives.

Donation impact

The donation would help defray the costs of participation in the six workshops that comprise the ELP training we will deliver in 2015 and 2016. If directed toward an ELP Forum, the donation would be used to defray hospitality, venue, and/or management costs associated with these public meetings.


Paul Bubelis
Executive Director
Charitable Number: 863746012RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 368,000


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