Today, The Co-operators and The Natural Step Canada announced a new partnership agreement to jointly deliver the IMPACT! Youth Program for Sustainability Leadership over the next four years. The collaboration significantly deepens the capacity of the IMPACT! program to achieve its vision of developing young sustainability leaders across Canada.

IMPACT! is a one-of-a-kind program that empowers university and college students and recent graduates to launch and advance tangible projects and enterprises to enhance their communities. Initiated in 2008, IMPACT! was recently recognized by Canada’s Clean50 as the Top Project for 2015 for its outstanding contribution to sustainable development and clean capitalism.

The IMPACT! program encompasses three elements: regional IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training workshops, the national IMPACT! Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership, and the IMPACT! Fund — which provides grants to support participant initiatives. The program provides development and networking opportunities to a diverse range of student leaders and recent graduates from every region of the country who share a passion for creating a healthier, greener and more equitable tomorrow. To date, nearly 900 inspiring youth have experienced the program.

The IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training workshops, along with a suite of ongoing supports, help cohorts of youth aged 19-30 build the capacity to act strategically and take on a leadership role to address environmental, social, and economic challenges in their communities. Since the inception of the program, there have been 13 sessions in seven different regions across Canada. At least an additional 14 sessions will be held over the next four years to help more young Canadians become sustainability champions.

The IMPACT! Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership, the initial cornerstone of the program, has been held three times to date. It has brought together over 500 young sustainability leaders from a variety of backgrounds for an all-expenses paid opportunity to connect with their peers, as well as with experts from business, non-governmental organizations and academia. Keynote speakers including David Suzuki and Chris Hadfield have empowered and inspired participants. The next conference will be held from May 14-17, 2017 in Guelph, Ontario, with applications opening in the fall of 2016 at www.impactyouthsustainability.ca.

Since 2009, the IMPACT! Fund has supported 103 sustainability projects led by participants and alumni of the program, with grant contributions totalling $432,668. The Co-operators has committed an additional $380,000 to the fund over the next four years to help support more sustainability-focused programs.

Michel Scultéty-Ouellet is a founding-member and treasurer at Coopérative de solidarité La Déraille, a past IMPACT! participant, and two-time recipient of an IMPACT! Fund grant. The funding helped Michel and his team launch the cycling co-operative at Université de Sherbrooke and aided in raising its profile on campus and in the local community. “The IMPACT! Program gave me the tools, skills and confidence that have allowed me to be a change-maker in my community,” said Scultéty-Ouellet. “IMPACT! is a social lever that gives youth the ability to drive change and accomplish great things in their communities.”

“Through this amazing partnership, the IMPACT! program is well poised to inspire and support the next generation of young sustainability leaders for years to come,” said Chad Park, Executive Director of The Natural Step Canada. “We couldn’t pick a better partner than The Co-operators. Working together, and building on each of our unique strengths, we will continue to engage additional like-minded funders and partners who want to join us in empowering young Canadians to build a more sustainable society.”

The Natural Step Canada is dedicated to education, advisory work and collaboration for sustainable development. With more than a decade of experience helping individuals, organizations, and sectors make meaningful progress towards sustainability, The Natural Step is gaining reputation as a key change maker in Canada. It has been one of the key partners working with The Co-operators on IMPACT! since 2008, designing and delivering all the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training workshops. It has also played a key role in designing and facilitating the national IMPACT! Youth Conferences.

“We are committed to being a catalyst for a sustainable society, and this collaboration with The Natural Step Canada will allow us to better support and nurture the next generation of sustainability leaders,” said Kathy Bardswick, President and CEO of The Co-operators. “Our relationship with The Natural Step Canada goes back nearly a decade, and we’re excited to be building upon it to jointly deliver a program that will have a lasting impact on young leaders for years to come.”

Along with The Co-operators and The Natural Step Canada, many other leading organizations from a variety of sectors across Canada have joined forces to make the IMPACT! program possible. Collaborative partners include AIESEC Guelph, the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan, Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada, Futurpreneur Canada, Lambton College, Social Delta, SoJo, the University of Guelph, and a growing number of many other like-minded organizations.

About The Co-operators:
The Co-operators Group Limited is a Canadian-owned co-operative with more than $40 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products. The Co-operators is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. The Co-operators is listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt; Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada; and the Top 50 Socially Responsible Corporations inCanada by Sustainalytics and Maclean’s magazine. For more information, visit www.cooperators.ca.

About The Natural Step Canada:
The Natural Step Canada is a dynamic non-profit organization with a vision of a sustainable society – one in which individuals, communities, businesses and institutions thrive within nature’s limits. It is part of a global network of non-profit organizations that share the same brand, core identity and purpose and that has been at the forefront of sustainable development internationally for more than twenty-five years. The science-based framework employed (called the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development – FSSD) has been used successfully in hundreds of forward-thinking organizations around the world. For more information, visit www.naturalstep.ca.

SOURCE The Co-operators