Initiative to help Quebec SME manufacturers transition to carbon-zero

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As the transition to a low-carbon economy accelerates, manufacturing companies feel challenged but are slow to act. PHOTO courtesy PLZ.

Quebec Net Positive, an independent not for profit think tank, has unveiled “SMEs in Transition”, a collaborative action research initiative for Quebec’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector transitioning to a low-carbon approach.

The initiative, conducted in collaboration with regional collaborators, practitioners, experts and academic researchers, will continue through January 2025 and aims to evaluate the relevance and impact of various engagement approaches to:

  • Strengthen the willingness and capacity of manufacturing SMEs to implement climate action;
  • Activate a business ecosystem conducive to accelerating the transition to a low-carbon and “net positive” economy.

As the transition to a low-carbon economy accelerates, manufacturing companies feel challenged but are slow to act, the think tank says. It points out:

  • 87% of Quebec manufacturing companies believe it is urgent to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 81% agree that companies have a central role to play in reducing GHGs.
  • Yet, 49% say they are not implementing any climate action in their operations, according to the results of the Business Transition Barometer – Manufacturing Sector, released by Québec Net Positif on April 27, 2023.

“Achieving carbon neutrality for Quebec and Canada by 2050 and the Quebec government’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets of 37.5% by 2030, below 1990 level, will result in a profound transformation of the economic fabric of all regions of Quebec,” said Anne-Josée Laquerre, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Quebec Net Positive. “It is vital for the Quebec economy as a whole that its 250,000 or so small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which employ more than 2 million workers, are aware of the risks and opportunities of this transition and engage in it successfully.”

According to the Business Transition Barometer – Manufacturing Sector, manufacturing businesses actually perceive more benefits and opportunities related to climate action and the transition to a low-carbon economy than Quebec businesses overall (30% vs. 21%). They identify the main business opportunities as being the creation and offering of products, solutions and services that meet new needs and market expectations (60% vs. 42%), followed by strengthening the company’s brand image and reputation (40% vs. 34%) and being positioned as a supplier of choice, preserving and consolidating business relationships with customers and major clients (40% vs. 26%).

Funded by the Government of Canada, with the support of the Laurentian Bank, the “SMEs in Transition” initiative will allow participating SMEs and their ecosystems to establish new contacts, beyond their usual networks, to reveal and co-create innovative approaches to navigate the transition to a low-carbon economy. The initiative is structured in three pillars:

  • Regional and sectoral mobilization: Identify the appropriate means and key moments to promote the measurement of GHG emissions, establish reduction targets and trigger climate action, with mobilization partners: ADDERE Service-conseil (Eastern Townships), Conseil régional de l’environnement de la Montérégie and Excellence industrielle Saint-Laurent (Montréal).
  • Communities of practice: Identify mechanisms to optimize the added value for leaders and participants in joining collective learning spaces on climate action and the transition, with our expert collaborators: Brav. and Projet Collectif.
  • Transition pathways, foresight, monitoring and business intelligence: To bring together leaders of manufacturing SMEs – and the ecosystem of those who accompany them – to create a place for exchange and reflection with the aim of increasing collective awareness of the needs and possibilities for change in their sector, develop a transformative vision that will help identify business opportunities and favourably orient short-term decisions towards a likely transition pathway, and be on the lookout for best practices in Quebec and beyond, with our expert collaborators: Ciblexpert,Chemins de transition and PHAR.

The project is also supported by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), and the Center for sustainable development (Maison du développement durable).

“In addition to our mapping of the low-carbon economy and the data from our Businesses Transition Barometers, the business intelligence and new knowledge that will emerge from “SMEs in Transition” will guide us collectively on the best ways to strengthen and activate a business ecosystem that is increasingly conducive to the transition of all SMEs,” said Anne-Josée Laquerre, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Quebec Net Positive.

“SMEs in Transition” is one of sixteen new research projects announced by Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB) at Americana 2023with total funding of nearly $10 million, supported by the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund, through the Climate Action and Awareness Fund. These projects will address knowledge gaps and enable NZAB to continue its critical mission to help Canada achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality by 2050.

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