“What does Ecotrust Canada actually do?” “What is the conservation economy, exactly?” These are questions we hear time and time again when telling people where we work and what we do.

At our recent Open House, we attempted to answer those questions with what was, essentially, the equivalent of a grown up show and tell session: practical, hands-on demonstrations of the various tools and programs we have designed. We then put these tools and programs to practice in real places, working with interested partners, in our ongoing attempts to build an economic system that benefits financial goals, protects the environment, and supports community and culture.

Held at our new offices at 717 East Hastings Street, Strathcona, Vancouver, our Open House welcomed over 50 partners, colleagues, ex-colleagues, neighbours and others interested in learning new ways of doing business. Ways which place equal importance on economy, environment and social equity. To show how this can be done, we set up our offices as a series of demonstration stations, showcasing our work in several key areas of innovation:

  • Consumer-facing product tracking We have created a traceability system for seafood (ThisFish) and forest products (ThisForest) that promises to change the way people understand, and make choices about, their consumer spending.
  • Marine monitoring In direct response to government, community, and industry concerns about the need for more affordable and accessible fisheries monitoring, we have designed training programs and monitoring technologies that complement the requirements of fisheries managers and fishermen.
  • Forest stewardship To make FSC certification accessible to small landholders and SMEs, and increase the amount of land under excellent guardianship, we maintain an FSC group membership program that reduces costs and improves opportunities for forest managers and chain of custody businesses.
  • Ecosystem services We are working with partner/owners of a community-owned forest tenure to develop a forest carbon offset project that offers an alternative revenue stream to harvest. We hope this will prove to be an effective model for other forest land managers.
  • The Living Laboratory In our ‘Living Laboratory’ we encourage experimentation and ingenuity to come up with alternative ways of doing business that connect people and their communities. Example of practical tools we’ve created in this space include: the Living Atlas – an online mapping tool that allows communities to understand, showcase and adapt to change in their region over time; Terratruth – an online tool that supports First Nations communities in tracking and evaluating the impacts of proposed activities in their territories; Cartography – multitudes of maps that allow people to understand the places in which they live, and their future options, in new ways; the Fisheries Diversification Model – a community decision support tool that marries past and current fisheries data with future indicators, to support sustainable, economically viable fisheries plans for current and future generations.

These innovations, technologies, tools and programs don’t fully cover the scope of our work – but for the purpose of putting our work into practical context, these were the most obvious choices for live demonstrations at the Open House. And from the responses we got from those who visited us, it’s clear we are not alone in thinking we need to change the way we do business – on the seas, on land, in First Nations territories, in the forests and in the social and cultural space.

Thanks to all who joined us to make our first Open House in our new offices such a success – your energy, interest, support and enthusiasm reinforced the importance of our work and the relevance of our current suite of initiatives.