The Strategist

Keystone XL Debate Should Remind Us of the Conversation We Aren’t Having

The Keystone pipeline debate should remind us of the need for a national energy and economic strategy
Rob Abbott

The April 19 edition of The Globe and Mail contained a thoughtful profile of Tom Steyer, America’s largest single political donor and a fierce opponent of the Alberta tar sands and the Keystone XL project. Steyer’s key message for Canada is that our economy can survive without the oil patch. To do so, I believe it is well past time to start arguably the most important conversation in our nation’s history.

For all of the talk about the Keystone XL pipeline, what interests me is the conversation we aren’t having – but should. While considerable media attention is being given to the jobs versus environment debate, the real conversation is about perspective. This is the too often overlooked need to stand outside a particular frame of reference and look at conditions from a wider and/or longer context. The power of perspective is that it can reveal truths that are otherwise hard to see. This is especially apt in considering the way in which we consistently situate economic development opportunities in the zeitgeist and play these off against other “competing” interests such as environmental, social, cultural or heritage values. This is the truest frame within which to consider Keystone because in Canada our economic history has been defined by the “staple theory” advanced in the 1930s by Harold Innis, a political economist at the University of Toronto. Let me explain.


Posted on April 23rd, 2014

50 by ’20: Whole System Change for Resilience and Self-Sufficiency

A veritable alphabet soup of plans and strategies have been written to ostensibly steer humanity, or at least a small patch of it, toward a more secure future. The Capital Regional District (CRD) on Southern Vancouver Island has entered this noble fray with a regional sustainability strategy (RSS). While the intent of these plans is indeed noble, the results frequently fall short of the very challenges they were designed to meet. The reason is inherent to the nature of almost all policy and policy authorship: a lack of both aspiration and imagination; a too-ready willingness to accept, even celebrate incremental progress rather than bold goals that truly engage and captivate an audience – and “pull” it toward something better. The reason is also structural: it is hard—maybe impossible—for policy to get out ahead of current social reality. Because public sentiment is largely invested in the advantages and benefits of the status quo, policy will only be able to address and promote small and politically/publicly acceptable increments of change. In fact, policy is an incremental change management tool; appropriate when times are stable, but an impediment for managing change in the face of an impending crisis. (It took God’s command, not policy, to motivate Noah to build the Ark.)

The times call for an entirely different methodology: The reason is a lack of storytelling, a lack of compelling social narrative. And so it is that the CRD’s fledgling strategy, like so many others, bears the unfortunate imprint of being written so as to not offend anyone, rather than excite or inspire someone. There is a better way…


Posted on March 28th, 2014

Who We Are
ABBOTT STRATEGIES is a boutique strategy and sustainability firm that crafts tailored business solutions for clients across the globe. In particular, we are experts at bridging the gap that has too long separated strategy and sustainability. We help you understand how environmental, social and economic forces are rapidly influencing the strategic positions available for your company or organization. But we don’t just work at strategy creation – we actively support you through implementation, measurement and refinement of the strategy. This approach drives real performance improvement, builds trust capital among your key stakeholders, and enhances your reputation. We are a bespoke house – you get truly unique, tailored solutions that “fit” your organizational culture. Go elsewhere for off-the-rack ideas. Our core services include:
Why We Exist

We believe that the world – and the world of business – is at a hinge point of history and that profound change in the way strategy is created, implemented, measured and reported will become commonplace as human society confronts manifold changes in the environment-energy-economy nexus. Our interest, emphasis and expertise are in creating the conditions for transformational rather than transactional change.

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