Changemakers: Canada faces serious challenges, but these leaders show that solutions are possible

February 26, 2021
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This article was originally published in the Globe & Mail.

Report on Business Magazine selected 50 entrepreneurs, academics and executives who are striving to find a better way of doing things

The list of challenges currently facing Canada is long and formidable: climate change, racial injustice, gender inequity, Indigenous reconciliation, gaps in our education system, outdated infrastructure and sputtering adoption of digital technology. And now, a pandemic. In the midst of this difficult time, we want to celebrate emerging leaders actively working to find pragmatic solutions to these daunting problems. Our search began with a call for nominations, both from the business community and our own staff. Finalists were evaluated based on their ideas, accomplishments and impact. In the end, we selected 50 entrepreneurs, academics and executives who are striving to find a better way of doing things. Together, they show that solutions are possible. But change won’t happen with business as usual.

 

Ben Britton
Chief Strategy Officer, Ionomr Innovations

For the world to ever reach net zero for carbon dioxide emissions, energy systems—the bulk of them installed before the Second World War—will need massive upgrading. “But if you can retrofit a natural gas system, and you can, you can make the whole system economic,” says Ben Britton, CSO of Ionomr Innovations, which develops ion-exchange membranes (for chemistry dropouts, that’s selectively permeable barriers that conduct electricity) for clean energy generation. The company’s newest product, the ionomer Pemion, took top prize at the European F-Cell Conference this past September.

 

Rochelle Prasad
Founder and Executive Director, SPARK Foundation

Frustrated by the lack of “soft” life and leadership skills afforded to today’s kids, this Surrey, B.C., native co-founded Camp We Empower in 2014, which was later rebranded as the SPARK Foundation, a non-profit geared toward supporting Canadian students and youth with “life education” in the form of interactive workshops, entrepreneurship toolkits and mentorship opportunities. Rochelle Prasad—a past recipient of the Diana Award and Canada 150 Community Award in Leadership—has also used the COVID-19 shutdown as an opportunity to leverage her under-26 team, putting together care packages, school supply–filled backpacks and meals for front-line workers.

 

Gurmesh Sidhu
Co-founder, Moment Energy

Ever wonder what happens to batteries after they die? Gurmesh Sidhu did, too. Now, in partnership with Simon Fraser University, the alumnus’s West Coast startup, Moment Energy, is revolutionizing energy storage, helping remote communities reduce their reliance on polluting diesel generators by upcycling used batteries from electric vehicles. “By allowing energy storage alternatives to enter the market,” he says, “we’re making renewable energy accessible—especially for businesses that don’t have the budget to do so.”

 

Christina Wong
Executive Director and Co-founder, Employ to Empower

Never underestimate the power of a kid who just can’t stop asking “why?” in response to all the world’s ills. Harnessing her lifelong passion for public outreach, Christina Wong left her corporate job in 2018 to found Employ to Empower, an organization that provides business-development mentorship and resources (like microloans) to residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who are facing social barriers to employment. “I’ve learned the importance of dignity and working with people,” says Wong, “rather than assuming what they need. That’s how real change happens.”

Read the full article at the Globe & Mail.