Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)

Sustainability Governance

Scope

The Chief Governance Officer of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), a leading Canadian retailer of outdoor gear and clothing, hired Coro to advise the board’s sustainability committee on its future mandate.

Issues

logo-mecMEC was the top corporate citizen in Canada as ranked by Corporate Knights. The co-op had embedded sustainability throughout its corporate strategy and organization. The board and leadership were strong supporters of sustainability and it permeated the organizational culture. As sustainability was thoroughly integrated in the business model, management and the board were contemplating disbanding the long-standing board sustainability committee and asked Coro for her advice.

CSR and sustainability governance are new and emerging practices for boards, and as such, there are no guidelines, conventions or protocols to follow. As leaders in sustainability governance and practices, MEC looked to Coro to provide advice that would evolve them along the sustainability governance path.

Solution

Coro used her knowledge of leading practices in board sustainability governance to facilitate a high level discussion among the board’s sustainability committee on how to ensure sustainability is fully embedded into MEC’s governance. She drew on her experience as a corporate director who helped embed sustainability in Vancity Credit Union’s governance model to inform her thinking, along with her more recent research into sustainability committee mandates and trends in CSR governance. She developed a checklist of 18 best practice questions for MEC to help the board decide whether to disband its board sustainability committee. Questions included:

  • Do board, management and staff have a consistent definition of sustainability and how it applies to the industry, business and their roles?
  • Do board and management have a common understanding of the business benefits of sustainability?
  • Does the board have a means to assess how well it governs the organization’s sustainability performance?
  • Is sustainability adequately addressed in the company’s governance documents?

Additional questions covered how sustainability is integrated into board committee mandates and board-level decisions and whether procedures are in place for the board to monitor the quality of stakeholder relations, among other issues.

Results

Coro’s best practice checklist approach provided the board’s sustainability committee with a neutral, third party roadmap for improving the board’s sustainability oversight. It equipped the committee with a framework to evaluate its current practices and identify and prioritize gaps and opportunities. As a result of the discussion, MEC’s leadership decided they needed to address some key gaps in their leading sustainability governance model before disbanding the board sustainability committee.

A few times a year, Strandberg Consulting sends out a newsletter to keep Coro’s network up-to-date on her latest projects, publications and tools.