Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing Canada and the world. Through her leadership of Stratos’ science, innovation, and clean economy practice, Jennifer Davis takes up the mantle of that challenge with public and private sector partners across the country.
“It’s all in this context of moving Canada towards its net zero targets and doing that in a way that diversifies and strengthens the country’s economy and our global competitive advantage in clean tech,” says Jennifer of her work.
Jennifer’s background and personal interests make her well placed to problem solve alongside Stratos consultants and clients. Values of global citizenship and equity were instilled at a young age, and Jennifer grew up across Canada, the United States, and Germany before eventually studying environmental science and international development.
One of her first professional experiences was working with a Canadian NGO focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in East Africa. Travelling to the region, Jennifer witnessed the corporatization of water and how it affected local communities.
“I started thinking about working in sustainability, helping companies to do better and be better for the planet,” says Jennifer of the experience. Earning an MBA in change management and sustainability in 2008, Jennifer joined Stratos soon after.
Almost immediately, she became part of the team that launched Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an organization composed of the country’s 15 major oil and gas producers. With the support of Stratos, COSIA developed a landmark legal framework that allowed for the sharing of intellectual property related to clean technologies. COSIA recognized that certain companies were further behind in their environmental performance, and that was reflecting poorly on the entire industry.
“The idea was, let’s try to leapfrog some of these other companies and bring the whole industry forward so that we can really transform the sector and try and become a clean and reliable energy provider to the world,” says Jennifer.
Another objective of COSIA was for companies to pool resources and work together towards sector-wide solutions. This is one example of Stratos’ motivation to not only advance sustainability within a single organization but to drive progress within entire industries.
Such multi-party collaboration has been a common theme throughout Jennifer’s career at Stratos. “The world is facing a range of ‘wicked problems’ and we don’t have the time for single actors to piddle away in the margins,” she says, noting that interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, cross-sector collaborations are where the innovation space is right now.
These dynamic collaborations excite Jennifer: “If you’re in a room where somebody from an oil company is talking to an Indigenous community member who is talking to somebody from the World Wildlife Fund and they come up with a breakthrough idea — you experience that once and it’s addictive. You get so much energy out of being part of that type of a solution space.”
Infusing innovation in Canada’s public sector
At Stratos, innovation takes many forms. In recent years, Jennifer’s work has focused more on helping to make federal clean technology granting programs more inclusive and innovative. Through “grants and contributions,” these opportunities provide public funds to companies, academics, Indigenous communities, and others contributing to clean economy solutions.
According to Jennifer, the application, evaluation, and distribution processes for these funding programs could better consider the needs of under-represented groups. “If I’m a single mom with a great idea for X, Y, or Z, do I have the time to fill out a 200 page online application that doesn’t save every time I press exit? Or if I’m an Indigenous community member and the application is due in the middle of hunting season, am I really going to apply?”
In an effort to remove barriers and reduce inherent bias, Jennifer and Stratos were engaged to design a federal granting program and put forth a set of 50 recommendations around how considerations could be more deeply woven into the government’s clean technology granting programs.
Outside of “process innovation” within these grants and contributions programs, Jennifer applies her expertise in change management to help federal departments be more effective by holistically addressing workplace culture, attitudes, values, and leadership. “You can’t just change boxes on an organizational chart because that’s not going to get at your root problem,” says Jennifer of Stratos’ organizational effectiveness work. It is rarely about structure and often about culture and leadership.
It goes without saying that the federal government influences how the economy develops. Through her work at Stratos, Jennifer wants to continue supporting public and private partners to design the policies and programs that will lead the country to its 2050 climate targets.
“We need to reorient everything we do as a country around the climate change challenge and we need to do it in a way that is just, fair, and inclusive,” she says. “It needs to keep people in jobs, but the vast majority of those jobs need to be built around climate solutions. We’re just starting to get there.”