Canada stands at a crossroads where the convergence of technology, environmental consciousness, and economic growth presents a unique opportunity. To secure a prosperous and sustainable future, Canada must embrace an industrial strategy that leverages advanced technology while prioritizing environmental stewardship. By adopting forward-thinking policies and unlocking the potential of innovation, Canada can position itself as a global leader in sustainable industry, reaping both economic and environmental benefits.
Despite Canada’s encouraging economic rebound over the last two years, it continues to face multiple headwinds. Rising geopolitical conflicts, environmental concerns, and persistent inflationary trends weigh heavily on an already fragile world economy.
However, climate change remains the most pressing endeavour of our time, with potentially profound socioeconomic impacts in the coming years. Today, the world collectively emits around 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) each year, a rise of 40% compared to 1990. According to McKinsey research, it is estimated that the global economy will need to invest around US$9.2 trillion annually in capital spending to achieve the net-zero transition. Vulnerable populations are also expected to be the hardest hit in this environment, further exacerbating inequities and economic disparities.
The industrial landscape in Canada, nonetheless, reveals a positive trend toward sustained growth for digital and environmental-related sectors. ICTC’s recent research published in the Digital Talent Outlook 2025 – Onward & Upwards report forecasts a sizable increase in employment in cleantech and clean resources by 2025, totalling around 352,000 and 185,000 workers, respectively. Food and agri-tech are also seen as growth sectors, given their heightened demand for upwards of 49,000 workers in the next three years.
Harnessing the transformative power of advanced technology cannot be underestimated. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and clean energy solutions have the potential to revolutionize industries, enhancing productivity, reducing environmental impact, and fostering economic growth. This promising construct can leverage advancements in technology to drive innovation in renewable energy, sustainable transportation, biomaterials, smart agriculture, manufacturing, health, construction, and smart cities, among many others.
Economic and Environmental Benefits
Canada has an open and enterprising economy, solid innovation capital driven by world-class businesses and academic institutions, a strong financial standing relative to peer countries and highly skilled talent. Add to that Canada’s vibrant culture and diversity of thought, and these factors contribute to bright prospects.
A sustainable industrial strategy offers numerous economic advantages for Canada. First, it can drive job creation across various industry verticals. The transition to clean energy, for instance, will create a demand for skilled workers in renewable energy production, energy storage systems, and sustainable transportation, among other segments of the economy. This will not only address unemployment concerns but also foster the growth of high-quality, well-paying jobs.
Furthermore, embracing advanced technology and sustainable practices will enhance productivity and competitiveness. By adopting automation, machine learning, and data analytics, businesses can streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve product quality. A sustainable industrial strategy will also attract foreign direct investment as investors increasingly prioritize sustainability in their decision-making.
Beyond the economic gains, a sustainable industrial strategy is crucial for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the environment. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving resources, and promoting clean technologies, Canada can contribute to global efforts in combating climate change. The adoption of sustainable practices will help protect ecosystems, preserve biodiversity, and ensure the availability of vital resources for future generations.
Policies for Progress
To facilitate the transition toward a sustainable industrial strategy, several policy measures need to be considered; these include:
- Supporting research, development, and commercialization of Canadian innovations in climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions, offering tax breaks, grants, and funding opportunities
- Favouring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows that promote sustainable business growth and green jobs in renewable energy, green technology, and biodegradable materials
- Fostering fiscal and financial levers that influence corporate strategies as well as consumer behaviour toward environmentally conscious choices while fostering greater institutional and private investments in the green economy
- Establishing a robust regulatory framework that supports sustainable practices. By setting emissions standards, promoting circular economy principles, and encouraging resource efficiency, Canada can foster an environment where businesses prioritize sustainability in their operations. Policy measures to incentivize consumer demand for sustainable practices will also be important, i.e., renewable energy mandates and green procurement policies for sustainable practices and investments
- Empowering a circular economy that makes efficient use of Canada’s resources through sharing, recycling and reuse of existing products and finite resources, with a particular focus on critical minerals that are the backbone of a green economy
- Investing in a skilled workforce is another crucial aspect of a sustainable industrial strategy. Preparing Canada’s talent for tomorrow’s green and digitally based economy, starting early in schooling through the continuum of education and employment, with a focus on engaging underserved and underrepresented populations
Canada has a unique opportunity to lead the way in sustainable industrial development. By harnessing advanced technology, implementing forward-thinking policies, and prioritizing environmental stewardship, Canada can pave the path toward a prosperous and sustainable future. The economic benefits of a sustainable industrial strategy are vast, generating high-quality jobs, attracting investment, and fostering competitiveness. Equally important are the environmental benefits, as Canada plays its part in addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and resource depletion. Let us seize this moment and forge a sustainable industrial strategy that propels Canada to a brighter, greener, and more prosperous future.
ICTC will host a panel discussion titled “Future Proofing Canada’s Economy: The Case for a Sustainable Industrial Strategy” at the upcoming Canadian Science Policy Conference 2023 with key industry, policymakers, and academic leaders to explore the construct, benefits, and challenges of such a sustainable industrial strategy. Join the discussion!