SustainablePortCharting a course toward a sustainable future

Canada’s west coast is a special part of the world with spectacular natural beauty. Vancouver consistently ranks as one of the world’s most livable cities. Its communities are vibrant and growing, with an economy grounded by diverse and strong business sectors. The port plays an important role in the region’s prosperity.

As the port authority responsible for Canada’s largest port, we carefully and constantly balance multiple priorities and interests. We facilitate trade that supports jobs in communities across the country, uphold port safety and security, protect the environment, and consider local community interests.

A new vision

Our vision is to be the world’s most sustainable port.

It is a bold ambition, but one we believe is possible and necessary to realize the world we want for our communities and our nation.

Sustainable port definition

Sustainability drives us to be a better port. We evolved our vision by thinking about the future and defining what sustainability means to us:

A sustainable port delivers economic prosperity through trade, maintains a healthy environment, and enables thriving communities through collective accountability, meaningful dialogue and shared aspirations.

Our definition includes ten focus areas and 22 success statements, which together describes the attributes of a sustainable port:

Economic prosperity through trade

Thriving communities

Healthy environment

Competitive business

  • Continuously improves efficiency and reliability, providing exceptional customer services.
  • Is profitable, delivering lasting value locally and nationally.
  • Reinforces innovation, diversity, resilience and adaptability.

Effective workforce

  • Maintains a skilled and productive workforce to meet current and future needs.
  • Provides an attractive work environment and rewarding career choices.

Strategic investment and asset management

  • Optimizes the use of land and infrastructure needs.
  • Anticipates and delivers infrastructure to meet capacity needs in a timely way.
Good neighbour

  • Proactively considers effects on communities in planning and managing operations.
  • Identifies and responds to community interests and issues.

Community connections

  • Strengthens national, regional, and local prosperity, delivering regional benefits.
  • Engages communities and inspires pride in Canada as a trading nation.

Aboriginal relationships

  • Respects First Nations’ traditional territories and values traditional knowledge.
  • Embraces and celebrates Aboriginal culture and history.
  • Understands and considers contemporary interests and aspirations.

Safety and security

  • Upholds safety and security to protect port users and neighbouring communities.
  • Promotes a culture of emergency preparedness that supports rapid restoration of essential community services and business activities.
Healthy ecosystems

  • Takes a holistic approach to protecting and improving air, land and water quality to promote biodiversity and human health.
  • Champions coordinated management programs to protect habitats and species.

Climate action

  • Is a leader among ports in energy conservation and alternative energy to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Protects its assets against potential impacts of climate change.

Responsible practices

  • Improves the environmental, social and economic performance of infrastructure through design, construction and operational practices.
  • Supports responsible practices throughout the global supply chain.

Our approach

There is a lot of work ahead to realize our vision to be the world’s most sustainable port.

We will need to work together with industry, government, Aboriginal Peoples and communities to chart a course toward a sustainable future. We will evolve our business to further integrate sustainability and align our internal processes with our new vision.

We will lead by example to inspire others in the following areas:

  • Governance: Improve integration of sustainability considerations throughout all facets of board decisions
  • Culture: Assess our organizational culture to identify ways to further embed sustainability practices and engage employees
  • Leadership: Benchmark best practices of global ports and other industries to better understand what it means to be a sustainability leader
  • Performance: Develop sustainability priorities and goals and evolve our strategy and planning processes
  • Reporting: Reevaluate our sustainability reporting practices to improve key performance indicators and create closer alignment with our strategic business planning processes

To learn more about our approach to sustainability, read our new sustainability vision brochure [PDF] or review past sustainability reports.

Port 2050

Since 2010, we have used scenario planning as a strategic tool to test our thinking and challenge our assumptions about the future. Joining us on this journey are those with a stake in the future of the Vancouver Gateway including terminal operators, railways, industry organizations, communities, municipalities, government agencies, and First Nations leaders. Together, we have imagined what our gateway could look like in the next 20 and 40 years.

Four plausible scenarios

We identified four plausible scenarios for the future – these are stories about alternative futures, the futures that “could be”.

Port 2050 matrixKey drivers of change

The building blocks of these scenarios are the key drivers of change that participants told us would be the most influential in shaping the future:

  • Capacity to grow
  • Demographics and shifting social values
  • Energy transition
  • Gateway competitiveness
  • Geopolitical stability
  • Patterns of production and consumption
  • Technological innovation

Each year, we monitor the key drivers of change to prepare for these scenarios and, in collaboration with our partners, are charting a course towards a sustainable gateway that will thrive and prosper, no matter what the future holds.

Scenario axes

In order to develop divergent but plausible scenarios, two important and often likely uncertainties are selected to build the scenarios.

  • Capacity of the Gateway axis: corresponds to issues of competitiveness, infrastructure availability, land use, public support to operate, workforce talent, local economic strength and collaboration between port stakeholders.
  • Global Prosperity Model axis: describes a shift toward a post-carbon economy that emphasizes environmental and social performance through a triple bottom line economy.

Scenario narratives

Scenario  Description 
Port2050-Scenarios_LocalFortress This is a scenario where gateway growth is constrained because the Lower Mainland focuses on the regional economy and local resilience.
Port2050-Scenarios_MissedTheBoat This is a scenario where emerging market growth is strong, but the gateway misses key opportunities and doesn’t live up to expectations, due to problems in the supply chain, poor coordination, lack of community buy-in and diminishing industry support.
Port2050-Scenarios_RisingTide This is a scenario of continued growth, but in a context of increased volatility due to resource conflicts and climate instabilities.
Port2050-Scenarios_GreatTransition This is a scenario where we see a paradigm shift — a rapid transition to a post-industrial/post-carbon model.

Our anticipated future

We believe The Great Transition is a likely scenario and one we believe is worth aspiring to. It represents a shift to a lower carbon economy with a focus on sustainable trade – an ability to accommodate Canada’s trade needs, but at the same time maintain a healthy environment and enable thriving communities.

Several influencing trends have emerged since we originally developed the Port 2050 scenarios in 2010, including:

  • near certainty of climate change and link with human activity
  • a shifting energy landscape with fracking and growing demand of non-carbon sources
  • increasing interest in Vancouver Gateway development by local communities
  • intensification of public debate about major resource projects
  • Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Aboriginal title
  • strong economic expansion following 2008/2009 collapse of financial markets although uncertainty remains
  • increasing discourse about a widening wealth gap

Port 2050 Scenario Refresh – final report (2015)
Port 2050 Scenario Refresh – video (2015)
Port 2050 Scenarios – summary report (2011)
Port 2050 Scenarios – video (2011)