Our Team

George Roter

George Roter

Managing Director, Canada Plastics Pact

George is a highly regarded not-for-profit and business leader, known for his ability to foster innovation through the start-up and operation of effective, inspiring and diverse initiatives in Canada and abroad.

He began his career co-founding and serving as CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada, a leading innovation, advocacy and skills development NGO. Under his leadership for 14 years, EWB Canada grew into an organization of thousands of young leaders and engineers in Canada and across Africa. The organization invested in system-changing ideas to end poverty and inequitable development globally, and influenced engineering practice and education in Canada to bring a more global and sustainable development mindset in the mainstream. He then took on the challenge of advancing open internet technologies globally as Director of Open Innovation Programs at Mozilla. In this role he led a variety of product and project teams to help the company realize “openness” as a business strategy.

One of his highlights at Mozilla was the development of Common Voice, a project that mixed corporate collaboration with inspiring hundreds of thousands of language enthusiasts to contribute their voice to build the world’s largest open voice dataset across more than 50 languages. This is now used by globally leading technology companies to train speech recognition engines for their products.

Drawing from these and other experiences George has impacted a number of other issues by serving as mentor, strategic advisor and consultant to several organizations, and through his writings and speaking engagements. George is an Ashoka Fellow (2011), was awarded the Young Leaders Award by the Public Policy Forum (2007), named as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 (2005), and was awarded an Action Canada Fellowship (2004) on public policy. He is humbled to have received the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil) in addition to four honorary Doctorate degrees (University of Waterloo, McMaster University, University of Calgary and Queen’s University) along with a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Waterloo.

George’s life’s work sits at the confluence of organizational growth, technology and social change. He is at his best designing, growing and leading organizations and teams around powerful ideas. George takes pride in bridging perspectives, moving fluidly between the non-profit, business and government. George is based in Toronto (returning recently after living in Berlin for 4 years), where he lives with his spouse Sari, daughter Aliyah and a Swiss Mountain Dog named Maple.

Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks

Senior Associate, The Natural Step and Special Advisor, Systems Transitions, Circular Economy Lab

Sarah supports businesses and other organizations with integrated sustainability visioning, strategy and implementation as well as organizational learning. Previously the lead of The Natural Step’s Advisory Services Team (and a member of TNS since 2007), Sarah has worked with a wide range of partners to share her expertise on sustainability and strategy development, including a sustainability strategy and visioning program for Pratt & Whitney Canada; a comprehensive sustainability training, strategy, visioning and implementation program for The Landmark Group of Builders; and a strategic positioning and organizational change program with ISL Engineering and Land Services. Other clients include multi-national chemical company Rohm and Haas (now Dow Advanced Materials); SMART Technologies; BC Hydro; Accommodation and Real Estate Services of British Columbia; the City of Ottawa, the County of Hawaii; and many others. Sarah also provides training with international Natural Step offices.

Prior to her work with The Natural Step, Sarah was a natural building instructor, working to enable communities to create structure from locally available, minimally processed materials. She has worked with people from over 22 countries in this capacity.

Sarah holds a master’s degree in “Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability” from the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden and an undergraduate degree in Geography from Mount Allison University.

Stephanie Cairns

Stephanie Cairns

Director, Circular Economy, Smart Prosperity Institute

Based in Victoria, BC, Stephanie has worked on environment, economy, and fiscal policy research initiatives for twenty five years. She has worked with Smart Prosperity Institute (previously Sustainable Prosperity) since 2007, first as Director of Carbon Pricing and then as Director of Cities and Communities. Earlier in her career she founded the Pembina Institute's Ecological Fiscal Reform program, worked as a researcher on Parliament Hill, and was a strategic advisor in the Prime Minister's Policy and Research Office. For the past 20 years she has managed Wrangellia Consulting, specializing in climate policy, and carbon pricing, and protected areas management, and helping policy makers distill expert advice, synthesize emerging best practices, and plan new initiatives. Stephanie has served on the Boards of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Pembina Institute, Training Resources for the Environmental Community, and the Boreal Songbird Initiative; is past National President of the Board of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society; and was a member of the President's Advisory Council of the Royal Society of Canada. She is currently on the Boards of the IISD-Experimental Lakes Area and the Galiano Conservancy Association. She holds a B.A from the University of Toronto and an M.Sc. from the Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University, Sweden

Isabelle Couture

Isabelle Couture

Manager, Knowledge and Partnerships, Smart Prosperity Institute

Isabelle has more than 10 years of experience working in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop and implement successful research programs and engagement strategies.

Originally from Quebec City and currently based in Calgary, Isabelle’s passion for sustainability and evidence-based policy led her to pursue graduate studies in public administration at the University of Victoria and volunteer with several social justice and environmental groups across Canada. Her previous work experience covers a range of policy research projects and partnership building activities in Canada and abroad, including the management of ERA-Can+, a European Union-funded initiative that fostered research collaboration between Europe and Canada. She previously worked at the University of Calgary where she supported the implementation of a $75M energy research initiative.

Isabelle believes in the power of authentic collaboration and thrives at the intersection of stakeholder engagement, policy-making, academic research and environmental stewardship. She is dedicated to developing, supporting, and enhancing partnerships and harnesses unique opportunities to facilitate relationships between all actors. She truly is in her happy place when connecting with others in a meaningful way.

In her spare time, you can find her in and around Calgary being walked by her four-legged companion, exploring the mountains or getting her hands dirty with her partner in their ever-growing garden. She also sits on the boards of the Recycling Council of Alberta as well as Plastic-Free YYC, a non-profit she co-founded in 2017 to prevent waste and promote a circular economy in Calgary. Isabelle has received several awards for her sustainability work and was named one of Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2020.

Joanne Gauci

Joanne Gauci

Senior Policy Advisor, Collaboration Initiatives External Relations, Metro Vancouver and the National Zero Waste Council

Joanne Gauci is a sustainability professional with a Masters in Environmental Design (Planning) and 20 years of progressive policy, engagement and planning experience at the local, regional and federal government level both within Canada and abroad. As a Senior Policy Advisor at Metro Vancouver, Joanne works as part of the Collaboration Initiatives Team advancing large scale collaborations and systems change to accelerate Canada’s transition to a circular economy. She provides Secretariat support to Canada’s National Zero Waste Council and is the Campaign Manager to Love Food Hate Waste Canada. In the last two years, Joanne has supported the Council’s participation in the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition and worked as part of collaborative teams to launch the Canada Plastics Pact and the Circular Cities and Regions Initiative.

David Hughes

David Hughes

President & CEO, The Natural Step Canada, Founding Director, Canada Plastics Pact, and Co-Chair, Circular Economy Leadership Coalition

David Hughes is the President & CEO of The Natural Step Canada, the Executive Co-Chair of the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition, and a Steering Committee member of the organization’s Energy Futures Lab. He is highly regarded as a strategic leader with a strong track record of scaling the impact of some of Canada's leading charities. David served as President & CEO of both Habitat for Humanity Canada and Pathways to Education Canada during periods of unprecedented growth and transformation. Prior to that he spent 10 years working with the international headquarters of the SOS Children's Villages (SOS Kinderdorf International) which included postings to Africa, Asia, Europe, USA and the United Nations. Other management roles have included serving as President of AIESEC Canada and Sr. VP of YMCA Canada. He holds an economics degree from the University of Western Ontario and a postgraduate degree in social policy and non-profit management from the London School of Economics (LSE). He also serves as an active member of the Smart Prosperity Leaders’ Initiative and on the board of directors of The Climate Reality Project Canada.

Madeline Mcgillivray

Madeline Mcgillivray

Research Associate, Smart Prosperity Institute

Madeleine holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics (LSE) in Health and International Development. At the LSE Madeleine focused her dissertation on the impacts of climate change on the health of Indigenous People in Northern Canada. Prior to joining SPI, she worked for a health social enterprise called Lucky Iron Fish as the Coordinator, Partnerships and Projects. Previously Madeleine attended Queen’s University, where she completed an undergraduate degree in Global Development. It was at Queen’s that Madeleine developed a keen interest in the intersection of health and climate change that continues to motivate her research interests.

Mathias Schoemer

Mathias Schoemer

Communications and Outreach Officer, Smart Prosperity Institute

Mathias has worked for over 10 years in the public and non-profit sectors to support the development and implementation of research programs and public policies. Since his first job at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mathias has worked tirelessly in the communications field. He graduated from the University of Montreal with a bachelor's degree in communication. Before joining the Smart Prosperity Institute, Mathias worked as a multimedia officer for the Public Policy Forum on different projects such as ERA-Can +, a European Union-funded initiative that fostered research collaboration between Europe and Canada. A fervent defender of an ecological transition, Mathias has been able to work on different projects on the energy transition, reduction of greenhouse gases, biodiversity, sustainable stormwater management, and circular economy. Passionate about electric vehicles, Mathias spends a good part of his free time looking for the technologies that will make tomorrow a better future for his children.

Alice Irene Whittaker

Alice Irene Whittaker

Director of Communications, Smart Prosperity Institute

Alice Irene Whittaker is a strategic communications expert and professional writer, and the Director of Marketing and Communications for both The Natural Step Canada and the Smart Prosperity Institute.

Prior to her career in environmental-economic communications, she spent a decade as a leader in international development organizations, most recently as the Director of Public Relations & Communications at Plan International Canada.

In her years in international development, she contributed to gender equality impact working in countries like Canada, Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana, and Bénin. She founded and was Executive Director of Mother Nature Partnership, a charity that worked at the intersection of gender and environment in Cameroon. Alice Irene’s writing has been published in national publications like the Globe & Mail and international publications like Permaculture Magazine. She is currently working on a non-fiction book about embracing the circular economy and regenerative practices in our daily lives, as well as a collection of poetry.

Alice Irene has acted as a spokesperson in national interviews with outlets such as the Globe & Mail and CBC News. She is the recipient of a Bill and Melinda Gates Innovation Award, as well as a Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel Innovation Award. She has been twice shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, and was awarded an author’s fellowship for the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing in 2020.

She is a member of Nature Canada’s Women for Nature, a group of women of influence who drive change for nature. Alice Irene is the mother of three children, and she lives in a cabin in the woods in Québec.

Usman Valiante

Usman Valiante

Principal, Cardwell Grove

Usman is a senior policy analyst and commercial strategist with Cardwell Grove Inc. Usman has 28 years of experience in the fields of environmental science and economics, corporate and commercial strategy, public policy development, regulatory and institutional design, advocacy, negotiation, consultation and communications.

Usman’s focus has been on industrial policy and programs toward circularity. In this regard he has advised Canadian governments on regulatory and supporting institutional design to address emissions and waste while working with private interests in building circular commercial strategies and supply-chains.

Usman has developed a number of Canadian Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulatory frameworks, programs and circular economy systems including those for Waste Electronics and Electrical Equipment (WEEE), Municipal Household and Special Waste (MHSW), beverage containers, printed paper and packaging, pharmaceuticals and sharps, used tires, batteries and end-of-life vehicles.

Usman has provided advice to all levels of Canadian government and to many of North America’s leading manufacturing, consumer products, retail and environmental services companies.

Usman is currently a technical director of the Canada Plastic Pact, an advisor to the Grocers and Manufacturers’ Collaborative, an advisor to the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition, a Director of the Alberta Beverage Container Management Board (BCMB) and was a convener of Ontario’s Circular Economy Innovation Lab.

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