Collab’s Sustainability Board: Stacy Kauk from Shopify

We’re thrilled to introduce you to another member of Collab’s Sustainability Board – Stacy Kauk.

Stacy is currently Head of Sustainability at Shopify where she oversees and leads the company’s sustainability initiatives. She also serves on the advisory board of the Carbon Management Research Initiative (CaMRI) at Columbia University.

Prior to joining Shopify, Stacy was Head of the Ozone Layer Protection Program at Environment and Climate Change Canada. Stacy has worked on several chemicals management regulatory initiatives and represented Canada as a member of delegations for the Stockholm Convention and Montreal Protocol.

Six Questions for Stacy Kauk, Head of Sustainability at Shopify

1. What was your moment of obligation to work on climate?

I’ve always worked in the environmental field. I think it comes from a deep love of nature, creatures and science that’s been with me since my childhood. I’ve always wanted to understand how things work, so I naturally gravitated toward science and then loved how math is used to measure and quantify our natural world. This led to environmental engineering, which I thought was a perfect fit until the harsh reality of environmental protection being a cost not profit driver hit home. I was always being asked to find ways to do less and reduce costs at the expense of the planet. I ended up feeling like I was playing for the wrong team. I realized that I needed to use my skills to make the world better and to protect it for future generations.

2. What aren’t people talking enough about?

The fact that we’re going to be dependent on oil and gas for a very long time. We need to start thinking hard about what a just transition looks like in terms of alternate industries, jobs, and equity. If we start this conversation we can begin smoothing the process to reduce friction that often slows down policy change and transitions. We can focus on the technology and alternatives all we want, but we also need to think about the humans and communities involved.

3. Who is doing great work but flying under the radar?

I don’t think they qualify as ‘under the radar’, but I truly admire the work done by Carbon180. They’ve had huge policy wins with the Inflation Reduction Act, and they’ve managed to mainstream engineered carbon removal. DAC has been associated with enhanced oil recovery for a very long time and their efforts have contributed greatly to uncoupling the narratives. In addition, they always manage to approach the climate conversation with humour and honesty rather than guilt and doomsday narratives. The world needs more Carbon180.

4. What have you changed your mind about in the last decade?

I no longer think that individuals should feel guilty about their carbon footprints. It’s important to consider climate in decision-making, but whether or not I chose to eat out of season fruit flown in from tropical locations isn’t going to change the world. That fruit is coming up north anyways, and that won’t change unless everyone changes their habits. This made me realize that we need systemic change and alternatives from the top down. Put alternatives and education in front of people, at price parity, and we’ll see real change. The challenge is to find a way to put the climate-friendly substitute on the market, if businesses can do that people will pick the less carbon intensive good every time.

5. If you had a magic wand, what’s an emerging technology that you would make available right now?

Electrochemical transformation of carbon dioxide into the building blocks needed to manufacture plastics, fertilizers, chemicals, fuels, etc. If we can replace the fossil-based feedstocks for all of these products then a fossil-free future will be a reality.

6. If you could have dinner with any one person dead or alive, who would it be?

I’d want to have dinner with my Great Great Great??? Aunt Alice. According to family folklore she was an opera singer who traveled across the Atlantic to perform way before there were airplanes. She was wildly independent and bucked the traditions of the day and never married or had children. I’d want to hear about her adventures, find out if she was lonely, and understand how she managed to be so dedicated to her craft. She took a ver different path than I chose and I bet there is so much I could learn from her.