Sustainable insight, innovation and leadership: Don Wharton, Vice-President, Policy and Sustainability
Don Wharton is TransAlta’s Vice-President of Policy and Sustainability and has led the company’s sustainability team since 2007. In addition to his executive responsibilities guiding sustainable policy development and initiatives throughout TransAlta, Wharton advances sustainability in a broader industry, governmental and societal context.
Widely recognized as a thought leader, and highly regarded for his collaborative approach, Wharton currently chairs the Canadian Clean Power Coalition and serves a Director of Alberta’s Clean Air Strategic Alliance. Both roles have immersed him in the complex, multi-stakeholder consultation processes and conversations necessary to create pathways for balanced, responsible energy development in the power sector.
He’s also been instrumental in supporting one of the world’s most ambitious technological explorations on carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal-fired generating facilities.
“Sustainability at TransAlta starts with a simple premise: it is good business. Sustainability is deeply embedded and integrated into our business – from fuel choices to capital spending decisions to the way the company interacts with stakeholders,” says Wharton.
TransAlta has recorded numerous advantages from applying sustainable business thinking and practices – ever since the sustainability vision for the company was first articulated in the early 1990s.
Ken McCready, TransAlta’s CEO from 1989 to 1996, first brought sustainability to TransAlta’s agenda. “Ken’s early involvement in the founding of the World Business Council for Sustainability and his role on Alberta’s National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy set a firm course for TransAlta’s sustainability journey,” Wharton explains. “As a result, we were among the first at the table when it came to figuring out how to be a more sustainable organization – from our early work in emissions trading and defining market-based instruments to being among Canada’s first wind power generators.”
Another key leadership effort Wharton advanced is TransAlta’s involvement on Project Pioneer, which propelled industry research on pipeline sequestration and enhanced oil recovery in order to further understanding of the technical and financial aspects of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Knowledge sharing from the project continues to benefit global CCS efforts and has proven the technology works and can make near-zero emissions from coal-fired electricity a reality.
TransAlta has earned a reputation as a thoughtful contributor to greenhouse gas policy development in Canada, again, thanks to the efforts of the sustainable development department and Wharton’s leadership. The new federal greenhouse gas framework introduced in 2012 has clarified long-term emissions rules for coal-fired facilities, reducing uncertainty for power generators while enabling economic viability during the transition to lower carbon generation alternatives.
“I believe TransAlta’s sustainability ethic, mentality and now cultural norm, that sustainability is good business, will continue to deliver a strong and positive upside for our company, wherever we operate,” says Wharton.
- 2013 Report on Sustainability