When the Governor General calls to tell you you’ve been nominated to the Order of Canada, he doesn’t tell you why you’ve been chosen but he does add that you should hold off on telling anyone.
Vancouver mining magnate Ross Beaty’s call came a few weeks ago and, as promised, he didn’t tell anyone. Not even his wife, Trish.
“I was as pleased as I was astonished,” says Beaty, the founder of Pan American Silver Corp and executive chairman of Alterra Power Corp, a renewable energy company. “But it didn’t feel real until Wednesday, when they told me it would be made public later in the week. That’s when I finally told my wife.”
Beaty says he’s very pleased with his success in business but, also, the opportunity to give back that comes with that success.
“I have no desire to die with a bunch of money, so I am pleased to support nature because nature supports us,” says Beaty. “Most giving goes into supporting humans, but there are so many creatures without a voice that are affected by our actions and I am more than happy to lend my voice to them.”
This giving is done through the Sitka Foundation, which he founded in 2007 to be a catalyst in the protection of the environment and promotion of biodiversity.
Earlier this year, the foundation donated $5 million over 10 years to Panthera to preserve wildcat habitat corridors in eight countries. In February, his $4 million gift to the Canadian Museum of Nature was it’s largest ever. The donation will enhance the museum’s national research and collections that are focused on species discovery.
“Is there anything more rewarding than saving species from extinction,” asks Beaty, who lives on Bowen Island. “There’s a real bio-diversity crisis right now and most people aren’t even aware of it. This is why we want to support education, as well as science, public policy and land conservation.
“We currently support roughly 75 groups and my focus is to continue to build that. My whole family is supportive of that. My oldest daughter works for the Foundation, and my youngest is about to start her masters in marine biology at UBC. I know she is going to be very important in supporting all of this.”
On a personal level, Beaty says that he’s himself has taken a hard look at his own consumption and that’s something everyone needs to do.
“I have a bigger carbon footprint than I would like. I fly a lot for business but I am trying to make a positive impact to make up for that. Part of that impact comes from having started an alternative energy company, which by the end of this year will be producing 1,000 megawatts of energy,” he says.
“Individuals, I think, need to stop blaming oil companies, mining companies, for the destruction of the environment. They are simply responding to demand. People need to take a hard look at how they live, how they eat and how they play, and consider how they can help to reduce that demand.”
Beatty adds that, on most days he’s optimistic about the future of the planet.
“It’s reassuring to look around and see that there are millions of people who see the need to do this work, and who do it,” he says. “I see the election of Justin Trudeau as a reflection of that, and when it comes to environmental policy he’s hitting the ball out of the park. There are days that I am pessimistic, but I see a huge groundswell of change happening right now, the energy sector is one example of that, and I am happy to be a part of that. It’s an exciting time to be alive, but it takes a lot of effort, people need to keep pushing political leaders and corporations for the change that can move us forward in a positive direction.”