YellowYellow Quarterly Trailblazer – Kurt Breede

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Get ready for an exhilarating ride as we launch our new trailblazer series, shining the spotlight on industry professionals who are making a difference by prioritizing sustainability. 

Our first trailblazer is Kurt Breede, a highly respected Technical Advisor in the Metals & Mining Structured Finance Industry. In addition to his Board of Director roles at Renforth Resources and American Eagle Gold, he was past CIM Toronto Chair, and on the Toronto Geological Discussion Group Planning Committee. He dedicated his career to driving serious change within the industry.  We delved deep into his role and the incredible impact he’s made on the industry. Curious to know more? Check out our full Q&A with Kurt below. Get ready to be inspired!

1.  Alessio Scurci (AS): Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up working in mine finance. What have been your steps to progress to where you are today?

Kurt Breede (KB): As a student at De La Salle College “Oaklands”, I excelled in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Enrolling in the Geological Engineering program at the University of Toronto (U of T) was a natural next step. It was at U of T that I found a passion for mineral exploration. What helped me to land my first job opportunity were conversations with professors who encouraged me to join industry events hosted by the CIM, TGDG, and MES.  My experiences with these organizations improved my knowledge, broadened my network and bolstered my career. Right after graduation, I was fortunate to land a job as an exploration geologist in Northern Ontario and the Yukon. I conducted geophysics and geological mapping to help identify potential early mineral exploration sites. I have since moved to the other spectrum where I work in and around Mine Finance. I have led over $100+ Billion in mining-related M&A transactions. 

2.   AS: In recent years, there has been an integral push for increased ESG guidelines, standards, and practices. In your view, how have companies and the industry been able to adapt to these changes? What problems do you think they face?

KB: ESG wasn’t a thing when I started my career. Instead, there was CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). It will continue to evolve as we learn more about the downstream impacts and benefits of mining. ESG taken as a whole only provides a framework, specific attention to the individual letters is where the true accountability is. For a mining company to truly adapt ESG, it needs to be in the DNA of the company – to just say you’re mining responsibly isn’t enough, there has to be metrics for accountability.

It’s also the same on the investor side with those investing in and funding “responsible” mining companies. Institutional and retail investors need to do their own due diligence to confirm that the mining companies they’re supporting aren’t greenwashing, pressing, and folding. This starts with more education at all levels of the organization. It’s an ongoing learning process and there is still a long way to go on both sides.

3.   AS: When talking with industry professionals, we find that there is a key idea or project that people find a passion for and ultimately drives them down their career path. Has there been a favourite project you’ve worked on that’s helped guide you?

KB: Looking back, my passion for what I do has constantly changed over time. During my undergrad, it was exploration that I had a passion for. Later on, it was working as a mining consultant and project manager. Now, I’m fortunate to work in a role where I look at projects and work with people from all around the world. This past year alone I’ve travelled from Alaska to Kenya in the span of a few months.

I don’t consider myself a ‘trailblazer’- I’d go so far to say the only time I’ve literally had to blaze a trail was while working as a junior geologist with an axe in hand, blazing trees through the forests of Northern Ontario.

4.   AS: Theoretically speaking, if you had the ability to go back to when you first started in this industry and be able to do something differently, is there anything you would change or learn from?

KB: That is a difficult question to answer because I’d like to think that I have no regrets in life. Anyone working in the mining industry long enough knows there are ups and downs. I was fortunate enough to come out of university with a job around the time of the Bre-X scandal. If I had to do anything over, I would have used my downtime more effectively to hone my skills and reflect on areas I’d like to have built on more. Mining is a great industry to work in as it’s constantly evolving. It’s great to see the industry is more open to adapting more initiatives in ESG and I’m quite eager to see how it will continue to evolve over the coming years.

5.   AS: In your opinion, in the acronym, ESG, which letter do you feel is the most important?

KB: I think each one is important for the success of an operation. I think from a holistic point of view, the social and the environmental aspects have a larger weighting. The social is about creating prosperity in areas where mining hasn’t been introduced or exposure hasn’t been as positive (e.g. small scale mining). This goes hand-in-hand with the environmental aspect with areas that historically haven’t had proper technical work done and hence not been viewed favourably by local stakeholders.

6.   AS: Are there any main takeaways that companies can learn from to adapt with the importance of ESG in mining?

KB: From my own career, CSR and now ESG has played a part in how projects advance. My advice to any company would be that it’s never too early to incorporate ESG into the DNA of the project or company. Take any grassroots exploration company. If they want to succeed, they need to start engaging stakeholders and communities from Day 1. It’s imperative that companies adapt those principles as early as possible.

Companies should evaluate how well they are performing against their peers. It’s a great starting point/litmus test for how well you’re doing in your space. There’s always room for improvement.  We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  We can learn a lot from other sectors with other resources we can tap into.

Thank you to Kurt for your time and insight!. Our next YellowYellow trailblazer interview will be out next month.  Should your company need help with getting started, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at hello@yellowyellow.ca.

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Jeff Garcia-Seminario

Associate

He holds a Bachelor of Anthropology from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Peru) and a Masters in Science in Sustainability and Responsibility  (Ashridge Business School, UK).   As a lifelong learner, he recently completed a Global Business Management (High Honours) at Seneca College in Toronto. 

Jeff brings global experience in leading corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community engagement projects in the extractive sector.   Jeff excels in stakeholder mapping, community engagement, and conflict resolution.   Applying his private and public sector experiences, Jeff can bridge cultural and historical divides between extractive industries and their communities.  His areas of focus include food security, sustainable procurement, and good governance. Most recently, Jeff contributed to the development of an ESG strategy for a multi-national company.  

Jeff’s native language is Spanish. He enjoys morning runs in the neighbouring parks.

Kaitlyn D'Lima

Associate

Kaitlyn D’Lima holds both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science and Sustainability Management degree from the University of Toronto.   She is also trained in greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting.

She brings extensive experience in sustainability and business transformational projects. She is known for her ability to execute projects of any size with both urgency and accuracy.   Kaitlyn has a natural talent for improving stakeholder engagement. She’s a real trailblazer when it comes to benchmarking and research.

Kaitlyn is a runner who participates in outdoor adventure races.

Arun Balu Pazhayannur

Advisor

Arun B Pazhayannur holds a degree in mechanical engineering and is a Chartered Accountant. He also has an MBA from the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario. Along with his academic achievements, he has a thorough knowledge of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles, which he incorporates into his consulting work. 

Arun is well-known for his leadership abilities as well as his strong skills in data analysis, financial modeling, and operations management. He has been recognized for his ability to identify practical solutions and deliver value to clients ranging from banks to payment companies to software providers. Arun is also a past President of Toastmasters Club. 

In his free time, Arun enjoys scuba diving.In his spare time, Arun likes to scuba dive. 

Gregory Donovan

Senior Advisor

Gregory  Donovan is a Chartered Accountant. He is a Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting (FSA) Credential Holder.  He obtained an Honours in Business Adminstrations (HBA) from the Ivey Business School (Western University) and a Master or Laws (LLM) from the London School of Economics. Gregory is the CEO of Avondale Private Capital, a sustainable finance firm focused on energy transition finance and carbon markets.  He has presented on these topics at conferences in Canada, the US and UK.  

Greg participates in the occasional triathlon and loves to go skiing and sailing with his two young children.

Margaux Loptson

Associate & US Operations Lead

Margaux Loptson holds a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Arts (Criminology) from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, she holds several research certifications, including Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans

She has been an essential player in AI-powered teaching and learning projects as a User Experience (UX) lead.  Margaux is known for applying her design thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills to make a positive impact. She is a native French speaker

Margaux is a fitness enthusiast who can be found hiking around Central Park in NYC.

Ritika Jain

Associate / Responsible Supply Chain Lead

Ritika Jain holds a Masters in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management from Lund University (Sweden)  and a Bachelor of Technology from Indraprastha University (India). As a lifelong learner, she is pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Toronto.

Ritika is a recycling and responsible supply chain specialist.  Through her work, she collaborates with organizations to implement circular economy focused policies to ensure compliance with regulations.  

Her proficiency in data analytics and with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) enable her to manage complex sustainability data. Ritika also volunteers with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, engaging with youth to drive positive change.  

Ritika is a native Hindi speaker.  She is a certified hiking leader who enjoys travelling.

Jonathan Spence

Associate & Western Canada Operations Lead

Jonathan Spence holds an Honours Bachelor of Integrated Sciences (Earth and Environmental Sciences) from McMaster University and has his certification in Geographic Information Sciences from the ESRI Canada Center of Excellence at McMaster University. Jonathan worked as a research analyst in the environment and sustainability group for a TSX listed company.  

He is pursuing his Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta, where he is researching the development of carbon capture techniques and their applications to the mining industry.  Jonathan is focused on helping companies to minimize their carbon footprint while supporting their economic growth.   

Jonathan is an avid water polo player and coach. He plays for the local National Championship League team. 

Gurnoor Gandhi

VP Business Development & Strategic Partnerships

Gurnoor Gandhi holds an MBA from Ivey Business School (Western University) and a postgraduate diploma in Maritime Energy Management (Sweden). Gurnoor brings experience with sustainability frameworks including TCFD, GRI, and CDP and is pursuing FSA credential (SASB). 

Gurnoor has global leadership experience in the shipping industry managing assets worth millions of dollars on the high seas and has led diverse teams worked in Monaco, Singapore, and India. Most recently, he led organizational development and client partnerships at CARD, a non-profit focused on rural development and renewable energy.

Gurnoor brings a blend of technical and leadership skills. He applied his knowledge of greenhouse gas accounting and carbon capture to support clients with niche energy transition projects. He is known for putting his problem-solving, stakeholder management, and project management skills to work to help firms expedite their ESG Journey. 

Gurnoor is a certified BMW adventure motorcyclist who finds off-road rides rejuvenating for body and spirit.  He enjoys hiking with his family.

Lisa-Annabel Ellis

Founder & CEO

Lisa Annabel Ellis holds an Honours Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the Ivey Business School (Western University). She is a certified Project Manager Professional (PMP) with a Six Sigma Green Belt. Lisa is a Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting (FSA) Level II Candidate. Applying her deep expertise in business and operational strategies, she has led award-winning transformational initiatives.

Drawing on her well-rounded science and finance expertise, she launched YellowYellow to help clients advance their sustainability practices. As an advocate of transparency and good governance, she partners with clients to understand their risks and opportunities to generate superior long-term value. Stakeholders across the value chain recognize the impact of this effort. She has been called upon to be a keynote speaker and lecturer.

Lisa is an advanced scuba diver who enjoys most water-related sports.