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Blogs · Ameena Nizam, Bridget Duimering, and Jackson MacPhie

Student conference showcases the importance of sustainability in business

Feb 15, 2024

The Ivey Social Impact Club conference organizing team members (l-r): Bridget Duimering, Ameena Nizam, Erin Hu, Saanvi Kapoor, and Rodrigo Baldoceda

The Ivey Social Impact Club conference organizing team members (l-r): Bridget Duimering, Ameena Nizam, Erin Hu, Saanvi Kapoor, and Rodrigo Baldoceda

Saanvi Kapoor

On Saturday, January 27, the Ivey Social Impact Club held its annual conference. Fittingly themed Bloom, the conference aimed to equip participants with the tools, knowledge, and resources to help them create a blooming future for our world. HBA students Ameena Nizam, Bridget Duimering, and Jackson MacPhie were Vice Presidents of the Bloom Conference organizing team. In their blog below, they provide a summary of activities and highlights from the various conference guest speakers, workshops, and panel sessions.

As business students, we increasingly encounter terms related to social sustainability in business, such as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, these terms are often vague and can have different interpretations. Consequently, many individuals entering the workforce find it daunting to apply these concepts.

At the Ivey Social Impact Club, we firmly believe business can be a force for positive social, environmental, and economic change. In organizing this year's Bloom Conference, our goal was to bring together a diverse group of individuals eager to broaden their perspectives, explore new career paths, and engage in sustainable initiatives. Our ultimate aim was to empower attendees with confidence in ESG topics, equipping them to effect positive changes in their communities.

Sustainability generates long-term value  

The Bloom Conference began with a panel called ESG is Everywhere. Panellists included Katie Yao, HBA ’21, consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG); Andrea Vandenburg, Climate Change and Sustainability Services Manager at EY Canada; and Alex Levine, Principal of Accounting Standards and Sustainability Reporting at the Accounting Standards Board. Each panellist highlighted the real, financial, and organizational value that ESG awareness creates. Shareholders and other crucial stakeholders alike are increasingly expecting organizations to make sustainable investments and innovations to meet market trends. Not only should we consider careers in ESG because we care, but because these principles correlate directly to businesses’ ability to grow, strengthen, and adapt.

Andrea Vandenburg, Climate Change and Sustainability Services Manager at EY

Andrea Vandenburg, Climate Change and Sustainability Services Manager at EY Canada

Curiosity and openness are key to finding your purpose

The social impact field is ever-evolving and permeating in unique ways across all industries. Nura Taef, Partner in ESG Reporting at Deloitte, delivered the keynote address and encouraged us to maintain an open mind as we navigate our careers and to stay focused on ensuring that we are fulfilled in our work. By taking on a variety of positions in Deloitte, Taef said she came to understand herself – what excited her –  and developed an expertise in understanding the value of ESG initiatives. As we look ahead to our future careers, it is crucial that we be adaptable and keep an open mind because often we can find our passions beyond our comfort zones.

Revisit your roots to achieve collective action

Steven Bethell, Co-founder of Bank & Vogue, spearheads one of the world's largest re-manufacturing plants. Bethell's mission is rooted in the principles of a circular economy and his organization aims to disrupt the fashion industry by reusing waste products. Drawing a parallel between his work and that of beavers, Bethell said Bank & Vogue's efforts have “built a dam in the secondhand market,” fostering a circular ecosystem by introducing new innovative products. During his presentation, Bethell showed an example of this innovation: a pair of red-and-black-plaid Converse shoes. What makes these shoes remarkable isn't just their style, but the fact that they’re crafted from old t-shirts! Bethell concluded his presentation with a call to action, asking the students to consider reshaping their approach to consumption and production, and to foster regeneration.

There is no right way to engage with sustainability and business

The Bloom Conference was unique because it offered different paths for delegates to explore. Participants could attend one of four workshops, each on a different topic:

  • Social Capitalism – Led by Tom Chervinsky, Director of Government Relations at Telus;
  • Entrepreneurship + Painting – Led by Siobhan Kelly, HBA ’25;
  • Degrowth vs. Green growth – Led by Kirsten Cornelson, Assistant Professor in Business, Economics and Public Policy at Ivey; and Eric Miller, Director of the Ecological Footprint Initiative at York University; and,
  • Responsible Investing – Led by Paul McQueen, VP of Wealth Management at Libro.

The breadth and variety of insights shared during the workshops showcased the wide array of focus-areas and mechanisms through which we can engage with impactful business practices. The Degrowth vs. Green growth workshop was a highlight for many participants as the leaders tackled a question that impacts all ventures: To grow or not grow? The answer is not definitive, but participants developed an understanding of why degrowth is supported and the challenges it brings.

Two attendees at the Entrepreneurship + Painting showcase their creations

Two attendees at the Entrepreneurship + Painting workshop showcase their creations

Artificial intelligence will change the world gradually, then suddenly

The conference closed with a presentation from Mark Daley, Chief AI Officer at Western University. Daley discussed the effectiveness of humans learning with artificial intelligence (AI) to perform exponentially better. While acknowledging that there are some negative perceptions of emerging technology, Daley encouraged students and corporations to embrace AI as a partner in their educational journey and use its capabilities to innovate, problem-solve, and excel in their field. Daley also highlighted the need for governance and accountability in the AI space. Going forward, he said leaders need to address the concerns around transparency, bias, and data privacy.

Through the Bloom Conference, participants witnessed firsthand how sustainability is not just a checkbox on a corporate agenda, but the catalyst for a bright future.

All photos above are by Saanvi Kapoor, the Ivey Social Impact Club's Conference Director.